Friday, October 27, 2006

 

Blair as 'Messiah' Maybe Solves the Riddle?

I'm often a bit slow getting round to reading books for review but having finally read, Richard D. North's Mr Blair's Messiah Politics, I think he may have got as close as anyone to identifying the wellsprings of this mercurial, super-abundantly gifted politician. North is a hoary old ubiquitous rightwinger who has been banging on about capitalism's virtues it seems, since for ever(a recent book, for example is subtitled a 'very personal defence of mass affluence'); so I was not tempermentally inclined, from the outset, to favour his viewpoint. There is much unexceptional banging on, of course, but his thesis, I have to accept, fits the facts and has some persuasive power.

He defines the riddle of Blair as someone who is a 'vacuous' enigma, yet, unlike most falling into this category, who also has an inner 'steeliness'. North's explanation is that Blair sees himself as some kind of 'Messiah', possibly sent by God, and, as Bush has said of himself, 'put here for a purpose'. Because he was without the sharp ideological edge of, for example, a firm belief in socialism, he was able to present voters with a vessel they could fill to an extent, with their own ideas and goals.

'He persuaded Britons they had been subjugated by a bad old culture, and he represented the New Man who could free them.... Tony Blair was charismatic in just the right way for his time. For a while at least, he personally, as an individual, embodied an aspiration.'

Blair was an example of the 'ideal leadership type... in the mould of the charismatic German romantic, the hero spellbound by his own charm who places himself above party.' Not for him the mere mundanities of domestic politics; the world was his proper stage: solving the problems of Africa, saving the oppressed, feeding the starving, overcoming the wicked. This helps to explain the 'steeliness': people on such higher missions expect to be misunderstood, to be criticised, to become a martyr even:

'He does not expect us to like him or reward him, now or in the future.'

North discerns early stage messianism in Blair's fascination with rock music, his conversion to devout Christianity at Oxford and his sermonising tendencies, so deftly satirised in Private Eye'sThe Vicar of St Albion. One might also attribute to his Messiah comlex Blair's determination to adhere fast, like a limpet, to the politically unwholesome George Bush. Blair must have realised that his ambitions to become the conduit for such planetary portions of good, he could not just be the leader of a middle ranking former colonial power: however unpalatable it might prove to be, he had to be able to access the power of the world's only super-power. Persuasive? I think so.

Comments:
"middle ranking former colonial power"? I'll laugh that off for the bait that it is but I'm sure we can both think of a few bloggers out there who'll bite on that one...?

Haven't read the book but North's analysis seems reasonably sound to me - particularly the bit around no expectation of being liked. Like Thatcher before him Blair is evidence that even when the electorate begin to tire of the personality they wll still lend a politician their support if they percieve them to be 'competent' or 'capable of tough decisions'.

Didn't Blair himself recent say the public will forgive wrong or bad decisions but not indecision..?
 
Cassilis
Well, we're certainly not anything more than middle ranking and we once had an empire. Yes, Blair did say that but I think he's wrong actually; being wrong is more disliked than indecision- depends on the issue though of course.
 
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