Friday, July 27, 2012


Labour Certainly Needs a 'New' Tony Blair But Definitely not the Old One

Going back to 1997, the year in which the picture on the left was taken, I felt sure the handsome, articulate and clearly very able politician just elected as Prime Minister, would remove the stain of the Major years and initiate a new era in British national life. Well, foolish I know but I wasn't alone and many others felt as depressed and let down as I did some six or seven years later. Disillusion is as cruel for the voter as it must surely be for the politician who causes it. Except that Tony Blair, tanned, fit, healthy and still to celebrate his 60th birthday, seems not to have suffered from any feelings of acute contrition or guilt. Indeed, he been been so bold as to suggest, on a number of carefully chosen occasions, that he thinks that he- now wiser and much better versed in the ways of the world- could still make a contribution: he'd like to be PM again.

Simon Jenkins is a somewhat unusual columnist: extremely well informed and a first class writer, he pulls no punches in his analysis of a Blair comeback. Jenkins notes that many former leaders- Macmillan, Heath, even Callaghan, harboured dreams of the nation calling them back from the sidelines to enjoy a twilight period of power; Blair seems to be merely the latest to enjoy this particular fantasy. I was desperately keen to believe Blair on Iraq but as the facts emerged regarding WMD, the risibly spun version of the dangers we faced and the awful cost in military and civilian life, I had to part company with the most gifted communicator in the democratic world, with the possible exception of Clinton(another keen to exercise power again, if only through the medium of his wife).

Since his departure I have been repelled by his craven pursuit of material reward-£20million earned last year from a variety of sources including the bank JP Morgan- but the final nails in the coffin of my respect for him were applied via his work for the hopelsssly dictatorial government of Kazakhstan; Jenkins gives the details:

The Kazakh dictator, Nursultan Nazarbayev, apparently paid him $13m to eulogise his odious regime in a state video and applaud him for "subtlety and ingenuity … in a region fraught with difficulties".

Yet still, after all these crimes against the spirit and principle of his adopted party, he thinks he has a chance to be accepted and lead it once again. What planet is he living on? Clearly not the British part of this one. Jenkins delivers his harsh but justified verdict:

A Guardian poll this week was a cruel reality check. It suggested Blair as leader would knock three points off Labour's rating under Miliband. He must surely realise he has moved on, into a nirvana of limousines, bodyguards, private jets and perma-tans for which he always seemed destined. Blair is the Sepp Blatter of British politics. The world has an appetite for vague platitudes and glamorous hogwash, and is happy to pay him for it.

Great post Skipper.

"I felt sure the handsome, articulate and clearly very able politician just elected as Prime Minister, would remove the stain of the Major years and initiate a new era in British national life."

In fairness, he did - just not in the way I think most people were hoping for. To make John Major's government look competent, honest and likeable was quite a feat. I grew up in a right-wing family in a swing constituency, and the disillusionment with Major was something to behold in 1997. It was only matched by the hatred of Blair displayed by about 2004, which unquestionably cost Labour the seat in the following election.

I'm lucky in that when Blair came to power I was at the height of my teenage years and so deeply cynical about everything (much as I am these days, only then I had a harder edge and was somewhat less knowledgeable and articulate) and as a result I didn't trust him more or less on principle. But I must admit, I never foresaw what he would become, and I think very few people did.

The one thing I would add is that his charm, ability to turn phrases and refusal to give in still make him a very dangerous politician, even with public mistrust at such levels. It's therefore fortunate that there isn't a realistic way back to the frontline for him as the back benches of both parties in the Commons loath and distrust him so much.
Thanks Huw
Your 'Blair Years' not so very different to mine I suspect. But it's odd the Tories still admire him so much: Cameron and Osborne both had huge admiration for Blair. Too fanciful to imagine him joining Tories? Not really in principle but in reality it won't happen.
Oh dear, Tony Blair's greatest sin (apart from being a far too enthusiastic supporter of George Bush) in many allegedly left-leaning people eyes seems to have been staying in power for so long.

Far easy to be a purist, know-it-all political-theoretician when the Tories are in power!

The Blair government introduced more genuinely socialist ideals to our dreadfully conservative little islands than any previous government. It even managed the incredibly difficult task of slowing down the previously rapidly increasing gap between rich and poor.

But the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones. Guardianistas will never forgive Mr Blair for being so popular and so much more effective than their heroes such as Vince "I know what needs to be done but I can't actually do any of it" Cable.

Simon Jenkins is a nasty, egotistic piece of work. His comments so often smack of envy. Getting to run the equally smug and self-satisfied National Trust doesn't quite put him in the same league as running the country...
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