Monday, September 27, 2004

The real Tony Blair

It is of some comfort to me to know that I am not the only one who now recognises that we were all suckered by Blair when we voted him in. Rory Bremner echoes the sentiments I expressed in the post before last:

New Statesman
Monday 27th September 2004

Nothing now counts for the PM except his own self-belief. To accuse critics of tackling the man, not the ball, misses the point. This man doesn't pass the ball. By Rory Bremner

Presume not that I am the thing I was,
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turned away my former self;
So will I those that kept me company.
Henry V (Henry IV Part Two, Act V, Scene 5)

If seven days is a long time in politics, seven years is positively an eternity. And the distance that Tony Blair has travelled in that time (not just back and forth across the Atlantic) remains a striking feature of any current assessment. True, we were told at the outset that having won as new Labour, he would govern as new Labour; but how have we got to the situation where the election of a socialist government in Spain and the (slim?) possibility of a Democratic victory in America can cause our own Prime Minister such embarrassment? After all, a Labour prime minister traditionally supports the Democratic candidate: but then, a Labour prime minister traditionally supports the Labour Party.

In 1997, Blair could count among his friends and admirers the likes of Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroder, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. These days it is George W Bush, Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi. For New Blair, France, Germany and even the United Nations are the Paula Radcliffes of international politics: when the heat was really on, they failed to go the extra mile.

What frightens me is that, having gone away for the summer and had a chance to reflect on the past year, the Prime Minister has returned more brazenly sure of himself, more self-deluded than ever. It is no surprise that the man behind the FCUK advertising campaign was appointed to spearhead Labour's 2001 publicity drive: Blair himself has entered the "FCUK YOU" phase of his premiership.

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