Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Like the picture of Dorian Gray, the portrait of Prime Minister Tony Blair is kept well out of public sight these days.
Unlike the last two general elections, it’s not on the cover of the Labour manifesto.
With good reason.
As no one can believe a word he says, Blair’s face on the cover could be a vote loser.
These days If he said ‘good morning’ people would feel sure it must be bad. If he told a studio audience gathered for one of his TV interviews that the sun was shining, they would be convinced it was raining buckets outside.
But it’s a lot worse than that.
Blair is not only distrusted by a huge swathe of the electorate and despised by many in the Labour Party, but he has spearheaded dragging down the whole British political class to a moral basement where no one believes a single word any of them say.
The postal vote fraud in Birmingham which caused a judge to liken Britain to a banana republic would not have happened if he had not created the ethical climate in which it could.
Perhaps he dreams of a very different picture, of how it used to be when he was loved. Of that bright May day in 1997 when enthusiastic, welcoming crowds greeted his arrival in Downing Street for the first time and stretched out to touch both his and the hands of his wife in the sunshine.
At 44, the youthful fresh-faced Blair with his apparently decent ‘ordinary guy’ smile and looks seemed to hold out the promise of a new spring and the hope that the world would be a better, cleaner place after the eighteen year winter of Tory sleaze. People lifted up their hearts to him.
Eight years on the stench of something rotten hangs over his administration, which has been mired in financial scandal. Blair has trashed both Parliament and his own Cabinet by cutting them out when they ought to have a say and has run the country with acolytes cosying up to him on a sofa at No 10 Downing Street.
As the circumstances of his decision to go to war in Iraq return to haunt him, his eyes dart uncertainly, his body language is edgy and the smile beneath his fake suntan is as fixed and waxen as his model in Madame Tussauds.
But it’s not just the bright eyes and confident smile which have gone. Apart from when he is defending his character from attack, the passion is spent.
Blair is the finest actor ever to strut the British political stage. In his prime he could breathe such passion into his cause that he made even Sir Ian McKellen and Kenneth Branagh look like amateurs. Even if we disagreed with him, in the early days we believed he was acting out of conviction and believed what he was saying.
Now the fire has gone out and only the noise remains. He sounds as if he is constantly angry with himself.
He probably is angry he no longer gets away so easily with evasions and lies and his lawyer’s knack of using weasel words which don’t mean what they say.
As he seeks refuge in TV chat shows, where they’re thrilled to have him on board, at least one political interviewer has cracked his evasive tactics.
Last week Newsnight’s admirable Jeremy Paxman forced him to admit he had lost control of Britain’s borders to such an extent he had no idea how many illegal immigrants are in the country.
No matter how much she was hated latterly, and in Scotland it was visceral, Margaret Thatcher at least believed in something, even if some of her beliefs may have been misguided.
But Blair doesn’t appear to believe in anything except his own survival as PM.
Whatever anyone thinks about new Pope Benedict XVI’s homily before his election about the dangers of relativism, the moral chaos rife under Blair makes the point. There is no right and no wrong. There is only what you can get away with. And if you can get away with it, do it.
Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton 2005. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Prince Charles and Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles may have got married on Saturday. Or not. The civil ceremony is a matter of legal opinion. But the blessing at St George’s Chapel, Windsor was a virtual wedding, as much like the real thing as Church of England rules would allow. What is certain is that the woman who has been portrayed as both a rottweiler and an albatross around the neck of the Royal family for over thirty years is now here to stay.
Come rain, shine, constitutional crisis, political uproar or terrorist attack, the new Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall (her preferred name) Duchess of Rothesay (in Scotland), Countess of Chester and Lady of the Isles will be a fixture in our lives. At the town hall and the chapel Camilla clung nervously to Charles’s arm as if her life depended on it. But once she got out among the crowd her confidence soared. She let go his arm and was soon animatedly working the crowd on her own. And though she didn’t quite know what to do with her hands or her posy, she seemed nice, friendly and genuinely to be enjoying her contact with people, who admittedly were a hand-picked lot she largely knew. But she was equally confident with strangers at Crathie Church on Sunday and didn’t seem to mind when an old man gave her hug. It’s not nearly as bad out there as she had feared and believed for years! Those of us who covered the engagement days of Charles and Diana were often puzzled. There was no obvious affection between them, no secret shared looks of a couple in love. My lasting impression was of a young woman determined to become the Princess of Wales at any price. And at 32, Charles was being told on all sides that it was time he got married. People who have been denied the unconditional love they need in childhood seek it in their adult relationships. They quickly feel threatened by third parties and lack the emotional intelligence and skill to handle and see rivals off. The underlying reason why the Charles and Diana marriage failed was that neither had been loved enough in childhood to be able to answer each other’s needs for affection. As Diana took refuge in bulimia, celebrity and a string of unsuitable lovers, Charles sought maternal comfort in Camilla. And though she conspired at the creation and accelerated the destruction of his marriage, Camilla was not the primary cause of its ultimate breakdown. The new official couple are not so different from other people who remarry in their fifties. Most have been through the emotional mill. The alienation of divorce has often been followed by years of loneliness and isolation and many have felt further diminished by the breakup of subsequent unsatisfactory liaisons. What they long for is the companionship and comfort of a lasting confiding relationship. None of us can live forever with the errors and burdens of our pasts. Or we would be doomed to eternal depression. To go on living, we need closure, an end to the pain of unhappy pasts. We need to draw a line and forgiveness to be able to move on. This is what being born again means to most people. We don’t yet know Camilla. But, unlike Diana, she seems unlikely to try to rival or upstage her husband. She will probably be a traditional supportive wife. If she plays it like the late Queen Mother and never complains or explains and never gives interviews, there’s a fair chance she will make a profoundly selfish, self-obsessed, weak, arrogant, petulant, bad tempered and extravagant misery guts of a man happy at last. It will take her time to win public affection. But for all their cack-handedness and shoddy attempts to manipulate public opinion in the run-up to the wedding, Clarence House may have been right in thinking the people will warm to her in time as they get to know her. There may still be much hand wringing over the prospect of Queen Camilla, which she will be if Charles becomes king. But she won’t care whether she’s Queen or Princess Consort. She’s married him at last and frankly needed give a damn. Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton 2005