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