01 September 2010

Still Tory after all these years

Well, Tony Blair has just started doing the publicity rounds in advance of the publication of his memoir A Journey - which, you'll be surprised to find, I won't be buying a copy of. (After the excellence of Andrew Rawnsley's The End of the Party, no more histories of the internal politics of the Brair/Blown years are really necessary - although I'd be mildly interested to hear Gordon's take on what on earth he thought he was doing).

My relationship with Blair is similar to my mentor, Hunter S Thompson's relationship with Richard Nixon - indeed HST once dedicated a book "to Richard Milhous Nixon, who never let me down". He is the inspiration for my long-standing hatred of Tories masquerading as the centre-left. And so how appropriate that Blair should be interviewed by the Guardian's leading "stealth" Tory, Martin Kettle, in today's Guardian.

The one thing Blair gets right in this interview is that Gordon Brown - sadly - was simply not psychologically fit to be Prime Minister. (After Iraq, Blair wasn't either, but we'll let that pass.) Of course, that in itself raises severe questions about Blair's capacity for leadership. Pretty much any other post-war PM - certainly Thatcher, Wilson or MacMillan - and probably Major, Callaghan, Heath etc. - would have either moved Brown to a safer department (the Home Office?) or terminated his ministerial career after maybe three or four years of the guy's paranoid lunacy at the most. Blair was simply too weak to do so. If he had done, he would have taken a hell of a lot of flak - from thousands of sources, including me. But he would have been right and we would have been wrong.

On everything else, it's Blair who is wrong. I'm not going to criticise his decision to donate proceeds from his book to the British Legion - whatever his financial situation, it's a positive move, and should be welcomed. But it hardly atones for making such a huge foreign policy mistake in the first place. Blair's view on the reason Brown lost is laughable - "because he abandoned New Labour." Really? Brown was the co-architect of New Labour for f***'s sake. His policy platform from 2007 to 2010 was a note-for-note continuation of the New Labour policy. He lost, partly because of that, and partly because he was unable to string a coherent sentence together on camera. I do believe Tony Blair would have done slightly better in the 2010 election than Brown had he stayed on. But only slightly - maybe, say, 31% instead of 29% of the vote? (Don't forget Blair already managed to lose 6 percentage points between 2001 and 2005 - some "success story".)

And his view on the fall-out from the banking crisis is asinine, and shows that, whatever Brown's failings as an economics student, Blair doesn't even understand the first thing about the economy (rather like Cameron and Clegg, who are very much his clones, of course). It makes me shudder to think what would have happened if the banking crisis had erupted when Blair was still in Number 10. He might well have precipitated the collapse of civilisation by letting them go to the wall and thinking that John Birt and a bunch of management consultants from McKinseys would sort it all out. Or something.

Sadly it looks unlikely that Blair will offer an endorsement of David Miliband in his Andrew Marr interview - which is a real shame. Ed Miliband probably needs just that final "anti-endorsement" to put him over the hump - and Tony Blair could have done the job.

The most quixotic thing about Blair - apart from the permatan - is his insistence that he loves the Labour party. Why, when he stands for everything that is Tory? It really is hard to avoid the conclusion that the fucker somehow ended up in the wrong party by mistake in 1983 and the last 15 years of British politics have been a horrible retribution for that mistake.

I do think this'll be pretty much the last hurrah of Blair as front page news though. So if you kids can just stick the next couple of days out, you'll never have to hear from this bastard again. I just wish I could say the same about Martin Kettle.

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