Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Blair has, not surprisingly, done up poor, slow-witted Brown like a kipper. Even the dim Labour footsoldiers must by now have grasped that they will lose with Brown and might not with Blair himself or his surrogate Alan Johnson. (My friend, the historian Michael Burleigh, tipped Johnson to me almost two years, a breathtaking forecast, way ahead of the press pack.) About all of which I care very little. Go to Iain Dale or some such if you're really interested. What matters is how Blair has redefined politics as the sort of thing that Dale and all the columnists write about. He has been the greatest politician of his generation and a truly awful Prime Minister. This distinction can be made so clearly in his case because he has so successfuly separated the acquisition and sustenance of power from its exercise. Having made his crucial mistake - not sacking Brown - ten years ago, Blair has effectively been unable to do anything domestically. Brown has blocked or wrecked every initiative. Meanwhile, New Labour's management ineptitude has produced one financial catastrope after another - the NHS computer, tax credits and so on. This has driven Blair to undertake foreign adventures and to redefine politics not as what actually happens but as a combination of what is said and the tedious, personality-driven soap opera of Westminster. Incredibly, my colleagues have gone along with this and, as a result, the average political column is now unreadably detached from the real world and from any kind of sane assessment. The truth of this unedifying spectacle has been concealed by a very successful economy, driven by the reforms of the eighties and Brown's only two genuine achievements - freeing the Bank of England and dragging his feet on joining the Euro to the point where it is no longer an issue any more. It was, once, Blair's primary mission. Blair's speech was, thus, a cosmetic masterpiece - piss and wind, basically - and no more. Mind you, nobody else is actually discussing the real so perhaps this amazing hollowing out of politics doesn't matter; perhaps that's how the world is now. But, to me, it's frightening.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 5:25 am