Pre-Chilcot Blair now in full sanitise mode
A few years back, then Labour MP Tony McWalter rose to his feet in a packed House of Commons chamber to ask Tony Blair if he could briefly outline his political philosophy? Unusually for a master of performance Blair was utterly stumped. One explanation for this simple unpicking is that the only honest answer to the question was, and remains: “being the winner”. Helpfully for Blair it is now manifest that whatever the back story – illegal war, tens of thousands of deaths, deregulation of the banks, the serious fracture of trust between population and parliament – the British higher echelons, especially the media variety, really like a “winner”.
It seems at least curious that broadcast producers and senior editors cannot read modern public mood; despite the fact Blair haemorrhaged 5 million of the most optimistic of voters between 1997 and 2010, they seemed locked into the three election “wins” Blair reminded readers of again in last weekend’s Financial Times.
Today, when one overlooks the Michael Gove wing of the Conservative Party, it is striking that the only grouping left in modern Britain that still seem spellbound by Tony are these highest echelons of the media and banking sectors. As part of a Blair interview package, a “close friend” told the FT over the weekend “He feels like an alien in his own country. He feels despised – and that is very difficult for him”.
Senior media figures are of course uniquely placed to express a perennial crush. You may have noticed of late that the story of how poor Tony (Tony the “winner” don’t forget) was wrestled from office by the tyrannical Cyclops of the Gordon Brown machine is being re-sprinkled by commentators, conveniently overlooking the pragmatic political reality of 2006/07; that an incumbent PM with an almost 70% public disapproval rating may not be worth a punt.
This broadly held view – that the individual most responsible for degrading the UK democratic covenant is Blair – is compounded by the well reported, platinum plated merry-go-round of his personal avarice: speeches to the titans of turbo-capitalism inside luxury compounds which turn him tens of millions in pay; the perma-tanned thick skin arrogance of a man who simply cannot ever say sorry, and the approving visits to gigantic tax havens such as the Cayman Islands that make all of our personal tax burdens higher and public services worse.
Add in the support and advice sessions for dictators new and old including the savage Kazakhstan regime (Private Eye reported that his most recent session in this regard was in support of the new dictator of the Maldives, offered in luxurious surroundings during the Jubilee celebrations) and you have a national social noise reporting a foul taste in the mouth.
So in advance of the conclusions of the Chilcot Inquiry, which appears very likely to condemn him in the severest terms yet for Iraq and the dark sophistry which ensured invasion took place, Brand Blair has a newly hired PR and a strategy to “re-engage” with British politics. Far from looking for a new role in British politics as some commentators have suggested, the current strategy looks more like a brand management exercise, ahead of Chilcot.
With some arrogance, Brand Blair seems to have made a calculation that – whatever the critique offered by the Judges – sufficient time has passed for us all to have forgotten the special, tragic, living nightmare of that war, and indeed the obsequious capitulation to big banks and corporate CEO’s which characterised Tony inside, and subsequent to 10 Downing Street. Both are vast errors that still cost Britain today, in differing ways.
So however many Italian linen suited, sun-tanned grins we might see flash-bulbed at the Olympics opening ceremony, however many bison being grilled by a wet match interrogations by Andrew Marr he survives, and however many feature spots he is offered by national newspapers, the message should be clear and demonstrated in any way possible by us all: we haven’t forgotten.
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