Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How mad is Tony Blair?

He who blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must thereafter fall with greatest loss.
Machiavelli (1469 - 1527)

It is the nature of ambition to make men liars and cheats, to hide the truth in their breasts, and show, like jugglers, another thing in their mouths, to cut all friendships and emnities to the measure of their own interest, and to make a good countenance without the help of good will.
Sallust (86 BC - 34 BC)

Flipping through the news papers today provides one with an opportunity for considered reflection on something I don't think I have pondered a very great deal since I stopped grappling with essay deadlines about the motivation of doomed literary characters.

As we all gawp at the Blair end of the Peers show, and roll about laughing at the bonkers 'Blue Peter' memo that surfaced yesterday in the Mirror and has been widely reproduced with great glee today, it is instructive to consider the nature of the rise and fall of the most powerful man in the country. And to consider what morals can be applied, and what lessons learned in our own lives from observing the effect of ambition and power upon the human psyche. Then again, we can all just forget the soul-searching and have a good belly-blast of *schadenfreude-nish laughter instead.*made-up word

The question that I am pondering now is: Is the Prime Minister mad?

And if so, has he always been mad, and it's only now the whole shiny show has run aground, the spinning wheels stuck in the mire, splattering the handful of grunting helpers shoving away at the back of the stuck vehicle with muck and slime whilst everyone else stands around, gawping and pointing and shouting unhelpful advice, that we can see it?
Did he start off quite sensible, (if a bit over-awed by cheesey mid-nineties marketing manuals and motivational management seminars), and have his head spun by nine years of the giddy heights of power?

Or was he always bonkers?

Blair gambolled onto the scene almost a decade ago, and was immediately christened 'Bambi' by the cartoonists, who portrayed him as wide-eyed, goofy-eared, with a ubiquitous toothy smile. All freshness and bounce and April- ( or May-) freshness. Then he ran through various incarnations - frequently a knobbly-kneed Boy Scout, or a smirking US poodle, until he ended up as the swivel-eyed, blood-splattered zombie that cartoonists portray him as today. In which current likeness he looks mad as mad can be, proper batshit tonto pet-scaring loopy. And perhaps he is. The signs are certainly there.

I don't know how mad I would be if I was him, after 9 years in power, flying round the world glad-handing the rich and powerful, (Cherie meanwhile shovelling freebies into her handbag) , triumphant leader of a thumping majority of drone sound-a-likes, with no Opposition to speak of, and a populace and City drunkenly letting the good times roll. I'd probably be permanently off my head, throwing red boxes out of windows, getting chauffered about in bullet-proof Jags, wearing bizarre crushed velvet purple suits and mystic ‘spiritual’ bangles, having re-birthing mud-baths, employing ex-Page 3 'style advisers', thinking the laws of the land, not to mention the laws of fashion or polite society didn't apply to me. Oh, whoops.

But there is an instructive lesson to consider in the fact that Blair wanted to be a rock star for a while, but didn't have the necessary musical genius. Then a high-falutin' lawyer, but you can perform your little socks off and grandstand all day in court and nobody really cares. It's politics instead that Anthony Charles Linton Blair chose, aka 'showbiz for ugly people'. And compared to most politicians, he's not ugly at all, and he does have nice teeth. And he wasn't a Tory. At the time. So he was always going to shine. And never has there been a man more slavishly addicted to the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd. He doesn't exist, unless someone is watching him. And when the clapping dies, what then Tony? What spiralling vortex sucks forth your soul? Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.

And now I am going to try and think of the defining political moments of Blair's career. Without googling it first.


Okay, there's the People's Princess stuff, the Shoulder to Shoulder 9/11 moment, the Olympics presentation with the East End kiddies, and, um…that's it. I have sat here and thought hard for over 10 minutes. And I've realised that I actually can't think of a single thing he's done that I remember as a defining moment which wasn't a totally scripted micromanaged ''meant-to-be-spontaneous'' planned photocall. Oh yeah, the sweaty shirt speech. He looked real then. But apart from that, it's all been micro-media management.

It's media-management that's done for him in the end though. We can thank frustrated journalists, revolting against the bullying Spinmeister Alistair Campbell, for acting as the effective opposition during all those long years of Tory implosion and Euroloonery, for pulling back the lurex curtain and showing us the smoke, mirrors, levers and wheels of spin whirling frantically behind the scenes, like the Wizard of Oz outed as some just some geeky guy with a clever-clogs machine. That was when it started to go wrong, when the word 'spin' entered the vernacular. (That, and the original Pop Idol didn't help, because it fatally educated the population in the black arts of marketing and moulding affable braindead ''talent'' that smiles well into a camera, and transforming it into buyable ''product''. Which killed off boybands, hurrah, but also finished off poor Smash Hits and Top of the Pops, boo).

Anyway, the wheels are off now, the gears are grinding, and as the latest out-there memo revealing the plans for more soaring rhetoric, more touchy-feely/heroic photo calls circulates, bloggers' teeth start to gnash. We make and publish our own media, these days, we write our own stories and comments and analysis, Mr Blair, and we can see how you make yours. We can tune you out if we want, or we can rip into your stuff and feed off it. And we're laughing at you, and your multi-platform brand communication, and your media strategising. We're fed up with the seeping stench of spin, the flies are buzzing round it, and there's nothing so unsexy as a dead brand. Your love-affair with marketing gurus should have told you that ten years ago.

Just how stupid do you think we are, anyway? Or do you think we are as mad as you? That we have the salesman's trick you have, Mr Blair, of believing whatever we say and hear at the moment we are saying it and hearing it, and believing it twice as hard if there is an audience?
Carry on clicking the ruby slippers, if so, for Kansas awaits.

Poor Mr Blair. Surrounded by zealots who still think it can all be solved with a Hawaian shirted photocall with Chris Evans ( Chris Evans, FFS??), maybe a prayer read in that peculiar castrated sanctimonious voice he adopts when doing Holy Joe schtick, a few jolly japes in the Blue Peter garden, a quick fumble on the sofa with that nice lady off GMTV, maybe a bit of punditry on Soccer AM. Oh, yeah, we'll really lap it up.

And the sad thing is he can't even see how much people are starting to laugh.

Actually, that's what I think will do for him in the end. The giggling pity of his subjects, not their righteous anger. The 'never mind, eh, Tony' looks, the winks behind his back as he is led gently away and given his carriage clock or the zero-interest mortgage or the Executive Directorship of the oil/arms company, the keys to the Memorial Library, the Medal of Honour, the Red Arrows fly-past, the State Funeral ( hey, maybe that's why he was angling for Thatcher to have one?), anyway, whatever he wants, just let him have it, and give him his slice of cake and his goodie bag, and someone close the door behind him as he leaves the party.

Yes, I do think we are all taking the wrong tack as we circle, smelling the blood oozing from him, ( most of it other peoples) watching the media frenzy, some of us itching to kick him, as we have been kicked in the teeth by him with his stupid restrictive legislation for daring to voice our outraged opposition, for Not Knowing What's Good For Us. He's too good at patronising us hoardes of unwashed voters, putting us all in our boxes and having ''consultative'' one-way Big Conversations that are really monologues. But sod the anger, there's no point, he's off. He's over.
And meanwhile, we should call out for those whose fingers aren't being gently prised off the arms of the Number 10 sofa, and ask them to wow us with some real ideas. Show us their abilities to think about Government, not just politics. There's no point in being cynical. Let's hear it. Out you come, nice Alan Johnson, you're being very quiet at the back. Don't be shy, Gordon, spit it out, give us a smile, you've nearly won the long war. Tell us your prescription, 'Doctor' Reid.

We're bored with ''orderly transitions'' ( argh!) and ''eye catching initiatives'' ( double argh!) and we're waiting for vision, leadership, public-spiritedness and hope. Or at least, engagement.

There you go, Labour adviser people, a New Idea. Consumer Engagement is the latest whizzy advertising buzz word. If Blair's legacy is to be a marketing-speak lexicon frequently used to sell us pups and demographically-segment us into focus-grouped swathes of obedient multi-cultural flag-waving voters in order to drive through US interests in Europe and elsewhere, then you might as well *get with the programme*. Cameron's lot are showing signs of having read the latest tomes on this sort of thing. I bet they subscribe to Marketing Week. New Labour is sooo nineties as a brand.

You need a different brand ambassador. One who washes whiter. New. Gentle Yet Powerful. Effective But Caring. Tough on stains, and the causes of stains on society. With snappy new packaging, and 3-in-one global action. I don't think it really matters who it is; it's what he or she delivers that counts. Whether it actually works. And I hope, after 9 years of 'Blairism', that the party he led will finally work that out. For all our sakes.

UPDATE: Found this. Ace. Wish I'd seen it a month ago.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if there are stories about Blair (and his family) that the press have held back on while he has been in power that will see the light of day once he has gone? The idea of that might make him want to stay on forever.

September 06, 2006 4:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post, but I don't buy it. Here's the reason Blair's going to go: the chattering classes are bored of him. To someone who sees themselves as above politics, or who looks for entertainment etc, I agree, the Blair show looks old and tired. So nineties. But if you're a shop worker, getting a minimum wage, or a GP, getting close to market rate pay, or a kid in Sierra Leone who benefited from the British intervention, you might appreciate the difference between today and 1997.

Oh well, Cameron's up next. Or Brown. Enjoy...

September 06, 2006 7:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha! Finkelstein:

"Rachel from North London questions whether Tony Blair has gone mad, a charge I've always found offensive"

Quick, the smelling salts! He needs to get out more.

September 06, 2006 9:31 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Opps, have I been politically incorrect and offended him? Tsk. Well, that makes a change. Normally I get accused of being a Guardianista appeasing surrender monkey lefty multicultural dipstick who's so PC it hurts. And probably has hairy legs to boot.

( For the record, they're smooth. Though I do favour Birkenstocks. With red toe polish.

September 06, 2006 9:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For more on the Evans / Freud / Blair Nexus ...

September 07, 2006 12:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I took it to mean that Mr Finkelstein always finds it offensive when people wonder how mad he is, and thinks Blair may be equally sensitive.

September 07, 2006 12:51 am  
Blogger Will Pickering said...

What the commentariat persistently fail to understand about Blair is that he's like one of those monsters in Star Trek that feed on phaser energy: what's supposed to destroy him only makes him bigger and deadlier. The more he's criticised, the more pressure he's under, the more convinced he becomes of his own martyr-like rectitude. Yea, though he walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he will fear no backbench rebellion, for the wailing and gnashing of teeth only go to show him that He Alone Among Men Hath What It Taketh To Prevail.

So forget any kind of dignified climbdown from the man: it ain't gonna happen. Friendly advice won't get him to resign; nor will opinion polls, leaked memos, mass petitions or shady backroom deals. He'll have to be forced out, whether by a vote of no confidence or by an official split in the party big enough to destroy its majority and trigger an election. Neither is yet likely.

M'learned colleague, wondering why Blair would bother to stay in office in such uncomfortable circumstances, suggests that he's hanging on in order to give unconditional support to the in-production-but-not-yet-scheduled US invasion of Iran, which a more sensible successor might not approve. While I can't argue with the prediction, I think it confuses motive and effect. Blair may not be exactly averse to the idea of reducing Mr Ahmedinejad to his component atoms, but it's not what gets him up in the morning.

Iran or no Iran, the Grin will be going nowhere until at least 2008. Why?

Because that'll be eleven years as PM.

Just like Margaret Thatcher.

The Grin wants to beat Margaret Thatcher. It's that simple.

Word verification: Ceawzmul, ancient Hungarian god of gravel chippings

September 07, 2006 10:29 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I think Blair has always been mad. It's the zealot's madness which he has worked so hard to conceal with the language of reasonableness, but which has always been present in his eyes.
And you miss at least one defining moment- the Good Friday Agreement "hand of history" and all that.

September 07, 2006 10:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good thing about having a day job and therefore not having to find witty and/or novel and/or interesting things to write in one's column every single week (like e.g. Tony Parsons, Dominic Lawson: do they ?) is that one can use up all one's bile in a piece like this.

How about submitting an edited version to that other paper U right 4 ? (It's way better than anything from e.g. the above pair recently, and they get paid for theirs).


September 07, 2006 11:59 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can think of a couple of other "defining moments" - both election-based..

1) Reg Keys' magnificent speech at the Sedgefield declaration, with Tony doing his best to look impassive...

2) Sharon Storer's verbal assault on him outside a Birmingham hospital.

September 07, 2006 12:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a saying that a country gets the leaders it deserves. Not true for many working class Britons, but certainly true for the Middle Class 'Pretend' socialists who out him into power. I think Churchill's reference to 'the years hath eaten' is appropriate for his tenure. He will leave a nation which is in almost every respect worse than when he took power. What a waste.

September 07, 2006 12:17 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Humour is a deadly weapon. The man is a joke. Like his swimsuit though. Maybe he should do a duo with Cliff?

September 07, 2006 1:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woffle sounds like a vocoded parody of David Aaronovitch .... a "Woffle in Sheep's Clothing" perhaps?

Praise for the minimum wage is well placed, even if the policy is more a function of historical Labour values than Blair's unique brand of corrupt, authoritarian socialism.

GP's "getting close to market rate pay" is, however, laughably myopic and to offer up Sierra Leone as some kind of Fig Leaf for Blair's murderously opportunistic foreign policy goes beyond the pale.

Blair's unpopularity is based on rather more than boredom among the "chattering classes". This kind of defense smells a lot like "we're not getting our message across" or "if only people could truly appreciate our achievements". I'm paraphrasing of course, but the underlying process is an attempt by New Labour's spin-drones to project their own fatuous superficiality onto external agents and thus divest themselves of responsibility for anything that goes wrong under New Labour.

Blair's legacy is already here for us to see. A Government, and to some extent a country, in a state of moral and intellectual squalor.

Blair has ushered in an era of unbridled cronyism and media infatuated delusion. I sincerly hope that much, if not all, of New Labour's greasy backroom aparatus goes with Blair.

September 08, 2006 12:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are all familiar with the concept of the self harmer and others with very low self esteem but a few years ago on the net it was fairly easy to find a study by a reputable American psychologist that said that many successful politicians were so far off the other end of the scale that they were equally as mentally ill. Oddly the last time I looked for this study I could find no trace of it.I expect that Barmy Bush or Batty Blair had it censored. You have inspired to me to have another look.

September 08, 2006 10:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Blair really called Linton? After that middle class twat nasty geezer in Wuthering Heights who took the beloved Catherine? Me cyant believe it.

September 10, 2006 12:45 pm  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Sorry, but describing Tony Blair as "...proper batshit... loopy" is just wrong.

September 11, 2006 4:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's not as mad as the people who are goomball enough to think he is mad.

September 12, 2006 9:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo! Blair! Sould Mick Jagger play you(or Keith Ricards!)

September 14, 2006 12:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

September 19, 2006 5:18 pm  
Blogger Lopakhin said...

June Collins: 'I wonder if there are stories about Blair (and his family) that the press have held back on while he has been in power that will see the light of day once he has gone? The idea of that might make him want to stay on forever.'

There was widely rumoured to have been a family crisis two years ago, and it's said he was thinking of resigning then. My understanding is that the mainstream media agreed to respect his family's privacy, and I'm going to do the same.

Is Blair really called Linton? After that middle class twat nasty geezer in Wuthering Heights who took the beloved Catherine? Me cyant believe it.

If so, then his parents couldn't spell properly. :o)

September 23, 2006 9:52 pm  
Blogger Lopakhin said...

June Collins: 'I wonder if there are stories about Blair (and his family) that the press have held back on while he has been in power that will see the light of day once he has gone? The idea of that might make him want to stay on forever.'

There was widely rumoured to have been a family crisis two years ago, and it's said he was thinking of resigning then. My understanding is that the mainstream media agreed to respect his family's privacy, and I'm going to do the same.

Is Blair really called Linton? After that middle class twat nasty geezer in Wuthering Heights who took the beloved Catherine? Me cyant believe it.

If so, then his parents couldn't spell properly. :o)

September 23, 2006 9:53 pm  
Blogger J Bonington Jagworth said...

"has he always been mad?"

Probably not, but the potential was there, which I suppose might apply to all of us (as you later suggest) if we lived in his other-world and were 'assisted' by Alistair Campbell.

Where Blair differs from others in the same job is that he desperately wants to be thought of as normal, and even liked, which really doesn't go with the territory (who can't recall an ineffective school-teacher who wanted to be our 'friend'?).

Private Eye clocked him right at the beginning, spotting his passive-aggressive 'trendy vicar' tendency very early, more widespread appreciation of which might have seen him off before he had started on his bloody reforms and 'legacy'. He was on the radio yesterday, opining about the same things (after all, he's only had ten years' practice) and claiming to know about our preferences for leaving things alone which, of course, we must resist. Leaving things alone isn't an option, apparently, and it never occurs to him that buggering them about might make them worse, despite the lessons of history.

The zeal of the convert, I guess, but maybe he's always been like that. My lawyer daughter reminds me that when he and Cherie took their Bar exams, she passed with flying colours while he just scraped it, so perhaps it's a long-suppressed inferiority complex. I'm sure the trick-cyclists would have a field-day with him, given the chance...

December 06, 2006 2:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blair is arrogant beyond belief. You only have to look at the expression on his face when he gets questioned to see it. It is like he's saying (non-verbally) do you know who I am? It is obvious he thinks he's beyond questioning.

Is he mad? Yes, in that he thinks he's beyond the law and justice. All dictators think they're untouchable! Blair is definitely a megalomaniac. Come to that, so is his wife.

January 01, 2007 1:42 am  
Blogger Oxzen said...

I don't know about megalomaniac, but in an article on psychopathy Wikipedia offers the following checklist for Aggressive Narcissism:

Glibness / superficial charm
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Pathological lying
Cunning / manipulative
Lack of remorse or guilt
Callous / lack of empathy
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Enough said?

Excellent blog, Rachel.

June 14, 2008 10:26 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Excellent blog Rachel and while I might be a little late in the game, here is something that may leave you in no doubt of Blair madness. Enjoy, or not...

January 04, 2011 11:45 am  

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