Thursday, September 02, 2010
Tony Blair must die. posted by Richard Seymour
It is appropriate, perhaps, that one of the monsters of our age should communicate his de profundis to us in a style befitting the morning television chat show. The matey populism, the chattiness, and the familiar cliche-riddled inarticulacy, is surely the fitting idiom for a thoroughly modern serial killer. In another age, a moralist, Whig and Gladstonian imperialist of Blair's class would have adopted a manner of expression displaying the fruits of a classical education. Literature would have supplied the dominant tropes of even his extemporary remarks. Today, advertising and public relations are the supreme genres. But there's something else - the discursive style suggests that Blair probably made use of a ghost writer who transcribed his waffling while the former premiere gurgled from the shower or expatiated from the back seat of a limo. Blair would deny this, and has complained that Robert Harris was a 'cheeky fuck' for suggesting that he was such a lightweight as to require a ghost-writer. A plausible alternative is that he used a team of monkeys with typewriters and some unfortunate editors had to piece together the smarmiest copy.
Blair's fat little compendium of pseudo-revelations, attacks on personal acquaintances and colleagues, self-justifying circumlocutions, political polemic, and narcissistic reflections, comes with its own self-destruct button. Comparing himself to the 'people's princess', he says: "We were both in our ways manipulative people, perceiving quickly the emotions of others and able instinctively to play with them." Elsewhere, he informs astonished readers that sometimes politicians must "conceal the full truth ... bend it and even distort it". This being the case, you might suspect that he is not always being honest with his readers, and that the impression he tries to give of opening up and being fully frank is as counterfeit as his 'intelligence' on Iraq. You might wonder what is the point of your parting with a portion of your spending power even for one of the thousands of half price copies that your local WH Smith will be shoving in your direction, if all that's going to happen is that Tony Blair lies to you. Again. When all he's ever done is lie to you, at taxpayers' expense. Will there come a time, you might wonder, when we will stop paying Tony Blair to lie to us?
You would also expect, from the foregoing, that Blair's testimonial should be a masterful display of button-pushing, noodzhing, heartstring-plucking and tear-jerking. At the end of which, the former Prime Minister should emerge as an heroic liberal reformer stoically facing down the forces of conservatism, triumphing against the odds, vindicated by history and the big man upstairs, though privately nurturing a wounded soul. So, roughly, it turns out. From his earliest political and legal education at the hands of Derry Irvine, the eminence grise whom he has described as a 'tyrannical genius', to the scuffles with Gordon Brown, whom he cheerfully patronises, Tony is almost always right, or on the right path. He's macho too. We hear all about COBRA sessions and 'ticking clock' scenarios in which, for example, he came close to blasting a passenger jet out of the skies. White-knuckle negotiating sessions with Ulster's natives are duly described with a certain amount of colonial panache. The tough guy, swaggering, iron-in-the-soul stuff that is de rigeur for former statesmen of his ilk, is all there. But so is the love-me-tender vulnerability. He says he hit the bottle to manage the stress of his job. Boo hoo. Millions of people do that all the time - it's called alcoholism. Like the walrus, he says he cried for his victims in Iraq, before mercilessly consuming every one. He admits to a few 'small' errors here and there, of course. He is mortal after all, like Jesus or, his other role model, Diana.
Even when confessing to errors, though, what is most eminently on display is Blair's cynicism. When he cheerfully admits to lying through his teeth, manipulating everyone around him, he is sure to let us know of the effect this had on policymaking. On the freedom of information act, he tells us that it was an 'imbecilic' mistake because of the way journalists used it to ask questions about what the government was doing. Oh well, never mind our civil rights, Tony, if it inconveniences you in any way. On the fox-hunting business, he says he deliberately sabotaged his own legislation to let some forms of hunting continue, to the ire of Labour colleagues. At the end of these triangulations, he complains that he "felt like the damn fox". Poor thing. Hunted by mad dogs and mounted forces of conservatism, chased through the thickets of political intrigue, always on the brink of capture - but miraculously...
The ex-PM's Tory instincts are also prominent, as he again attempts to whip his party, the public and the world into shape. Having given his support to the coalition's austerity programme, which even the right-wing of the Labour Party is now shying away from, he orders Labour not to 'drift to the Left', as if the big problem for Labour is that it might start representing some of the millions of working class voters that it lost under Blair's watch. And he's pleading with 'the world' not to rule out the possibility of war with Iran. He hasn't had his fill of blood crimes yet. David Cameron, who has falsely alleged that Iran has nuclear weapons, would probably agree. Blair is not only a logical ally of this sham of a government, but is on its right-wing. To Clegg's right on war, to Cameron's right on identity cards, civil liberties and even immigration, Blair has never had any business as part of this country's organised labour movement. That he was ever its leader is a shame and a disgrace. Labour's members, supporters and affiliates should look at his memoirs, look at the way he's conducting himself in the press, preening himself, spouting his ridiculously reactionary opinions as if he hasn't been comprehensively discredited, and say to themselves: "never again".
Protest at his book-signing at Waterstones Piccadilly, next Wednesday, 8th September.