Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead (Pending)

As the tide of even Labour MPs sick to death of him reaches unmanageable proportions, Mr Blair has ‘signalled’ through a few close friends (and he can only have a few left) like David “Damn, I’m not ready to challenge Gordon” Miliband, Minister for Social Nationalisation Hilary Armstrong and of course Rupert Stavro Murdoch that he’ll soon be off. He’s not said it himself, of course, because he’s now so pathologically incapable of anything but spin that even his leaving announcement needs a get-out clause. And he still can’t see why even his own party are all shouting, “Get out!”

Newsnight last night had an amusing graphic of Mr Blair ascending into Heaven, chest emblazoned with a giant Blue Peter badge like a home-made Superman. No doubt that’s what he believes his exit will be like, but the memo fantasising about his triumphal departure “on a wave of euphoria” where he leaves “the crowds wanting more” is almost as delusional as his in-house report that claimed Labour were being hurt in elections because “people love Tony and they’re angry that he’s going to go.” The only wave of euphoria possible for Mr Blair the shop-soiled messiah is should he announce a shock, instant resignation to surprise and delight everyone; but on his record, most people probably think that, having left himself wiggle room by ‘revealing’ the date only through spin, it’s more likely he’ll make a shock announcement that he’ll be staying on later than the half-promised next July (I can easily believe he’d try it, though nothing could more certainly precipitate that long-delayed palace coup).

If his leaving is to be announced half a dozen times, each time as if it’s divine revelation rather than a crumb from his table – the same way New Labour has run every policy announcement in office – then the euphoria will long be past when he eventually staggers out of office, months after Labour is punished in yet more waves of elections. As for leaving “the crowds wanting more…” With the chances of that having left the building by 2002 at the latest, which new mad Labour policy initiative will see out Mr Blair’s dying months in office? He’s probably deluded enough to think he can invent time travel, but on Labour’s form, odds-on they’ll be rolling out mind control instead. Should that method of commanding applause go as over time and over budget as most grandiose Labour projects, his much-delayed departure will be greeted only by sullen apathy and “Go, already,” like a ham actor carrying on his death throes for ten minutes when everyone else wants to get on with the drama.

One of the most striking things about Mr Blair’s impending departure is the absence of calls for him to stay from those who have most to gain from a longer term in office; I refer, of course, to his political opponents. From a partisan Liberal Democrat perspective, I should want Mr Blair to remain Labour Leader for as long as possible. Ten more years! Yet I don’t, and every Lib Dem blog is hungry for his defenestration (see, for example, Stephen Tall’s much classier Auden-inspired headline). It can only be an example of unselfish cleaving to the national interest, when every day that Mr Blair stays means that the biggest focus of bitter resentment against the Labour Party remains in place; that no-one can properly set a future direction that might just get them out of that mess; and constant sniping on the verge of a Labour civil war, all of which will be hugely damaging to Labour prospects. He’s had an effect on his party remarkably like that of Mrs Thatcher on hers, broadening its appeal to give three General Election victories but in the process dragging the party to a right-wing ideology and both ending up so convinced they’re right that they just don’t know when to call it quits, even when they’ve become desperately unpopular. Like Mrs Thatcher’s, Mr Blair’s legacy will be a poisonously divided party where the true believers will take anything his successor does as a betrayal.

Back in Autumn 1990, an edition of Spitting Image finished with the Tory Cabinet singing ‘Go Now’ to Mrs Thatcher, with only Neil Kinnock – his backdrop a chart of plummeting Tory opinion polls – imploring her to stay. Today, a partisan Liberal Democrat is in the same quandary; however much we want to see the back of the Prime Minister, will jettisoning him give this contemptible Labour Government another chance, as the Tories managed under Mr Major (yes, even he was regarded as ‘the bright new thing’ once)? Well, I doubt it, as Mr Brown is hardly a fresh face, and has been the architect of even more of this Government’s policies than Mr Blair. He’s in it up to his neck. I can’t believe the relief of no longer having to look at that smile or hear that preaching tone won’t do Labour some good, though, yet even so I’d rather he went tomorrow – or, ideally, this morning. I just want rid of Tony Blair as soon as possible, and leaving party politics to one side for a moment, the sooner he goes the healthier British politics will be. He is a source of poison, and that simply isn’t good for anyone.

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