Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Tony Blair Interview

For those of you who have been unable to tear yourself away from Ultimate Big Brother in recent times, I'm afraid I have to inform you that Tony Blair is about to release his memoirs.

You BB fans remember him, right? Great big toothy smile, softly spoken, never wrong about anything? He'd fit in well as a housemate were it not for the fact that his IQ is significantly higher than 30. Still sketchy? Ok, he used to be the Prime Minister. Got him now?

Ahead of the book release Mr Blair has given an hour-long interview to the BBC's Andrew Marr, screened earlier this evening (Wednesday) on BBC2. If I didn't know that all the book proceeds were going towards the British Legion to help those affected by the war that HE caused, I'd suggest that Mr Blair's interview is a shameless plug for the aforementioned tome. But I do know so we'll crack on. There's still plenty to complain about.

As I alluded to earlier Mr Blair is never wrong. Well, rarely by his own admission at any rate. This is a recurring theme in Marr's 60-minute examination of the man who held office for a decade. He was absolutely not wrong to stay on for a third term of office despite agreeing to hand on to Gordon Brown after two, absolutely not wrong to push ahead with plans for ID cards, tuition fees or foundation hospitals, and of course absolutely not wrong to authorise an illegal war in which the death toll continues to rise some eight years on. He's sorry about the latter, but he's not wrong.

The explanation of the decision to take military action in Iraq is somewhat confusing. Previous forays into Sierra Leone and Kosovo had brought about successful regime change. As such it came to pass that the removal of a despot was a good enough reason to start a war. All well and good so far. Perhaps Iraq and maybe even the world is a better place since the death of Saddam Hussein, but where's the consistency in that? Zimbabwe, anyone?

Mr Blair concedes that it would not be possible to go into Zimbabwe to remove Robert Mugabe and effect regime change, but doesn't explain the difference. This is where Marr misses a trick in not pushing for a more satisfactory answer. Perhaps both men think that the answer is obvious but, and you can call me thick if you like, I don't know the difference and I would have appreciated some elaboration on that. I'm plucking this from nowhere, but it might just be that Zimbabwe is a nation more capable of defending itself than Iraq, which has itself inflicted enough bloodshed on us. No PM wants to preside over a British version of Vietnam.

Mr Blair does express mild regret about fox hunting and freedom of information. He confesses that having looked futher into both he can now see that legislating on both was a bad idea. Suddenly fox hunting is not just 'a lot of toffs running around hunting foxes' but actually an essential method of pest control. Pity we didn't have someone around to control him when he was being a pest, which was almost always post 9/11.

He calls legislation on freedom of information a 'disaster', arguing that it became impossible for government to discuss issues frankly, lest they fall foul of the potential to offend the public. What he seemed to be saying, unless I needed to adjust my television set (which by the way will be digital whether I like it or not), is that politicians can only make informed decisions if there is no chance of anyone ever finding out what has been said in arriving at those decisions. Mr Blair would have you believe that the whole political process is in danger of falling down if some lilly-livered careerist suit is too afraid to say what he thinks, just in case the public find out about it later on.

It's only when Marr moves on to the latter days of Mr Blair's Premiership that you fully realise what has happened to the former PM. The wild-eyed (actually he's still wild-eyed), ambitious left of centre Labour man of the people of 1997 has morphed into a tyrannical, opportunistic egomaniac whose facial expressions throughout remind me of the demonic villains portrayed by Tim Curry in that Musketeer movie with Kiefer Sutherland. By his own admission Mr Blair has turned completely to the dark side, although the way he phrases it is that he is not a Conservative or even a conservative but a 'progressive' politician.

'You can't run the country in 2010 like you did in 1950' he pleads. He may be right, but I'm pretty sure you can keep the Labour Party sufficiently left wing to be both true to it's values and electable in the space of a decade. So far has Mr Blair travelled ideologically since Things Can Only Get Better And All That in 1997 that he couldn't even bring himself to launch an attack on the present and shambolic coalition government.

'I don't want to start attacking David Cameron' he said;

'Why not?' asked Marr, not unreasonably.

Maybe because they are not that different now and he recognises a lot of himself in Mr Cameron. Yes the current Prime Minister has gone a little cut-crazy in the face of the financial crisis, but essentially he's an extension of Mr Blair. All spin, monumentally self-satisfied despite his propensity to commit astonishing gaffes, and more than a little too concerned by legacy and his place in history.

The sad thing is that Mr Blair, unlike Mr Cameron perhaps, started from a much better place. His new memoirs could have been so, so different.......

No comments: