Tony Blair’s Premiership

Downing St.jpg

the Prime Minister will still not go early – because it is simply not in his nature

He can’t face that endocrinal cold turkey

Blair will walk only with a flame-thrower at his back

I say, “Gah.” I say, “Pshaw.”

I say pull the other one, baby. Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph announced that Tony Blair would leave Downing Street in the spring, and my normal response would be to say that, if you can’t believe The Daily Telegraph, what can you believe?

In the mystifying minestrone of the modern media, the news reports of this great paper must count as the few croutons of fact; and yet, in this case, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief.

There are about a thousand reasons why this human limpet will remain barnacled to the furniture of Number 10 for as long as he possibly can, and I have space for only a few of them here.

The first is that it would be an outrageous insult to the constitution and to the British public. It was only a few months ago that the people rightly or wrongly (make that wrongly) re-elected Mr Blair with a healthy, if gerrymandered, majority of 66.

He was invited by Her Majesty to form a government; he said he would serve a full term; and it would be a scandal if he were simply to pass on the reins to Gordon Brown with all the democratic propriety of the transition from Kim Il-sung to Kim Jong-il.

And – oi, no, you at the back – don’t you go telling me that the Tories did the same in 1990, when John Major took over from Margaret Thatcher.

The whole point was that Mrs Thatcher was exceedingly keen to carry out the Queen’s commission. She would indeed have served a full term, and another, but was jugulated by her own party.

No one is suggesting that will happen to Blair. No one is saying that there will even be a delegation of men in grey suits to push him out.

No, we are told that he will simply hand over the torch to Gordon, each blubbing the while, as a grateful nation looks on with a lump in its throat and then cheers him from the stage. It’s infamous.

Imagine if I decided to pass on the job of MP for Henley to some colleague and lifelong rival – my sister Rachel, for instance – and imagine (as I sometimes torment myself) that the Henley Conservative Association readily assented to this scheme, many of them having been lobbying for Rachel for years.

The electorate of South Oxfordshire would be indignant at not being consulted, and quite right, too. Even if Blair were prepared to be so cavalier with the constitution, I tell you that the Prime Minister will still not go early – because it is simply not in his nature.

It is a wonderful and necessary fact of political biology that we never know when our time is up. Long after it is obvious to everyone that we are goners, we continue to believe in our “duty” to hang on, with cuticle-wrenching tenacity, to the perks and privileges of our posts.

We kid ourselves that we must stay because we would be “letting people down” or that there is a “job to be finished”. In reality, we are just terrified of the come-down.

Every time Blair thinks it is time to jack it in and head for Dunsmarmin in Barbados, he has a mental peek at life after office. He sees a hell of speeches to half-filled stadia in Minnesota, and the audience fanning themselves with their programmes like dying butterflies.

No more outriders, no more adrenaline, no more do-or-die Dispatch Box jousts; no more staring soulfully into the camera, with the little red light on to tell him that he is now going live to every house in the country; no more feeling our pain, no more watching us watching him feel our pain.

Oh no, he thinks: he can’t face that loss. He can’t face that endocrinal cold turkey, and so he postpones, and Gordon gnashes and gnaws offstage.

And every time he has screwed up his courage again, and reconciled himself to semi-oblivion, then he catches an unguarded triumphalist smirk on the face of some Brown-ite, and he remembers all those years of disloyalty and counter-briefing from the Chancellor or his acolytes, and at once a steely resolve forms again in his heart, that furious tenacity we remember from the bunker days of John Major.

“I’ll show them,” he mutters. “They won’t get rid of me that easily, and, in any case, my public still love me. I am still the people’s Blair,” he tells himself.

He finds ever more reasons why the nation needs his hand on the tiller, just as Churchill did in the 1950s. Remember how the Conservatives got back in 1951, and Anthony Eden, the heir-apparent, went immediately to see the old boy and secure undertakings that he would not hang around too long.

Whatever reassurance Churchill may have given at the time, he spent the next few years driving poor Eden round the bend. Stroke after stroke Churchill sustained, and yet he argued that only he could deal with such global events as the death of Stalin in 1953.

He finally handed over the reins in 1955, by which time he was in such a ropy state that the public was kept in a state of systematic and disgraceful ignorance.

All politicians are masters of procrastination, but there is no day they find easier or more natural to postpone than the day of their own resignation.

In putting off that day, finally, Blair has the support of increasing numbers of the Labour Party, who are at last panicking about their seats and who have realised, as one centre-Left MP put it to me today, that “as soon as Gordon gets it, we’re stuffed”.

They fear that Brown will suffer by comparison with David Cameron, and that the longer he sits in Number 10, exuding gloom and unease, the worse it will be at the polls.

“We’ve got to keep Blair in as long as possible,” says my thoughtful Labour chum, “and then call an election as soon as Gordon takes over.” That analysis, of course, is highly congenial to Blair.

No, my friends, pace yesterday’s front page, I don’t see Blair walking next spring, not unless they winkle him out with a flame-thrower, or launch a Forest Gate-type raid on Downing Street.

51 thoughts on “Tony Blair’s Premiership”

  1. So we’re agreed. Removal of choice is bad.

    The problem is, dear Boris, that the electorate did not have a choice in the Tory night of the long knives, no more than the electorate now has a choice when Blair goes to Brown. It is identical in that respect, politicians making decisions about leadership and no choice for the voters. The only difference being it was not Maggie that made the choice, but a bunch of faceless grey men.

    Let’s not forget things like all women short lists or a-lists for candidates. Choice? Pah, the party machine laughs at it.

    And as a constituent I can safely ask “Well, is Rachel going to get a round of drinks in?”

  2. I was led to believe that we voted for the party, and not the the leader, since it isn’t a presidential election after all. So wouldn’t a changeover be all above board?
    As the quote goes; “the constitution is what happens, and if it works, it is constitutional”.

  3. Even Chris Bryant – one of Labour’s most slavishly loyal Blairites – is now flirting with Gordon Brown.

    Bryant, who famously sent a photo of himself in Y-fronts to a gey website, has stunned fellow Labour MPs at his sudden conversion. One backbencher says: “He’s not so much on the road to Damascus when it comes to siding with Brown, he’s on the high-speed express train.”

  4. Generally , a good article . “Dunsmarmin” made me smile also . Bliar will hang on to the bitter end and even then will have to be dragged out still clinging to the doorways . I think that a major reason is that he is genuinely scared of ( multiple ) prosecutions . Once out of power a lot of people will round on him – and with his total lack of any moral code he must have an awful lot of skeletons in his cupboards .
    ( it has been remarked that he is in a prime position to turn down offers of money for favours ! )

  5. Boris, finally we are as of one mind. This article is without flaw.

    Blair is employing “the CHRÉTIEN Gambit” otherwise known as “screw the country up so badly that they’re afraid to get rid of me, because I’m the only one who knows all the screwups.”

    Didn’t work for him, won’t work for Blair. Wake up and smell the acetylene torches, Tony.

  6. At the risk of going off-topic (and we all know how I hate that) I must admit that I’m giving Boris faith points for the Dunsmarmin joke, for alas I do not get it. No doubt something to do with being from Canuckistan.

    Still, the article is perfect. Now let Blair clear out and let’s get a real socialist in there!!!

  7. raincoaster – ‘smarm’: behave in an ingratiating way. When he’s no longer PM he will have done smarming, hence ‘Dunsmarmin’ – also a play on words of a common house name in the UK (yes, I know) of ‘Dunroamin’ as in done roaming ie. this is the house we’re going to stay in. People with house names like that tend to have gnomes too. In the front garden usually, with fishing rods.

  8. Raincoaster, when you say we should get a proper socialist in there I hope you are not implying we should elect Gordon Brown.

    Have you any idea the kind of screw-ups that guy is capable of?

  9. Even axed Home Secretary Charles Clarke last night launched a fierce attack on Tony Blair !

    He called the PM a failed leader and tried to partly blame him for the fiasco over the failure to deport foreign prisoners.

    But David Blunkett has warned Clarke to shut up – or risk damaging Tony Blair and the Labour Party. He also blasts “a motley band of Labour MPs” out to dump the PM !!!

  10. Well yes but whilst New Labour seem to be fighting amongst themselves as to who is going in the lifeboat I don’t think their ship will sink whilst there is such poor opposition. Obviously I’m NOT referring to our glorious host Boris as I’m sure it is on record that I think both he AND Rachel would do a splendid job of leading the Conservative party. But frankly, I’ve got no faith in Cameron and I’m not impressed with the Conservatives opposing the children and families bill. It seems they support stuff Labours own backbencers wouldn’t touch with a bargepole and are the reason it gets through parliament, then when Labour comes up with a conservative measure they oppose it.

    Is Cameron a mole? Is he secretly working for Bliar or just not very bright?

  11. raincoster

    Worry not dear lady! I read in the paper the other day that the left is getting so strong in the Labour Party that it has already split on the subject of hwther Gordon or A. N. Other should lead after Tony. Up to then it had been one for all and all for Gordon. But once the left gets fissile you know the march to socialism has started – in a number of different directions of course!

  12. There are a number of Tories who seem determined to pursue John Prescott to the ends of the earth, but none of them does it with more passion than Sir Paul Beresford, MP for Mole Valley.

    Yesterday he put down this written question: “To ask the Leader of the House, if he will take steps to establish a select committtee with the responsibility for overseeing the role of the Deputy Prime Minister.”

    Why didn’t John Prescott go to jail for dodging his council tax? Joshophine… Rooney was slung in a cell at… 69 (!!!) for refusing to pay £800 in protest at the state of her street in Derby.

    Prescott ducked council tax for 8 years on his free apartment in London. He ended up owning £3,830. But no bailiffs hammered on his door.

    Instead, the man in charge of council tax trousered thousands while paying not a penny himself. He only coughed up when the Tories rumbled him (!!!).

    The person who should be hauled off in handcuffs is Prescott.

  13. I’ve got no faith in Cameron (jaq)

    I have to agree. I read a week or so back that he still thinks that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. That pretty much did it for me. Cameron seems not only to want to be a Blair lookalike, but even wants to wear the Iraqi albatross hanging around Blair’s neck as well.

  14. Brilliant article, Boz. Interesting feedback too. But there are some things more important than the occupant of Dunsmarmin.

    I HATE CORIANDER. This is a revolting herb the catering and food processing industry has forced on us, especially in Indian restaurants. Outside GB it is known as cilantro or dohnia.

    Every recipe – or so it seems – calls for a smothering of the Weed from Hell. It tastes like a medley of ear wax, metal polish, candle grease and Fairy Liquid. Chefs use its pungency as a cover-up for bad cuisine.

    If you say “no coriander, please” they pile on more, laughing. The coriander fascists are taking over the world. Anyone feel the same?

    (See www IHateCilantro dot com)

  15. Apologies for being slightly off topic in the above but there is a parallel with New Labour, TB in particular. I have just twigged the connection. He is the chef, the coriander is his press releases and the food on which it cascades is us. There is no escape from it.

    Or am I pissed, it being Friday?

  16. Is Cameron a mole? (Jaq)

    That’s a rather good question, actually.

    I don’t think he is. I think he’s just decided that Blair is a highly successful politician, and that he must adopt Blair’s methods. I think he feels he has to repackage the Tory party to get away from its Nasty Party image, and do so by presenting a fresh, young, ‘modern’ face. And this is essentially all a matter of Blairite all-things-to-everyone superficial presentationalism.

    But I think this is why people are so sick of Blairism: it’s all spin and presentation and initiatives, entirely devoid of substance.

    Say what you like about Maggie Thatcher (and I will), she did actually have a strong set of convictions. I happened to disagree with many of those convictions, but I never thought of her as being fundamentally dishonest.

    I can’t say the same of Blair. I don’t know what he believes. In fact, I don’t think he knows what he believes. I think he wanted to be a rock star, but settled for Prime Minister. I think he wanted to be a public figure of some sort, the centre of media attention. I think he craves attention so much that he’d probably even become a serial killer to grab headlines for himself. (And indeed, in Iraq, it might be argued, he has become exactly that.) In these fading days of his failed premiership, he appears on television almost every day. And this was all he ever wanted.

    For myself, I want politicians who say what they actually believe, rather than what focus groups tell them the public would like to think they believe. In this respect, what’s refreshing about Boris (and depressing about Blair, and now Cameron) is that one senses that Boris says what he himself believes, or what he himself came to believe while lying in his bathtub last night. I may disagree, and I often do, but I’m glad he has his own robust set of opinions, and robustly voices them.

    If anything, I think Cameron should be taking a leaf out of Boris’ book, and not out of the remaindered Blair book. I think Cameron is adopting a political fashion just when it is going out of style, and when people are hungry for something different from Blairite presentational spindoctory, just like they were once hungry for something different from Thatcher’s no-U-turn absolutist dogmatism (and got the infinitely flexible, value-free Blair instead).

  17. idlex, we are as of one mind as well. Thatcher was an idealist, it’s just that her a priori assumptions were wrong. I respect her for being true to her ideals, however wrong they may have been, and were.

    Blair is an opportunist. And Cameron is an opportunist, moving to the center because he’s seen it work for Tony and figures it’ll work for him, too. That IS where most people live, but increasingly voting is coming to be a fringe activity, something done by nutters. And, as someone in Canuckistan said of Brian Mulroney, “the only thing he’ll find in the middle of the road is yellow lines and dead skunks.”

  18. If he believes he has a future career then he will be much more willing to go.

    EU President, UN Secretary General, Pope are out but The Bliar Foundation for Peace & a New World Order (HQ Tuscany) funded by Soros & co with a side order of speaking tours of the US (making more cash than Jagger) seems on the cards. These however require that his reign end on the long sought “high note”.

    Alternately a long criminal trial for genocide followed by forced ingestion of rifampicin would be suitable.

  19. Alternately a long criminal trial for genocide followed by forced ingestion of rifampicin would be suitable.

    What an excellent suggestion.

    Frankly, I always thought Bliar was intent on selling Britain down the river of Europe then installing himself as european president. I know, shush! Don’t want him to think we actually like this idea – we don’t!

    I’d like it on record that I am all for British Sovereignty and also coriander

  20. Such good humour all you!

    I love Raincoaster’s incisive comments – how come she knows so much of what goes on here being on the other side of the pond – perhaps she’s a spy! either that or drop dead clever. (I’m +ve it’s the latter btw)

    Jaq – I love reading your comments too and Neil Craig is spot on. Idlex – you got a good point. Paul ID – not sure about you at the mo M8. La Bach – very interesting.

    My own view on the Bliar front is that he wants us all to be crawling with feelings of gratitude for all he has done and that he would like us as a nation to bow and scrape forever praising his name… Will that moment ever come? no – so Bliar should snap out of his cuckoo nest pdq and start a charity. Something one up on Bill Gates if that is possible: he could dream up anything – in education, housing, environment… the world would be his oyster… IF only he would take stock and appreciate all the good things he has received and enjoyed during his premiership. Then he should buzz off quite happily and leave all the snipers left in the Labour Party nest to sort themselves out and have a good joust. If he doesn’t do something soon it will be ‘blast off’ time and he will leave in circs far removed from his own choosing

  21. Paul ID – not sure about you at the mo M8. (Melissa)

    A most excellent man. He is not only a fellow smoker, but also agrees with almost everything I say. How could you doubt him, Melissa?

    I think he deserves a prize, myself.

  22. Oooooooh, I’d make a fabulous spy! Melissa, why don’t you pull some strings and get me a job at MI #1thru10?

    I can’t work for CSIS because I don’t have a bristly moustache.

  23. I’m tempted to say I’ve got a moustache when I stand on my head but that would be crass so I won’t say that, since the op I look more like Hitler surrendering anyway.

    Melissa – thankyou for your kind comments but I’m confused by yours: exactly what HAS Bliar done for us? (well, there’s the aquaduct) Actually there was no ‘aquaduct’ – I’m thinking Bliar not Brown (and he’s been bad enough – pensions?) OK so we’ve got chaos in immigration: customs, law and order: crime and punishment (for whom? the victims?), the NHS: loadsa money, and THE IRAQ WAR FOR TERROR. Bliar seems pretty keen on Bush (as is Boris and almost every healthy male but I think Blair has lost direction) so I think he should be exported to the USA immediately, after all, they gave us McDonalds!

  24. OFF TOPIC:

    bytheway chaps, caught an interesting prog on R4 yesterday presented by Ian Hislop, about middle England Boris so you might want to alert Cameron!

    Hizzy was in Ludlow (nice swimming baths) and seemed surprised to be interviewing his old housemaster, ooh! Well there you go. I noticed Chris Hitchens was at Baliol Boris and I wondered – do you have alumni dinner and dances where both sides of the political spectrum come together over a sausage roll or is there just some tie or secret handshake or bulletin so you can all favour the blessed? ho ho. Anyway, check out CH’s latest offering on his blog chaps – I bet you wish you’d researched ‘As American as Apple Pie’
    for the full monty.

  25. The country is sick of Blair and Cameron is far too close to being Bliar to obtain any real benefit from emulating him . His only real hope is to stop modelling himself on the slimeball and stike a definite and separate position – instead of the mush he has spouted so far .
    For starters he could ditch the fob-off-the-English policy of English Votes on English matters in the British parliament and declare for an English Parliament which is logical clearcut and puts clear water betweenhimself and New Labour . The Conservatives have TIME for this policy to take root on already sensitised population .
    It would work .

  26. Idlex: He probably does deserve a prize, and since you offered yourself as one , you really could be shed mates.

  27. Melissa, darling. You have never been sure about me. You once accused me of being a spy in the camp, posting nasty things about Boris when it was probably some mischievous student.

    Unfortunately I do not have the time nor eloquence of your other correspondents to express myself in a gentle, rational way. My thoughts often come out as allegory which can be taken the wrong way. This is something I must learn to avoid or live with.

    Is coriander such a daft theme in the context of Blair’s reign? To me it represents a lot that’s wrong with the western world today – conformity, slavish following of fashion (in this case culinary), lack of taste and discernment, the force-feeding of the populace by powers beyond our control, blind faith in brand names, the mindless worship of anything labelled “green”…

    Stick with me, babe. You’ll never get an anti-Boris posting from this address. Unless he tries to ban smoking, in which case you’ll have Idlex to deal with too.

  28. He probably does deserve a prize, and since you offered yourself as one , you really could be shed mates. (Mac)

    Or “M8s”, as Melissa would undoubtedly have written, in txt msg spEk.

    I would agree that I would have offered myself as a prize, Mac, if I had replaced the comma with a colon, as in “I think he deserves a prize: myself.” or with a full stop, as in “I think he deserves a prize. Myself.”. But my use of a comma indicates instead that I myself believe that he deserves a prize, as do you.

    But if one can offer oneself as a prize, I think that in this case we might suggest that Melissa offer herself as the most suitable prize for him. Or at least, if not herself, an Evening With Melissa.

    This could be a pleasant experience, since I have long since formed the firm conviction that Melissa looks exactly like Emma Peel of the Avengers, but for the likelihood that the evening would probably end with a karate chop or a judo throw over the rails of Westminster bridge.

  29. Ha!

    Ok PaulD of course it’s just GOT to be prize time for you … one will be winging its speedy way to you.

    You got me hook, line and sinker – Idlex, Jaq and Mac: the trouble is that you all know me far too well —

    You lot are the best – cool dudes… best laughs ever here!

    Of course I’m sticking with you – nothing else would do – coriander or no coriander

  30. Sweetiepie, you already have my address from a previous email. But I don’t want a prize. I’ve read most of Boris’s books and jolly good they are too. I also have lots of money and don’t need any more possessions.

    But if you were to offer us a collective prize of an evening with Idlex, Mac, Jaq, Raincoaster (bit of a haul) and the gang, with you and Boz at the helm, I would definitely bite. Oh yes.

    Naturally it would have to be a smoking restaurant (with extractors for the comfort of others) and serve Greene King IPA. Coriander optional.

    Alternatively Idlex could host it in his shed (why do I think he has a shed? Emma Peel… Barnes Wallis).

  31. ‘You once accused me of being a spy in the camp, posting nasty things about Boris when it was probably some mischievous student.’

    I starting my blogging career as a ‘mischievious student’ Paul. Whats so bad about mischievious students? Boris going into the shadow higher ed job gave me the perfect excuse to harrang him!

  32. Nothing wrong with mischievous students, Steven. Just that I ain’t one (not these days, anyway)!

  33. Melissa

    Any reason why we can’t have a blog about Boris’s Sunday Telegraph comment.

    As funny as this article was what else can we really say about Tony?

  34. Melissa looks like Emma Peel? Well actually ….

    Oh Jaq dear, DC cannot be a mole, for moles must have some intelligence. No, he’s a jellyfish, no spine you see.

  35. Thanks Boris,

    Matthew Hoggard said it all really and with a spontaneous wit that could never be matched in a newspaper column as far is Blair is concerned when he (according to Andrew Flintoff) called him a ‘nob’ during the Ashes celebrations last year.

    I even emailed number 10 to say how much I agreed (once I found out I couldn’t watch the test cricket anywhere as pubs don’t like putting it on over rugby league).

    For anyone who doesn’t know the story:

    Blair decided to jump on the bandwagon after we beat the aussies last summer, except the guy has no interest in cricket and everyone in england cricket hates him over the Zimbabwe fiasco in the last world cup. So he invited them all round to number 10 for a photoshoot. In the garden Blair says something along the lines of ‘What are all these people doing here’ to which Hoggy replied something along the lines of ‘They’ve come to take your photograph you nob’.

    Boris, if you guys get in power I hope you give this guy a knighthood (for his services to cricket obviously).

  36. Melissa looks like Emma Peel?

    Well, she hasn’t denied it. So it must be true.

    ‘They’ve come to take your photograph you nob’. (Steven_L)

    ‘Nob’ is, to the best of my understanding, an abbreviation of ‘nobility’. A ‘nob’ is a person of wealth and social distinction.

    It is, however, unusual to refer to someone to their face as a ‘nob’. It is far more common to call someone a ‘knob’ – which is an entirely different thing altogether.

    And Blair is definitely one of them.

  37. PaulD, as you can see, no woman can resist allegory.

    jaq, I cannot imagine being so desperate as to click on the links you provided. Not only do I read VF the day it comes out, but no one of right mind would ever wish to see Christopher Hitchens’ Full Monty.

  38. PaulD, as you can see, no woman can resist allegory (Raincoaster).

    This prompts an interesting thought. Does Melissa exist? Is she the political equivalent of Humph’s Samantha? (shouldn’t need explanation here).

    The big question: Is she Boris in drag?

  39. Boris in drag?

    Boris is too skilled at PR and too well connected to PR people to try a Galloway-esque stunt like that. He knows all too well that it is far better to put an England shirt on and headbutt a German in the kneecap if your business is the serious one of winning elections.

  40. raincoaster – re: Hitchens’ full monty – I am very sad and don’t get out much and apart from that I was thrilled to see there was a fashionable term for my surgery. Unfortunately I’ve dropped a stitch so need to be re-zipped, or welded or stapled or something. All in the best possible taste of course. Wish me luck folks!

    Melissa: Boris in drag??? Noooo!! Boris wears bigger shoes anyway and I don’t think Melissa would be caught dead in red patent stilleto’s – she’s more of kitten heel kinda gal??

    This country has gone to the dogs – Prezza and the pack yapping at the heels of the big poodle.

  41. Jaq, I hope the re-stitching goes according to plan and you’re up and typing again soon. And imagining something prettier than a Hitchens full monty OR Boris in drag.

    But red patent heels are very in right now. Open-toed. raincoaster prefers the navy blue, though. Hmmm, pay my Internet bill or buy shoes…a tough choice, or it would be, if I had the money to do either.

  42. raincoaster – you can never have too many shoes!
    Thanks for kind comments. I was just about to ask ‘M’ to delete op reference as I said the same to another woman and was met with disapproval. You know, this society thing, I really MUST get out more! Sometimes when I open my mouth I can just feel my foot itching to climb in there. I’ve got insubordinate feet. Obviously I need more shoes. You can never have too much love or too many shoes.

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