Tony Blair, who is to great politics as Chris De Burgh is to great music, has been opining again about the state of British politics and how it’s rubbish now because no one likes him any more. The former Prime Minister was speaking to an invited audience in London at an event for Prospect magazine, because an uninvited audience would only have thrown rotten vegetables, booed, hissed, and demanded that he was hauled off to stand trial at the Hague. Tone prefers not to engage with the public at all, it’s far more profitable to be engaged by dictatorships in Central Asia who can help him with large amounts of money to keep growing his property portfolio.
Blair was a creature of the 90s, the founder of the BritArt school of conceptual politics, which consisted of fancy sounding and pretentious ideas that signified nothing attached to a hauf arsed piece of dreck. It was a confection which served as a means for an artist bereft of talent or skills to get very rich while creating absolutely nothing of note or value, whose only lasting legacy is an emptiness of the soul and the draining of the ocean of public credulity. All that Blairism left behind it is a dry seabed of cynicism. Although to be fair Tony did have one very great talent, it’s just that his talent was for lying and manipulation and turning the Labour party into a pale imitation of the Tories. No wonder Maggie Thatcher hailed him as her greatest achievement.
Blair did manage to achieve something that Thatcher could never aspire to, he demonstrated that it was actually possible for working class people to despise a politician even more than we despised Thatcher. With Thatcher you got what she claimed to be, a triumphalist populist right wing Tory, who made no bones about the fact that her aim was to beat working class communities and their institutions like the trade unions about the head with a police baton full of rusty nails. And that’s exactly what she did.
Blair claimed to represent the aspirations of the working classes, and then he beat us about the head with a stick full of rusty nails on behalf of the bosses and the banks while he told us mournfully that doing so hurt him more than it hurt us. He turned the Labour party from the party of the trade union movement into the party of managing the trade union movement on behalf of the British establishment and the banks of the City of London. Then he got on with the serious business of making himself seriously rich, a business into which he has thrown himself with far more enthusiasm than he ever demonstrated for the supposedly progressive politics he claimed to espouse.
Tony’s the creator of the politics of the Westminster that we see today. The politics of fear and vapidity, of hyperbole and stupidity, where politicians compete to see who can hold the public in the greatest contempt. The EU referendum where where all we have are different shades of Tories vying with one another to scare the public the most is devoid of anything positive or meaningful because Blair destroyed the capacity of the Labour party to pose as a force for moral good. Labour can’t take the moral high ground when Tony’s still camping on it with his dubious justifications for a war of aggression and the smoking ruins of Baghdad are blocking the path.
Having failed to learn the lessons of the last war, now he wants another. In his presentation for Prospect he raised the appalling prospect of another war. Tony likes his wars. Wars mean no one is demanding an investigation into how he got so wealthy because in war you can demonise your opposition for its lack of patriotism. Wars are very useful for politicians like Tony. He called for Western troops to get involved in Iraq again in order to defeat the demon that is ISIS. But it was Tony who unleashed the demon to begin with, and he still refuses to accept his culpability. You don’t rectify a crime by repeating it.
In his speech on Tuesday he complained that there is no longer any centre ground in British politics, but he’s only got himself to blame for that. Tony took the centre ground and set fire to it, he scorched it with lies and booby trapped it with deceit. He taught the public that in British politics occupying the centre ground meant attempting to face both ways at once, and now he’s upset because the public don’t trust either of his two faces.
There is a real and lasting achievement of Tony Blair and his successor, the only man in Britain whose ego matched his own. Between the two of them they finally put to rest the myth that kept the Labour bandwagon on the British Parliamentary Road to Socialism. They came into office having realised the impossible dream of the Labour movement, that crushing majority which meant that the party could at long last, after so many decades and so many disappointments, finally set about the reforming agenda it had been preaching to our parents and grandparents. Then they set about about going back on every promise that they’d made.
The promise of proportional representation was quickly ditched because it meant that Labour wouldn’t keep getting its large majorities. That deception is one of the reasons why they’re now nowhere near getting any sort of majority for the foreseeable future. The promised reform of the Lords turned out to mean reforming the Lords into the only possible thing worse than a chamber whose members inherited their seats, a chamber whose members got their seats for life due to favouritism and patronage. The promise of devolution was only kept grudgingly, after watering down the powers of the new Scottish parliament and foisting tax raising powers on it that were designed to be impossible to use and an electoral system designed to keep Labour and the Lib Dems in power. How has that worked out for them eh?
Tony Blair taught us a valuable lesson. He destroyed the centre ground of British politics with his lies and deceit. He proved finally and without any question or doubt that the British state and the Westminster parliament are incapable of meaningful reform. He demonstrated that if we want to live in a country which values its public services, which seeks to ensure that every citizen has a decent standard of living, all that is left is for Scotland to leave the UK and build that country for itself. When you strip away the hype from the BritArt school of conceptual politics, all that is left is Tony’s empty promises and an unmade bed of lies.
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