For a man who once claimed he would ‘hit the ground running’ Tony Blair actually proved in one respect remarkably lazy. After all, instead of creating a party in his image from scratch, he simply latched onto ailing Labour, eviscerated it, and gave it a shiny new coat of paint. He himself was shiny and new in 1997 – at forty-three, the youngest Prime Minister since 1812 – and with the gloss worn off Thatcherism, people were ready for the Caring Nineties.
A generation which had started adult life as technologically obsolete, jobless renters had created businesses and bought, renovated, sold and re-bought homes which were reduced to negative equity and tripled mortgage payments, impossible to pay when those businesses crashed because too many of them depended on a bubble which had burst. It was a slow crawl out of the pit, we were all tired and disillusioned, and, with money proven to be a fickle God, it was time for a little kindness. New Age therapies were an antidote to feeling the burn, Britannia was cool, and things could only get better.
This was the horse Tony rode in on, and I suppose we can be forgiven for not realising that the object of the exercise was always the power of Tony Blair.
The problem with Tony Blair is, he doesn’t seem to understand, then is not now. He should be forced to watch the video of his arrival at Number Ten, adored by thousands – and his swift, silent departure. Maybe then, he would understand that we know what he is about, now – but I doubt it, because his connection to reality is ever more threadbare; he’s preoccupied with his next fix, just as he was as we hailed new beginnings in 1997.
Power is a drug, and there, unbeknown to us – dangling just within reach – was the prospect of an EU presidency, power over hundreds of millions of people. To attain that, having sharpened his knife on the Labour party, Tony Blair convinced himself that the evisceration of Cool Britannia herself was surely not a step too far.
It’s normal for a Wunderkind to become a Bete Noir, but in the case of Blair, his betrayal is so shameful, his legacy so globally apocalyptic and permanent, that he has almost taken on aspects of the Anti-Christ in popular imagination. Aside from figures of legend, or Hitler, who else is so universally loathed?
Where once his was the Midas Touch, now, whatever he lays his hand on turns to slime in the minds of those he once saw as obliging pawns, and so each time he argues, as he did last weekend, that it is imperative that we don’t leave the EU, vital that democracy is subverted, there is a sort of collective shiver, as if we all feel a draught from the crypt.
To agree with Tony Blair now is practically akin to demanding that Josef Mengele be called in to restructure the NHS.
Tony Blair represents a particular kind of corruption, of which he is somehow both source and symptom: only Blair, who called our forces to war more often than any other Prime Minister in our history, could have been made a peace envoy to the middle east he helped trigger, during a period in which a middle eastern nation which considers a public beheading as entertainment, was given the UN chair on Human Rights. That corruption is now written on his face – power and politics ages the best of people, but Blair looks like his own portrait in the attic.
We will not recover from the Blair years for generations, if ever. The gentle tolerance which informed the 1990s has stretched to snapping point. And Blair’s reach has been long: even David Cameron is rumoured to have employed him as an advisor, and George Osborne praised him as “the master.” To see Cameron, Clegg and Miliband lined up together, was to see peas in a Blairite pod.
We don’t vote for cookie-cutter Blair-alikes now, but Tony will probably never accept that. He’s still crying for power, for the glory days when he was puppet-master to Dubya, a Forrest Gump of a president, and was adored by Americans even as he helped discredit the Republicans to the extent of paving the way for America’s own version of Tony Blair – fellow arch-Globalist and war-monger Barack Obama.
In 1913, a single square mile of Vienna was simultaneously home to Hitler, Tito, Trotsky and Stalin, whose co-existence on the world stage was devastating.
I suppose we must be grateful that the hey-days of Obama and Blair didn’t overlap quite so exactly.