TONY BLAIR by Will Self
The novelist Will Self tells why Tony Blair 'gets right up my nose'
Saturday 03 June 1995
I think that's what it'll take to get an authentic noise out of this poetaster of the glib, this walking autocue in a sensible suit. Tony Blair is my villain all right, but such is his vacuous projected image (all we ever have to go on with a politician, for, once they're dead and the "truth" comes out, we're too bored and too relieved to be bothered to read it) that I've had to take a series of biopsies on what he is not to establish definitively why he gets right up my nose.
Take last week and the death of Lord Harold Wilson. Tone has an opportunity to say something intelligent, something that fully expresses the twisted legacy of Lord Kagan's favourite mac-wearer. He bounces up to the despatch box with that prefectorial gait, and what does he chime? "Harold Wilson was to politics what the Beatles were to popular culture - he dominated the era." Oh no, I don't think so, Tony. Even the ridiculous John Major, that avatar of the grey, came nearer to the truth (although probably inadvertently) when he said that Wilson and he belonged "nominally" to different parties.
I'm fed up with politicians who belong "nominally" to different parties. How much longer will Butskellism rear its Siamese head? And I'm utterly sick of "devoutly Christian" politicians who cut their ideological cloth to fit their electoral communion dress. Perhaps it's something to do with your training in advocacy, this ability to make one kind of statement sound so completely like another. It's all in the tone, Tone, isn't that right?
Of course, I don't know you personally. I'm sure you're a "really nice man". I'm sure that's pretty much all you are, too. How could you be anything else? The path to electability is a lobster pot of ingress: there's no way back out, and the only way forward is by being nicer and nicer, until we're all drowning in the saccharine of your happy marriage, your family home, your bourgeois bloody values.
I read politics at your alma mater, Tone. I only missed running into you on Magdalen Bridge by a year or four, but you're worlds away from me. I had hoped that your advent might have coincided with some late surge in political interest on my part, but no, the minute I hear your voice or cop a view of your ridiculous quasi-Seventies haircut - which looks to the future but is spray-mounted by the past - I feel a deep sense of enervation. Religion may or may not be the opium of the people, but under Blair politics is becoming our Largactil.
No, Tone, Labour is not the natural party of law and order; nor is it the party of "family values": Labour is the party of trade unionism and the "Labour movement", as any fool knows. I particularly object to your rap about the family. I don't want some pol like you telling me that I represent social disintegration because I'm separated from my wife and children. Mind your own bloody business. See if you can do something about the budget deficit; the dependence of our economy on arms exports; the pusillanimous response of Western Europe to the Balkan conflict; the destruction of the environment, and so on, before you come waggling your ditsy ethical concerns in my face.
You're representing something that doesn't really exist, Tone. Your party is riven over issues of sovereignty, just as the Tories are. Europe and electoral reform are the only real issues in our polity; everything else is displacement activity. I suppose it would be a bit much to expect you to 'fess up to this and cut that fragile consensus from under your sensibly shod feet. But it's not too much to expect from someone with an ounce of real political courage.
You say that you want to "see Labour reach out to the ten million people who did not vote in 1992". You say that "non-participation on such a scale is a symptom of social disintegration which threatens the health of our democracy". You call for parliamentary and electoral reform, but the very rhetoric you bring to bear is so suffused with the jargon of the very system you are attempting to impact upon that it's void before it's passed your lips. You are a past master of what Theodor Adorno typified as "the jargon of authenticity".
Stop saying words like "promote", "include" and "provide". Stop wittering on about "political renewal power" and the "Christian concept of community". It was said of you when you acceded to the leadership that you had no "ideological baggage". Too right. You checked it in at the left luggage office of ambition and have conveniently forgotten the ticket.
You are an absence, not a presence, Tone. We need someone who is unafraid to dump rhetoric and speak with genuine flair. Quite clearly, you aren't our man. I think it's distinctly possible that, if you don't buck up, rethink your entire approach, the Tories will win the next election. I'd tell you to go to the dustbin of history, if you weren't already standing in it.
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