Bin Laden & Blair: Just when you had 'em taped, they flip

Osama has turned all green and cuddly while Tony now wants to take out Tehran
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Indy Politics

Very confusing, all this personal development. You think you've got someone categorised and pinned down in the butterfly drawer; then they start changing. Before you know it, pussycats are tigers and sharks go soft and bather-friendly.

Take Osama bin Laden. Terrorist bloke, likes guns, wants to kill all infidels. Bit of a psycho, if you ask most people, certainly not cuddly. Which is funny, really, because if you didn't know him better, you'd look at him and think: beard, sandals, low-carbon lifestyle, bit of an old hippie. Bet he reads The Guardian.

And, blow me down, it turns out that he does. Last Friday, he released one of his tapes, and you know, it could have been George Monbiot talking. No mention of Great Satans and Crusades. Osama's decided the really big menace is climate change. "The effects of global warming have touched every continent," he says. "Drought and deserts are spreading, while from the other, floods and hurricanes unseen before the previous decades have now become frequent." He had a pop at Washington for not signing Kyoto, and the corporations he said were "the true criminals against the global climate" and are to blame for the economic crisis, driving "tens of millions into poverty". What next? Occasional tapes on saving the whale, perhaps, or a message attacking the St Albans contra-flow system? What with his anti-bankers' bonuses stance, and track record of not using commercial airlines, he'd stand a very good chance in Islington North at the coming election.

And, as Osama moves one way, he meets another big name going the other. Tony Blair – smiley, unctuous chap, like a creepy Sunday school teacher – was going to be tough on nasty things, and tough on the causes of nasty things. Vote for him, we were told, and there'd be raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, and every morning we'd all have bright paper packages tied up with string. It would be, he assured us in his famous five pledges, a land fit for Care Bears.

Yet no sooner had he taken power and got the sniff of Texan aftershave in his nostrils, than he too began to change. First one war, then another, a third, and then a fourth. The public schoolboy who never so much as got involved in a playground scuffle mutated into the world's premier war-monger. And now, he told us last Friday, he wants to take out Tehran.

And that's the trouble with personal development. Some of us can do it quite harmlessly. But when Tony went off on one, he dragged us along, too.