Does anyone know what our Prime Minister stands for?

Without an ideology, you have no bearings with which to make any decisions
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The Independent Online

For many people of my generation, the way to wake us up if we're ever in a coma is to play a tape of Margaret Thatcher. For example, one night this week I was 90 per cent asleep when she popped up on the telly, and I instinctively yelped "Oyewaggheughhh", the same word you'd scream if you saw a tarantula crawling up your leg. Similarly, when it was announced that she could no longer make public speeches, it was with that solemn gravitas the BBC reserves for grave occasions. The opening music faded, the newsreader stared glumly, up behind him came a still picture of Thatcher, and I must have been one of millions who sat bolt upright and shrieked: "DEAD!!!" Then, as the story emerged, we slumped back down and went: "Huh, just unable to speak in public, is that all, it's not fair."

For many people of my generation, the way to wake us up if we're ever in a coma is to play a tape of Margaret Thatcher. For example, one night this week I was 90 per cent asleep when she popped up on the telly, and I instinctively yelped "Oyewaggheughhh", the same word you'd scream if you saw a tarantula crawling up your leg. Similarly, when it was announced that she could no longer make public speeches, it was with that solemn gravitas the BBC reserves for grave occasions. The opening music faded, the newsreader stared glumly, up behind him came a still picture of Thatcher, and I must have been one of millions who sat bolt upright and shrieked: "DEAD!!!" Then, as the story emerged, we slumped back down and went: "Huh, just unable to speak in public, is that all, it's not fair."

She'd probably be proud of creating such a response, just as Satan would hope to be worshipped or despised, and would feel let down if people said: "The thing with the devil, I can take him or leave him depending what mood I'm in."

By contrast, it seems hard to detest everything Tony Blair stands for, because, into his third election campaign, we still don't know what that is. Blair makes a virtue of this, saying he's ditched the "ideological dogma" that governments followed in the past, in favour of making decisions according to what works best at the time. This might seem strange, seeing as the one book we know he follows avidly is the Bible, which has the odd trace of ideological dogma. Maybe that's his next project, to rewrite it with verses such as: "And Jesus said: 'The Earth shall be inherited by a meek/powerful partnership". And "Jesus told the money-lenders they were guaranteed a healthy year-on-year return on investment, but assured his followers the temple would still be free at the point of delivery which was, after all, the main thing."

It sounded attractive, being unbound from rigid principles. But without an ideology, you have no bearings with which to make any decisions. It's like saying: "In the past, we've been stuck with the ideology of anti-racism. But instead, let's be free to follow whatever works at the time. If a project will benefit from being run by the black and Asian community, then let them get on with it. But if it could be run more efficiently by the Ku Klux Klan, it would be sheer folly to let ideology get in the way of common sense."

This is partly why we still know so little about Blair. What moves him, what compelled him to want to run the country, what books or records or films shaped him? Was he, like other Labour leaders, inspired by Orwell, Gandhi, or the poets of the First World War? Obviously that last one's unlikely, unless there's an obscure poem that goes: "There's a gas attack / It's all gone black/ And the General's a twat/ 'Cos instead of Ypres/ We should bomb Iraq."

The only book Blair claims as his inspiration is The Third Way by Anthony Giddens, a barely readable essay full of phrases such as: "Government can act in partnership with agencies in civil society to foster community renewal and development ... but also has a key role in fostering transnational systems of governance". You get powerful prose like that, and still the young people aren't interested in joining political parties. Maybe Giddens should try a novel next. It could begin: "She took him in her arms, her heart beating with the anxiety of a local government regeneration scheme unwilling to utilise costed business initiatives to drive forward long-term parking facilities."

Even in his personal life, it's hard to find any intellect or passion, and when asked about music or sport, he gives the answer he thinks would play best in marginal constituencies, often by making stuff up. Someone could have a laugh if they got a job advising Blair on one of these question-and-answer sessions he's doing. They could get him to say: "You know, I'll never forget watching Gary Sobers playing left-half and potting the blue to win the Ryder Cup, then singing 'The Real Slim Shady' from The Marriage of Figaro to celebrate."

Blair is the ultimate lawyer. He can take on the case for the prosecution or the defence, and sound equally convincing as advocate for either. One of the results is that, having been welcomed into office with boundless goodwill, it's now almost impossible to find anyone with any enthusiasm for him at all. I bet that even if a pollster asked Cherie who she was voting for she'd say: "Phoo, well I suppose we should give Blair one more chance, but only 'cos I can't stand that other bloke."

Far from this being a product of apathy, the more interested in politics someone is, the less enthusiastic they are about any of the major parties. Not long ago, Labour seemed the natural home for anyone hoping to correct inequality and injustice. The success of Blair can be measured by the fact that the generation currently under 30 is endlessly discussing war and globalisation. But if you suggested they could help that by joining the Labour Party, it would make as much sense to them as saying: "The best way to stop multinationals from destroying communities is to take up pole dancing."

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