Mark Steel: Here comes Tony, gazing adoringly at his masters

If Murdoch and Bush had any wit, they'd have a laugh by telling Blair they supported two opposite things
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The Independent Online

Convoys of civilians, families on beaches, Red Cross trucks carrying the wounded; the Israelis must see it as a party game, where they think of the most indefensible thing to bomb - and then bomb it. Today it will probably be a care home for sick rabbits. Then a defence spokesman will glare into the camera and say, "But this is the fault of Hizbollah, for using the rabbits as shields of fur. You tell me how we are supposed to distinguish between civilian rabbits and terrorist rabbits. Let me show you evidence of terrorists being hidden in safe hutches."

Normally even America would have told Israel at least to keep the noise down a bit. But with George Bush, Israel must feel like a gangster's wife when the old man's in an especially generous mood, winking at her and saying, "Go on, treat yourself. Bomb yourself somewhere nice, doll. Get yourself down to Beirut, you kill as many as you like sweetheart, you deserve it."

And amidst this carnage, Tony Blair, who wrings his hands and frowns with such heartfelt pain when espousing his determination to defeat the men of terror, made this speech: "There have been as you might expect over the past few days enormous diplomatic efforts to get us to the point where I hope at some point within the next few days we can say very clearly what our plan is to bring about an immediate cessation of hostilities."

Ooh, it's like listening to Martin Luther King.

But Blair trumped even this magnificent effort of his by adding: "If someone's got a better plan, I'd like to hear it." This is a harder challenge than it seems: how can you improve on a random collection of repeated gibberish that sounds like the lyrics of a psychedelic album track from 1967?

He might as well have said: "I've got a cactus that will fly me to Jordan and there's always a ceasefire when there's no ginger beer. Well, if someone's got a better plan I'd like to hear it."

So this was his response to the bombing of an entire capital city, and the slaughter of hundreds of civilians. Apart from Bush himself, every other world leader managed a coherent statement, along the lines of appealing to Israel to stop, but not Blair.

Maybe next week someone will ask whether he disapproves of paedophilia, and he'll answer: "As you can imagine, in recent times, we have with increasingly increasing fortitude resolved to ascertain our thoughts regarding offering sweets to minors with this end within the next few days."

Then, during a radio interview, Blair's minister Kim Howells said: "Israel should have a better relationship with the places it occupies." Aaah, how sweet, the old hippie. It ought to be a general rule that when you've occupied somewhere you always try to engage in a little light repartee with any survivors that emerge from the rubble, and then everyone will get along so much better. Once Howells has sorted out Israel he should turn his talents to domestic affairs, stating: "Violent men must try to get on better with the wives they've beaten."

The most putrid part of Labour's attitude to the bombing is that they haven't even worked out what they think about it before supporting it; they haven't independently assessed the situation and come to a conclusion that, on this occasion, blowing up entire families is for the best. They support it because George Bush supports it. Once Bush backed it, there was no chance Blair would say anything different.

For a long time Blair was like a suburban housewife from the 1950s. Asked his opinion about international affairs, he said a version of: "Ooh, the President decides that sort of thing in this house and I'm afraid he's not in at the moment - could you call back later?"

But now he's gone back even further. He's a black maid in a Hollywood film from the 1930s, gazing adoringly at his master and saying: "Why Mr George, that be a mighty fine speech you be makin' today, sir; Mr George sir, you be gettin' all dem words in de right order and tell dem Hizboley folks dey ain't gonna fire no rockets no place no time, Mr George sir, master sir."

The only person who Blair seems to take notice of apart from Bush is Rupert Murdoch. If Bush and Murdoch had any wit, they'd have a laugh by telling him they each supported two opposite things.

For example, Murdoch could invite Blair to his holiday home and inform him his News International Group was coming down firmly on the side of Hizbollah, just to observe poor Blair twisting and choking until he was sliding along the floor and rewriting the laws of biology. It would be a cruel but fascinating experiment, like when schoolboys blow air into frogs through a straw.

Blair and his Blairettes are asked for their opinion and there's nothing there. They say what they're told, and sometimes Bush even forgets to tell them that the official line's changed a bit - so Blair has to correct himself later in the day.

The result is that the politician trained as the master lawyer not only justifies atrocities, but as he bumbles out his reasons, he manages to be the only person in the world who can make you think, "That made no sense at all - for the coherent version I'd better listen to George W Bush".