The Sketch: Admire our leader from afar and then hear his drivel

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The Independent Online

Sometimes you look at our leader and become almost lost in admiration (I'm just trying this out). Compare Tony Blair with George Bush and marvel at our man's intelligence and articulacy. Whole sentences come out with all the words in the right order. He can even risk a joke. The Daily Telegraph asked him if he was going to be Prime Minister when the Olympic Games were held in London and he said, "Yes. And I'm also going to compete in them." Compare him with his rivals and enemies in government, opposition and the media, and all of us must, with varying degrees of reluctance, recognise his courtesy, good humour, range, grasp, ability to levitate above the political landscape, and his way with an argument (he wins).

Sometimes you look at our leader and become almost lost in admiration (I'm just trying this out). Compare Tony Blair with George Bush and marvel at our man's intelligence and articulacy. Whole sentences come out with all the words in the right order. He can even risk a joke. The Daily Telegraph asked him if he was going to be Prime Minister when the Olympic Games were held in London and he said, "Yes. And I'm also going to compete in them." Compare him with his rivals and enemies in government, opposition and the media, and all of us must, with varying degrees of reluctance, recognise his courtesy, good humour, range, grasp, ability to levitate above the political landscape, and his way with an argument (he wins).

Then again, when we listen to his answers, they are a load of drivel. No, seriously, a lot of rubbish comes out of the prime ministerial cake-hole. An easy one from the back of the room offered him the chance to tell us what he thought about the pension crisis. Give us a flavour of your thinking on the subject, he was asked. It is, after all, one of the largest economic facts about this country, it's a mess, and it's an eye-catching initiative of the Prime Minister to do something about it. He began: "How do we make sure we are spending welfare money on the things we want to spend it on," and went rapidly downhill. "It's about how we can get people off benefit into work and there's no disagreement about that policy at all," he concluded. My notes then say: "Drivel".

This may not matter, you think, because you have a generous soul. And perhaps you're right. He has so many things to know. But there is other, Big Brother drivel that is more important, and the rhetoric to dress up his "war on terror" falls in that category.

"Terrorism without limits," is how Mr Blair puts it now. It's his new phrase. That's the world we're living in. Chechnya, Iraq, North Korea probably, Sudan possibly, Afghanistan. Not Northern Ireland, for reasons we needn't go into. Terrorism without limits. It's the verdict of someone who's never seen terrorism without limits. What we have is an unprecedented period of global peace interrupted by the snap, crackle and pop of anguish and a couple of (largely local) running sores.

And here, Mr Blair has come to sound childish. This "new virulent form of terrorism", he says, "there's no excuse for it." As prefects used to say at Fettes. And then, "Wouldn't it be fantastic if we had a functioning democracy in the Middle East?" And finally, "The best thing that can happen is that terrorism stops." How true, how very true. It would be absolutely zippo. But is this resilient idealism in the face of the world's intractability? Or is it drivel?

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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