Sunday, June 08, 2008

Andrew Gimson

Forward by Blad Tolstoy

As readers will know I occasionally reprint an article or column by a journalist on this site if I enjoy what they have to say. One whose articles exhibit a nice dry sense of humour is Andrew Gimson and this article by him in last Friday’s Daily Telegraph cheered me up. No, it’s not directly related to smoking bans but it really extracts the michael from a former leader of the party many of us former Labour voters have really grown to hate. So here we go:

Tony Blair, master of empty style here again

By Andrew Gimson

How Tony Blair beamed on his return to Westminster. His lightly-tanned features widened in a grin that would have split a lesser man in two, and when he also raised his eyebrows in delight we began to wonder if he was made of latex rather than of flesh and blood.

But the sad, staring eyes of the former prime minister affirmed his humanity. We have seen the same eyes in models who are not as happy as the fashion industry would have us believe.

Mr Blair turned and directed one of his most ludicrous, I'm-so-pleased-to-see-you grins at the assembled press: like the star performer he is, he wished to see which critics had turned out for his comeback show.

Directing his smile once more at the MPs on the international development committee, Mr Blair asked with a show of enthusiasm: "How are you guys doing?".

One was reminded of the mastery this greatest living exponent of sofa government has of the matey informalities which establish a bogus intimacy between someone very important and a group of nonentities.

The committee was taking evidence from Mr Blair as the representative of the Middle East Quartet, the post he was given in recognition of his virtuoso handling of an insoluble problem, namely Gordon Brown.

For 13 years, Mr Blair managed to keep the lid on Mr Brown and maintain an uneasy truce between New Labour and Old Labour. It was an astonishing achievement but peace was bought at a heavy price: Mr Brown had to be locked in the Treasury, where taxpayers were obliged to foot the bill for his tax-and-spend habit.

The skills that Mr Blair is bringing to bear on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were previously devoted to keeping not just Mr Brown but Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, Cherie Blair, Carole Caplin, John Prescott, Gerry Adams, Ian Paisley, Lord Levy and many other curious characters in some semblance of order, with nothing more alluring than a life peerage or book serialisation to buy off troublemakers.

Mr Blair's capacity for optimistic realism helped him to keep going long after a pessimist would have given up but there were still some people who wondered whether he was suitable for his current role. Jim Sheridan (Lab, Paisley and Renfrewshire North) pointed out that as far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned, some people also wonder "whether or not you're the right man for the job".

Mr Blair replied, quick as a flash: "Fairly familiar, that kind of question." It was the kind of light remark that usually proves beyond Mr Brown.

As Mr Blair admitted, a humanitarian disaster is unfolding in Gaza, yet it is difficult for Israeli politicians to take any steps to ease the conflict while their own people are under rocket and mortar attack from Gaza.

Terrible though the sufferings of the Palestinians in Gaza are, some of us could not help sparing a thought for the humanitarian disaster that is unfolding at Westminster, with hundreds of Labour MPs in danger of being thrown out of work and condemned to lives of futility under the cruel, top-hatted regime of David Cameron.

Might it help if Mr Blair were to return to the party that he led so long and so successfully? The Labour Party is understandably worried about removing Mr Brown and inflicting a second unelected Prime Minister on us but they could instead inflict the elected Prime Minister, Mr Blair, on us.

Yet as we watched this very clever, fluent, plausible, self-righteous, over-friendly salesman twist the committee round his little finger, a different thought formed in our mind. Good riddance.