Our esteemed former prime minister Tony Blair appeared on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday. His purpose seemed to be to claim that ‘the West’ had to act on the threat posed by the growing Isis phenomenon in Iraq. We had brought it all upon ourselves by failing to get rid of Assad in Syria. In fending off a suggestion that the Bush-Blair inspired 2003 invasion was at least a contributory cause to Iraq’s current plight, he effectively claimed that things would have been worse if it had not taken place. Did we (the viewing public) not understand that, if he had been left in power, Saddam would have made things as bad as they are now, if not worse?
As Blair’s verbiage washed over me, my default position of bored cynicism remained intact.
There comes a point at which major political figures in particular – having been given a stereotypical ‘shorthand’ persona by media pundits, commentators and cartoonists – somehow seem to adopt this caricature for themselves and thereafter act it out.
One only has to think of the Eye’s classic column The Secret Diary of John Major Aged 47 and Threequarters, then Alastair Campbell’s vision of Major tucking his shirt into his underpants and then Major’s Spitting Image grey-faced puppet agonising over eating his peas off a plate … and suddenly John Major, as premier or in opposition, was done for because, every time he spoke or gave an interview, those images flashed into the minds of millions of viewers.
Over the past decade and a half, Labour politicians have fared pretty poorly. Blair – as depicted by dozens of impressionists and cartoonists – is a vain, vainglorious, egotistical, earnest, big-eared poodle on a lead held by George Bush. Gordon Brown … well, let’s leave it there, Frankie Howard always said it was wicked to mock the afflicted.
You’d think that someone as desperately keen on being liked by everyone as Tony Blair would have more self-awareness. He appears to have little or none.
Despite his decade-long premiership, he left office as still a young middle-aged man, so one can perhaps understand how he feels somewhat deflated, missing the trappings and opportunities of power, and therefore in need of a new challenge. He’s busied himself in his work as the representative of ‘The Quartet’ seeking peace in the Middle East, in advising the great and good, and in just basically amassing a fortune.
Yet – above all – he craves what he can no longer have, i.e. the centre stage, the spotlight, being at the heart of media attention. He seeks to justify his attempts to regain them by claiming that he still has much to offer the world and that he cares.
The trouble is, we don’t care about Tony Blair anymore.