To begin at the beginning, as I embark upon this piece, I am happy to declare once more my well-known personal interest when it comes to British politicians: I have no time for any of them.
That said, in turning to the subject of Tony Blair today, I am mindful of the possibility that I might be regarded as just another face in an enthusiastic crowd flogging a dead horse.
Even before they’d voted him into office in the 1997 General Election and he’d then given the famous interview in which he claimed he was a ‘pretty straight sort of guy’ [this over allegations that Formula One’s Bernie Ecclestone had ‘bought’ influence over policies by making a political donation], the bulk of the British population had decided that, for all his undoubted presentational qualities, he was in essence little more than a shallow, vain, British version of the stereotypical American Wild West snake-oil salesman available to view in movies.
If Blair’s reputation had been a company share quoted upon the Stock Exchange, by now trading in it would have been suspended.
Despite the fact he’s been doing spectacularly well for himself financially since departing as Prime Minister in June 2007, he and his brand have become terminally toxic and a happy-hunting ground for media commentators who either want to bash the political class and/or have run out of subject ideas for an opinion piece whose publication deadline is fast approaching.
The Chilcot Inquiry into the origins of the Iraq War, set up in 2009 by Gordon Brown, has stalled in its progress towards publication because of ‘clearance’ issues that have emerged during negotiations with the Cabinet Office. These are strongly suspected to be not unconnected with the contents of certain ‘exchanges’ between Mr Blair and US president George W. Bush over the decisions leading to go to war which – if made public – might become embarrassing to one or both of them.
I had been under the impression that these were connected with the ‘Maxwellisation’ process, whereby those likely to be criticised in any official report are contacted in order to be shown what is to be said about them and given an opportunity to respond before everything finally goes public. However, apparently, that is incorrect. As I now understand it, the Maxwellisation process is yet to begin.
Yesterday, in a supposedly-major speech made at Bloombergs in London, Mr Blair set out his views on how the West can (and should) take steps to deal with the global threat to stability of Islamic fundamentalism.
During the day I caught extracts of the speech on radio and then of an interview that Mr Blair subsequently gave to the BBC.
For long-suffering and practiced listeners, the familiar characteristics of Blair-speak – the earnestness, the apparently fair-mindedness, the phrasing, the choice of words, the initially soothing persuasiveness that soon evaporates as you apply any analysis at all to the content of what he said – were all present and correct. Unfortunately for Mr Blair, sceptics like me were soon switching their brains to ‘neutral’ and dismissing whatever-it-was-he-was-saying as total crap, this on principle alone.
However, that is not the point I am making this morning.
Rather my subject is the sound of Mr Blair’s voice yesterday. It was undoubtedly his voice, of course, but I was struck by its reedy, thin, weaker-than-I-ever-recall-it, quality. To me, he sounded tired, battered, listless and ‘reduced’.
I just thought I’d mention it.