I’ve just read all 700 pages of Tony Blair’s autobiography, A Journey. It was quite a transformative experience for me, because I opened it convinced that he was amoral, venal and unprincipled, and one of the worst people we had ever had as Prime Minister, but I came out of it knowing that that’s untrue. He is, in fact, one of the worst people we’ve ever had as a person. He’s just awful.

Here, so that you have to spend none of the few hours you have on this fleeting rock reading it, are the top lessons you can learn from Tony Blair’s A Journey

25. Tony Blair hates democracy – He doesn’t even let you get past the introduction before he really feels that he has to be clear about how terrible democracy is. It really hinders leaders who are just trying to lead, you see.

The challenge of modern democracy is efficacy. Not accountability, transparency or whether it is honest or not, but whether it works to deliver effective change in times that need radical change.

That’s an elected leader saying it’s more important to get things done than to tell the people what you are going to get done, letting them know how it is done, that you don’t lie to them about it, or even that they have an opportunity to get rid of you if they don’t like what you are doing. You know, like in a democracy.

Fortunately, most governments have some sense of checks and balances to stop those who wield executive power abusing it. Unfortunately, Tony finds that really annoying:

Checks and balances are there for very good reasons in most constitutional democracies; but in the modern world they often lead not to consensus for change but to sclerosis or minimal change.

Well, surely he likes people voting, though, right? You know, like vesting more powers in the elected European Parliament, rather than in the not-directly-elected European Council.

So the notion of a steady evolution towards a reduced Council and an enhanced Parliament is based on a fundamental diversion from democratic accountability.

By making it more democratically accountable.

And this is just the Introduction.

24. Telling Lies To Get Elected Is Fine

I voted Labour in 1983. I didn’t really think a Labour victory was the best thing for the country, and I was a Labout candidate.

23. If You Can’t Play Sport (Say, Because You Only Have One Functioning Eye), You Will Be A Terrible Prime Minister.

It was, of course, a monumental risk as it always is when a political leader plays sport in public. No one expects you to be brilliant, but you can’t afford to be absolutely rubbish, otherwise you are plainly not fit to run a nation.

22. It’s Helpful If You Can Get The Right People To Die

Throughout the book, there’s a theme of people dying at times that prove convenient for Tony Blair. John Smith, Princess Diana, R0bin Cook, Mo Mowlam, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Not that I’m suggesting that he arranged their deaths, that would be ridiculous. After all, none of them were Iraqi civilians. But he certainly made use of them all.

However, the first example we get of this theme is the most Blair one. The murder of toddler James Bulger, which he describes like this:

[A]t the time, politically, there was a big impact on my standing, which rose still further.

Thank goodness for that murdered child!

21. Tony Blair May Be Schizophrenic

[O]thers would mutter about it being ‘a score draw’, or some such bull****.

Let’s examine what just happened. A man wrote a sentence, and then censored his own words.

Rather than choosing a diffferent word, or being confident that, as a grownup, he can use the words he wants in his own fucking book, he is using a word, then implying that it’s the sort of word he doesn’t think should be used. As if there’s someone else living inside his skull, crossing bits out as he writes them.

He’s  a man with strong enough convictions to use a word, but not strong enough ones to be seen using it.

20. If You Can Combine Satan With Sport, Do It

I was aware we were playing with Faust’s companion, but with him onside, it was just too easy to score.

19. The Irish Peace Process Required Diamond-Shaped Tables

When the DUP insisted on rectangular tables to indicate that they were sitting opposite enemies, and Sinn Fein wanted round tables to suggest that they were now all on side with each other, the situation was only resolved when someone found a diamond-shaped table.

The Irish peace process was also Blair’s finest hour. On reading the book it becaomes clear that only someone so completely free of principles, who has no attachment to values or tradition of any kind, could have steered the Northern Ireland peace process to a successful conclusion.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that – just as the Second World War demanded someone as racist, vicious, and batshit insane as Winston Churchill – the peace process could only have been guided by someone egotistical enough the be unable to empathise with all sides equally, and unprincipled enough to let nothing stand in their way.

Although you get the feeling that after 9/11, his answer would have been to bomb Ireland with depleted uranium until they took responsibility for the table situation.

18. Nelson Mandela was ‘fly as hell’

[N]ot because he’s a saint, because he isn’t. Or rather he is, but not in the sense that he can’t be fly as hell when the occasion demands. I bet Ghandi was the same.

I’ll take that bet.

17. George Orwell Lives

[I]ndecision is also decision. Inaction is also action.

16. Efficiency In Childbirth Is Achievable

There are times with that woman when I am in awe. She kept working until the last minute. Gave birth on time and to order. Got out that night. And she was forty-five. It was pretty impressive.

15. There’s Nothing You Can’t Legislate

[T]he world had changed and required a different system for enforcing good conduct in the absence of the pressure of tradition and family.

And that system is on-the-spot fines administered by policemen.

14. Anti-Social Behaviour Is Relative

When describing his attitude to law and order, Blair concentrates on the fact that one night he saw a man weeing in a doorway. When he asked him to stop, the man didn’t, and that – to Tony Blair – is symbolic of everything that was wrong with the world. By letting the door-splashers get away, we let the people who shit in hedgerows get away, the people who ejaculate into ornamental fountains get away, and that is the beginning of the end.

Blair believes that every small instance of anti-social behaviour should be immediately punishable by the police without having to go through the process of gathering and presenting evidence. Summary justice, administered against low-level offenders against common decency is the only way forward. Except in one instance,

When his own underage son is arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Leicester Square.

OK, he was drunk and shouldn’t have been, but this all seemed a little excessive – it’s not as if he was a proper criminal or anything.

13. He Doesn’t Care Who Thinks He’s Greedy

Before the famous picture of Blair and Brown together in the 2005 general election was taken with them both holding ice creams, Blair had to go and buy the ice creams. Kate Garvey told him not to get a flake because it would make him look greedy. He got a flake because Fuck That Noise.

12. He Was In Touch With The People

I should have realised that for your ordinary motorist, the rising cost of filling the car was a big, not an insignificant one (after all, the children’s nanny, Jackie, had been complaining about it for weeks.

11. Lying To The Media Doesn’t Count

It seems almost pathetic now when you look back on it. Because a wrong statement had been made to the media, they were able to turn it into a full-blown scandal.

That’s a ‘wrong statement’. Which is – somehow – different to a ‘lie’.

10. Decisions Made In The Heat Of The Moment Are Always Right

The emotional impact is replaced by a sentiment which, because it is more calm, seems more rational. But paradoxically it can be less rational, because the calm is not the product of a changed analysis, but of the effluxion of time.

Yes, it’s the moment when you forget your anger and fear that you start making stupid, irrational decisions because of the effluxion of time.

Which is news to those of us who thought that the effluxion of time was only responsible for the travails of Marty McFly.

9. Playing Into The Hands Of Terrorists Is Exactly What They Don’t Expect. And Therefore Exactly What You Should Do

It was, in a very real sense, a declaration of war. It was calculated to draw us into conflict.

Ha! That showed them! Wait, what?

8. There Are Different Ways Of Not Having WMDs

I shan’t quote this, because it goes on – and ON – but it turns out there are two ways you can not have WMDs. You can not have WMDs strategically – which is what our UN resolutions meant Saddam sould have done – or you can not have WMDs tactically – which is what he had actually done. The distinction is the difference between someone who is complying with a resolution by stopping WMD programmes and someone who is appearing to comply by stopping WMD programmes.

7. Fear Is Not The Same As Terror

And a little bit of fear about what America might do was no bad thing.

I’m sure we have a word for those who try to achieve their political ends by instilling fear – or ‘terror’ – in others. Now, what was it again…

6. War War Can’t Wait For Jaw Jaw

[T]hey had close on 250,000 troops in the region and they couldn’t simply wait until a diplomatic dance, which they had fair evidence for thinking would be interminable, was played out.

5. Protestors Are Hypocritical Bastards

When was there a single protest in any Western nation about such evil [the insurgency in Iraq]? Where was the moral indignation?

Stupid protestors, only protesting about the things their government was doing, rather than just milling around London in a state of permanent outrage.

4. Freedom Of Information Is A Terrible Idea

Blair often separates things he doesn’t like to think of being subsets of other things. So ‘party members’ don’t count in his mind as ‘voters’, and ‘journalists’ aren’t ‘people’. He doesn’t like the fact that the FOI Act is used by journalists and not people. And it’s not used to ‘bestow’ knowledge’ or to satisfy the ‘curious’. Instead “[i]t’s used as a weapon.”

Which, again, should be very separate things.

3. Tony Blair Likes A Good Shit

I am very typically British. I like to have time and comfort in the loo… I couldn’t live in a culture that doesn’t respect it.

2. Tony Blair Is A Typical Lad. Zoo Wouldn’t Have Folded On his Watch

As we sat down to dinner with the Queen, the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hit on a great line of banter.

Do fuck off.

1. My Marginalia Will Never Be Published

Whilst reading, I often fill the margins of my books up with notes, memoranda, and cross-references. In my mind these will be a treasure trove for whoever looks through my estate and decides they are so full of wisdom and learning that they should be published for all the world to read.

In reality, on reading them back, they consist of things like. “No,” “Twat,” “I refuse,” and “I bet he had a stiffy when he wrote that.”

If you don’t know them, I’m not telling you.

Sir Ian is back and he’s taking no prisoners. Although he is detaining people at the border in a legal fashion.

So, The Thatcher Seance is happening, and it’s ruffling a few feathers. Here’s the trailer:

Chortle has called the show “bad taste”, UsVsTh3m has compiled a list of other world leaders you might want to contact via ouija board.

The show is already part of history, as I previewed it as part of the record-breaking attempt to perform the world’s longest comedy gig. Ha! Take that, Norris Macwhirter, and your other friends on the creepy far right…

If I were you I’d book tickets now. See you there.  And maybe her, too.

(Full Disclosure: I write for The Revolution Will Be Televised so everything I say above should be taken with a pinch of whatever condiment you like because it airs on BBC3. Oh, and it won last year’s BAFTA for Best Comedy, while we’re talking about quality programming)

I don’t listen to Radio 3. I don’t enjoy the programming, it’s almost all repeats of music that has been around for hundreds of years, and I suspect with the amount of Wagner they play that everyone who does listen to it is probably a bit anti-semitic. Radio 3 is not for me.

I don’t, however, want to see the BBC axe it.

More than that, there are some channels I think are actively detrimental to human life. With the tag-team property fetishism of Philandkirsty and Sarah Beenie, Channel 4 supported a bubble in the housing market for more than a decade. Their relentless propaganda claiming property ownership was the only route to happiness fuelled the sorts of mortgage lending that led to Northern Rock going bust, priced ordinary people our of most city centres and created it an atmosphere in which social housing now can’t be built because of the effect it will have on house prices. If you build a council house you’re robbing from the real humans, you see. Essentially, I’m saying Channel 4 are mainly responsible for the recession, and for the crisis in housing stock we currently face. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing us he wasn’t Kirsty Allsop.

But I wouldn’t cheer if Channel 4 closed.

The reason for this – and here comes the science part – is that I actually don’t think my personal viewing preferences should govern all the television that exists. Nor do I think my personal preferences should be the yardstick by which the BBC’s performance is measured.

So here’s why we shouldn’t close BBC3, even if you don’t like the programmes it makes.

Nighty Night, Monkey Dust, Pulling, High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman, 28 Acts In 28 Minutes, Mongrels, Dead Boss, Him And Her, Annually Retentive. Those are all excellent comedies you wouldn’t have without BBC3.

Oh, and then there are the little shows like Little Britain, The Mighty Boosh and Gavin and Stacey, which some people liked..

And, just thinking about what’s currently on, there’s Uncle (giving a new performer a deserved lead in a BBC sitcom), Bluestone 42 (which is both ambitious and relevant) and The Revolution Will Be Televised (which was nominated for a Rose d’Or last year as well as winning some award or other). There’s Live At The Electric, giving new acts (with some notable omissions – ahem) some of their first television exposure as well as being presented by the oldest man in comedy (unfortunately, the new acts are sacrificed after the show so that Russell Kane can drink their blood and soothe the ache in the lump of black gristle he has instead of a heart).

So let’s talk genre. And mention The Fades, Being Human, Torchwood and In The Flesh.

In fact with Little Britain USA, La La Land, and the US versions of Torchwood, Pulling, Being Human, and Dead Boss, BBC3 has exported loads more television programmes to America than, say, ITV1. Which has managed Jeremy Kyle USA. In fact, Sharon Horgan alone has exported twice as many programmes to America as ITV1. Programmes which started on BBC3.

BBC3 has commissioned a lot of great comedy over the last ten years. And, importantly, when BBC exists more comedy is commissioned. Which means something you like is more likely to be commissioned. More is better than less. When you cheer the demise of BBC3 you are shouting “Huzzah! I shall have fewer choices of what to watch in the future! Thank Christ! I’m such an idiot I usually end up watching complete shit!”

But it’s so expensive! Yes, and it’s not like that’s offset by its producing world-beating cash cows like Little Britain and Gavin and St-oh.

Yes, there are also some terrible programmes, quite a few terrible programmes. But there are terrible programmes on every channel. Have you tried watching television during the day? It’s almost enough to make you pull your trousers back up and get back to work. Almost.

Then there’s the cost argument. The BBC needs to save money because the licence fee’s been frozen. And it has to find it somewhere. So why not here?

Because the money isn’t being saved. It’s being spent again.

Closing BBC3 will save between £80 and £100 million. That sounds like loads.

Until you realise that they have pledged to spend £30 million of it on new drama for BBC1. And £30 million of it creating BBC1+1. Oh, and there will still be a programming budget for BBC3, but it will be online only.

I would say that only the BBC could get rid of something that cost £100 million and only save themselves (at best) £40 million, but that’s patently not true. I reckon I could.

So, if the programmes are successful and it’s not saving much money, why is it being done?

Now, call me an old cynic, but it seems to me that the sorts of people who watch BBC3 are generally not the sorts of people who read the sorts of newspapers who will influence the sort of government who will oversee the next licence fee agreement. This is a move to show the BBC can make tough choices (unless that tough choice involves standing up to governments).

What makes it more nakedly political is the use of the money to fund BBC1+1, a channel that will only be watched by people who can’t use their set top box, and haven’t discovered the Internet. Old people.

It’s yet another broadside in our current war on youth.

From the removal of the EMA, through the introduction of tuition fees, the removal of housing benefit for under-25s, to the current proposals to remove all benefits from under-25s, we are at war with our young people. We used to hate them because of their sexting, their hoodies, and their riots. Now I’m not sure we even need a reason.

A fifth of them – close to one million under-25s – are unemployed, and the message coming out again and again from the political class is that they don’t matter. Politically, they are expendable, and now we’ve decided they’re culturally expendable, too.

And then we can hitch up our petticoats in horror when they dare listen to that beast Russell Brand, and we can ask ourselves “What is to be done with the young people? Why are they so angry? What have we ever done to them?” before we get an attack of the vapours and lie around honking like broken geese, perplexed by the incredible mystery of it all.

And we can turn on Sarah Beeney and thank our lucky stars we got on the property ladder when we did.

(Now go and sign the fucking petition to #savebbc3)

(Oh, and BBC3 also remain responsible for one of the most entertaining hours of television ever broadcast. Go and get some popcorn and tuck into Danny Dyer, I Believe In UFOs. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. My favourite bit? The bit where he’s discussing crop circles and descrobes how people “read about them in the newspaper, but then forget all about them to turn the page and look at some tits.” Because that is how all newspapers work.)

I’ve been reading up on early 20th century pacifism, recently, and spent today reading the works of W.T.Stead, who founded the Stop The War Committee in response to the Boer War. In 1912 he wrote “The Great Pacifist: an Autobiographical Character Sketch”, which you can find here.

Stead started the weekly newspaper The War Against War, which became The War Against War in South Africa after the beginning of the Boer War. He was one of the organisers of the Peace Crusade in 1898, which was to go to capital cities to spread the word about pacifism. One of its other organisers was Tsar Nicholas II.


He was an odd sort of pacifist. He believed that Britain needed to maintain a navy twice the size of any other in the world. He thought that Cecil Rhodes was one of the goodies. He thoroughly supported the maintenance of the British empire ar0und the globe (although he made it clear that this was for moral not ‘jingoistic’ reasons.

For a pacifist, his views are close to what we would think of today as “the Tony Blair philosophy of war”, or, as he described it “the imperialism of responsibility”. (As a side note, he also wanted to establish a United States of Europe as a stepping stone to a World State with an international High Court Of Justice, where states could be brought to trial).

But what caught me eye was what he had to say about Russia, and the Crimea. Bear in mind, he’s one of the West’s most pro-Russian journalists, and is personal friends with the Tsar when he says:

All my life long I have been a thoroughgoing opponent of the Russophobist war spirit which has plunged Europe into the Crimean War, and which has repeatedly brought about war both in Europe and in Asia. By advocating constantly the principle of the European Concert, and demanding the enforcement, if need be, by the armies and navies of Europe, of the treaty-guaranteed rights of the unfortunate Christians of the East, I was always more or less at variance with the orthodox Peace Party, whose one idea was non intervention and abstention from all European complications. I protested against this doctrine because I believed it to be an abdication of the responsibility which we owed to those for whose good government we had made ourselves responsible by the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Berlin; and whenever the chronic misgovernment of Turkey became acute in massacres and atrocities I never ceased to urge upon England and upon the other Powers to use the overwhelming strength which they possessed for the purpose of compelling the Turks to carry out their treaty obligations.

Being a man of encroaching middle-age and portlitude, last month I was asked to fill in a couple of times as an understudy department store Father Christmas.

Swathed in cheap velour, covered in itchy facial hair and home to a gurgling stream of acrid sweat, it was a magical experience, and one that taught me several important lessons. Lessons about how Father Christmas is making a list of who’s naughty and nice, but he’s making it about the parents. He’s also noticing who’s pushy, who’s overtired, and who’s been drinking heavily.

Father Christmas is judging you, parents. And here’s why.

You haven’t provided a convincing backstory – There are many wonderful tales about Santa Claus. He lives at the North Pole (or in Lapland) and is married (or single, or a large, asexual gnome), and makes all of the toys himself (or with an army of elf-slaves). When your child starts asking questions about the practicalities of being Father Christmas, that’s the point where you jump in and say something like “Well, we thought that Father Christmas did it like this, isn’t that right, Father Christmas?” It’s not your cue to stand mute, check your text messages, or to try to stare Santa out. This is especially true with the question “Are you the real Father Christmas?” which can be answered a number of different ways: “No, Father Christmas is very busy and has lots of helpers;” “Of course I am;” or “How dare you question my authority? You get nothing!” Unless you give SOME HINT as to the way you answered that question, Father Christmas may well end up contradicting you, and I’m pretty sure I know whom your children will consider a more reliable source. Play the game, people.

You’ve brought a toddler, good luck with the nightmares – For many children, meeting Santa is a HUGE deal. It would be like meeting George Clooney, if George Clooney also crept into your room and gave you whatever you wanted… No, scratch that. not like that. Anyway, for young children, this is their getting to meet Madonna, or the Queen, or Stephen Fry, knowing that they’re going to be assessing your behaviour while you do. Also there is a huge beard, music, garish surroundings, and probably an odd smell. There is no excuse for taking a child under 3 to see Santa. They ALL freak out. If you want a picture of a tiny baby with Father Christmas, fine, but to any child who’s vaguely sentient of what’s going on it’s going to be pretty traumatic. Congratulations, you’ve just queued for 45 minutes because you were determined to give your child nightmares.

You’re outsourcing your parenting – If you’re bringing your child just so that Father Christmas can threaten them, you need to take a good, hard look in the mirror. Then punch the mirror and use the shards to slice your own awful face off with. Yes, the promise of presents is part of the whole deal, but telling little Ciaran that Santa probably won’t be bringing him anything when Santa is sitting right there is a dick move.

You are just terrible – If your child asks for Grand Theft Auto V then Father Christmas probably wouldn’t be doing father Christmas’ job if Father Christmas didn’t point out that that’s a game rated 18, and your child is only 9. When he says he probably won’t be bringing that, it doesn’t help if you then add your voice to the pleas to bring it “He has been really good, though.” At this point, Santa reserves the right to think of you as a monstrous cunt. Just so you know. Santa isn’t saying it, but he’s thinking it. And he likes making lists.

You refuse to help your inaudible child – Sometimes it all gets a little much, and the intense emotion that comes with talking to Father Christmas renders some children utterly mute. At this point, you can help, by prompting or answering on their behalf. Anything but playing fucking Angry Birds, while Santa and your child experience a tense, Cold War standoff.

You keep referring to a letter Santa hasn’t seen – Let’s just be clear. The Father Christmas you’re going to get isn’t real. you’re the grown up. That shouldn’t need explaining to you. So when you say, “You remember the letter Lucy sent to you, don’t you, Father Christmas?” That’s fundamentally unhelpful, if there are going to be follow-up questions. And there ALWAYS are. “She really wants that thing she put at the top of the list, Father Christmas.” Fuck you. “It would be especially good if you could remember the instructions she gave you in the PS.” Up your stupid arse. “And of course you’ve remembered the password she wrote in it, so that she’d know she was dealing with the REAL Father Christmas.” May your head be full of the eggs of a false-widow spider, which will burst and flood all over your Christmas dinner, the resulting lack of pressure on your brain will give you a new appreciation of colour, but will also render you incapable of speech or unaided urination. Merry Christmas.

For the children, meeting Father Christmas can be a magical moment. For the adults, remember to be on your best behaviour…

Happy Yuletide, from Ian.

Subscribe with RSS

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,059 other followers

Twitter Feed


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,059 other followers