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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.”
This morning, Ed Miliband gave a speech at Google’s Big Tent event. Here’s a transcript of part of it.
I’d like to start by showing you four pictures and asking you to decide which is the odd one out, because it’s reveals the theme of my talk: what kind of future we want to build.
The first is my dad. His name was Ralph Miliband. He was a Marxist Professor.
The second is Willy Wonka, the genius who owns the factory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and eventually gives it all away to Charlie’s family.
The third is Margaret Hodge, Labour chair of the Public Accounts Committee, who, as you know, has been very critical of Google in the last few days.
And the fourth is Google, along with your founding slogan: “Don’t be evil”.
So, as they say on “Have I Got News from You?”, I’d like people to tell me who is the odd one out.
Well, I’ll tell you my answer.
My answer is that it is my dad.
Because he’s the only one who thought that the route to a fair society was not through capitalism but through socialism based on public ownership.
It wasn’t just my dad who thought it, of course.
Until 1995 this view was enshrined on the membership card of the party I now lead.
Tony Blair got rid of it and rightly so, because nationalising the major industries is not the route to a fair society.
That’s right. It’s the Labour Party’s position now that fictional chocolate factory-owner offers a better model for society than Clause 4. So, let’s look at exactly what kind of model for capitalism, Mr Wonka provides.
WORKFORCE: Taking advantage of a large population of displaced peoples with limited language skills (Wonka boasts that this makes them immune to attempts at industrial sabotage), Wonka has no native workers in his factory at all. By employing physically-handicapped immigrants, who appear to be in a situation close to indentured servitude he further depresses wages in Britain and exploits a community he seems unwilling to help repatriate.
HEALTH AND SAFETY: Wonka has a woeful safety record. On a recent visit of 5 children to his factory, 4 ended up dead or severely shrunk from their short time in the factory. As an additional point, the correct way to move a girl who has been turned into a giant bluberry is not to roll her, but to lift from the knees.
COMMUNITY: Far from being a responsible employer, whose outreach ensures that the whole community benefits from the presence of a factory, Wonka shuts himself away, letting no one into or out of the factory. Indeed, he occupies a prime slice of local real estate that could be better used for social projects, as there seems to be no rational reason why he maintains this location in the city centre.
ENVIRONMENT: We can only assume that the chocolate river has been formed by the melting of the chocolate ice-caps, and his factory’s continual belching of purple smoke suggests that Wonka’s environmental record may be less than stellar.
ANTI-COMPETITIVE: The Everlasting Gobstopper is clearly a way to lock people into one gobstopper format for the rest of their lives, and to reduce the market share for all other competitors. Much like Amazon, it is using loss leaders to get people to use Wonka products, force competitors out of the market, before – presumably – raising prices when they are the only player left.
That’s the model Ed Miliband thinks we should be following in the 21st century. Anti-competitive, highly secretive, exploitative of both resources and people, giving nothing to the community.
Just as long as we know where he stands.
Dear Mr & Mrs Cameron,
Why did you never take the time to teach your child basic morality?
As a young man, he was in a gang that regularly smashed up private property. We know that you were absent parents who left your child to be brought up by a school rather than taking responsibility for his behaviour yourselves. The fact that he became a delinquent with no sense of respect for the property of others can only reflect that fact that you are terrible, lazy human beings who failed even in teaching your children the difference between right and wrong. I can only assume that his contempt for the small business owners of Oxford is indicative of his wider values.
Even worse, your neglect led him to fall in with a bad crowd. He became best friends with a young man who set fire to buildings for fun. And others:
There’s Michael Gove, whose wet-lipped rage was palpable on Newsnight last night. This is the Michael Gove who confused one of his houses with another of his houses in order to avail himself of £7,000 of the taxpayers’ money to which he was not entitled (or £13,000, depending on which house you think was which).
Or Hazel Blears, who was interviewed in full bristling peahen mode for almost all of last night. She once forgot which house she lived in, and benefited to the tune of £18,000. At the time she said it would take her reputation years to recover. Unfortunately not.
But, of course, this is different. This is just understandable confusion over the rules of how many houses you are meant to have as an MP. This doesn’t show the naked greed of people stealing plasma tellies.
Unless you’re Gerald Kaufman, who broke parliamentary rules to get £8,000 worth of 40-inch, flat screen, Bang and Olufsen TV out of the taxpayer.
Or Ed Vaizey, who got £2,000 in antique furniture ‘delivered to the wrong address’. Which is fortunate, because had that been the address they were intended for, that would have been fraud.
Or Jeremy Hunt, who broke the rules to the tune of almost £20,000 on one property and £2,000 on another. But it’s all right, because he agreed to pay half of the money back. Not the full amount, it would be absurd to expect him to pay back the entire sum that he took and to which he was not entitled. No, we’ll settle for half. And, as in any other field, what might have been considered embezzlement of £22,000 is overlooked. We know, after all, that David Cameron likes to give people second chances.
Fortunately, we have the Met Police to look after us. We’ll ignore the fact that two of its senior officers have had to resign in the last six weeks amid suspicions of widespread corruption within the force.
We’ll ignore Andy Hayman, who went for champagne dinners with those he was meant to be investigating, and then joined the company on leaving the Met.
Of course, Mr and Mrs Cameron, your son is right. There are parts of society that are not just broken, they are sick. Riddled with disease from top to bottom.
Just let me be clear about this (It’s a good phrase, Mr and Mrs Cameron, and one I looted from every sentence your son utters, just as he looted it from Tony Blair), I am not justifying or minimising in any way what has been done by the looters over the last few nights. What I am doing, however, is expressing shock and dismay that your son and his friends feel themselves in any way to be guardians of morality in this country.
Can they really, as 650 people who have shown themselves to be venal pygmies, moral dwarves at every opportunity over the last 20 years, bleat at others about ‘criminality’. Those who decided that when they broke the rules (the rules they themselves set) they, on the whole wouldn’t face the consequences of their actions?
Are they really surprised that this country’s culture is swamped in greed, in the acquisition of material things, in a lust for consumer goods of the most base kind? Really?
Let’s have a think back: cash-for-questions; Bernie Ecclestone; cash-for-access; Mandelson’s mortgage; the Hinduja passports; Blunkett’s alleged insider trading (and, by the way, when someone has had to resign in disgrace twice can we stop having them on television as a commentator, please?); the meetings on the yachts of oligarchs; the drafting of the Digital Economy Act with Lucian Grange; Byers’, Hewitt’s & Hoon’s desperation to prostitute themselves and their positions; the fact that Andrew Lansley (in charge of NHS reforms) has a wife who gives lobbying advice to the very companies hoping to benefit from the NHS reforms. And that list didn’t even take me very long to think of.
Our politicians are for sale and they do not care who knows it.
Oh yes, and then there’s the expenses thing. Widescale abuse of the very systems they designed, almost all of them grasping what they could while they remained MPs, to build their nest egg for the future at the public’s expense. They even now whine on Twitter about having their expenses claims for getting back to Parliament while much of the country is on fire subject to any examination. True public servants.
The last few days have revealed some truths, and some heartening truths. The fact that the #riotcleanup crews had organised themselves before David Cameron even made time for a public statement is heartening. The fact that local communities came together to keep their neighbourhoods safe when the police failed is heartening. The fact that there were peace vigils being organised (even as the police tried to dissuade people) is heartening.
There is hope for this country. But we must stop looking upwards for it. The politicians are the ones leading the charge into the gutter.
David Cameron was entirely right when he said: “It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to think that the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities, and that their actions do not have consequences.”
He was more right than he knew.
And I blame the parents.
*** EDIT – I have added a hyperlink to a Bullingdon article after a request for context from an American reader. I have also added the sentence about Nick Clegg as this was brought to my attention in the comments and it fits in too nicely to leave out. That’s the way I edited it at 18:38 on the 11th August, 2011 ***
***EDIT 2 - I’ve split the comments into pages as, although there were some great discussions going on in them, there were more than 500 and the page was taking *forever* to load for some people, and not loading at all for others. I would encourage everyone to have a poke around in the comments, as many questions and points have been covered, and there are some great comments. Apologies if it looks like your comment has disappeared. ***
- London riots: David Cameron approves water cannon (telegraph.co.uk)