Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/470/1987
The Trial of Tony Blair
A lost opportunity - indictment of a smug man
"IT'S 2010, Hillary Clinton's in the White House, Gordon Brown's in No 10 and Tony Blair is in the dock at The Hague." Thus ran the promotion for More 4's latest attempt at satirical drama from Alistair Beaton, author of last year's A Very Social Secretary - the Blunkett skit which was used to launch the digital channel.
Tony Blair is again played by ex-Wolfie Smith Robert Lindsay, and for the material he has to work with it must be said that Lindsay does a good job. But that's pretty much where the complements end.
The Trial of Tony Blair lacks any real purpose; Beaton swings from trying to present us with a Shakespearian allegory, with Blair confronted by demonic visions of Iraq, to giving us a cheap sketch show where Cherie Blair steals all the light bulbs from No 10 before the Browns move in. There's even a Little Britain-esque David Cameron attempting to get down with all the "hos and bitches" on a housing estate.
The two different aspects of the programme never really gel and you're left feeling that Beaton thought this was much cleverer than it actually is. Too many scenes are cut short before a sense of drama has been built up because the author has thought of a cheap pun and then doesn't know what to follow it with.
We see an increasingly haggard and insecure Blair converting to Catholicism because of the promise of forgiveness through confession. But then being incapable of admitting that the invasion of Iraq was wrong when in the confession booth.
Again and again Blair repeats as a mantra: "It was the right thing to do; it was a war of liberation." The idea here is that we all know that this is rubbish and so does Blair. We see him repeating his mantra whilst violently washing his hands, trying to get imaginary blood stains to come off.
But amongst this, there's absolutely no attempt to explore the real underlying motives for the Iraq war - the massive oil supplies in the region and the prestige of US imperialism, which Blair kow-towed to.
Essentially, the show was a piece of fantasy wish fulfillment, with Blair protesting at being swabbed for DNA when he's arrested, seeing it as an infringement of his civil liberties. When he's rushed into casualty with an expected heart murmur, he's forced to wait four hours in casualty where he spots stains of blood and shit smeared on the wall.
The satire here is less than sharp and you got the feeling that its viewers would be either smug armchair activists or people who'd been asked to review it.
What did we learn at the end of it all? The war was illegal. Politicians are liars. Nothing new at all.
There are millions of people across the country who hate Tony Blair, who hate New Labour and all of the parties of big-business and who are very angry not just about the war and occupation of Iraq but also what Blair and his cronies have done to the NHS, to our schools and public services.
They deserve not just a smug indictment of the actions of this government but also a serious discussion about the alternative and the potential for a new mass party that workers can rally behind and oust the corrupt big business politicians.
The Trial of Tony Blair, Repeated on Channel 4, 18 January 10pm and More 4 20 January 9pm.
In The Socialist 18 January 2007:
War and terrorism
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news