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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 July 2007

The Blair moment

Toadying surpasses all clichés as Blair departs

TONY BLAIR'S last prime minister's question time and subsequent departure from Downing Street defied historical precedent. In the past, prime ministers responsible for catastrophe usually resigned through 'ill health' and died shortly afterwards. Think of Neville Chamberlain and Anthony Eden.

Tony Mulhearn

What simile can adequately capture the Blair moment? 'Shifting deck chairs on the Titanic,' is too hackneyed and inadequate. 'Partying while Rome burned' is closer but is still dwarfed by the sycophancy level displayed by the media and the 'opposition' parties.

The Daily Mirror described Blair's usual slippery evading of any serious questions as a 'towering performance.' Blair swatted aside gnat bites from Killer Cameron and the undead Ming Campbell, who had abandoned any attempt to find a policy where they could differ with him.

Tory leader Cameron joined the fond farewell mood, saying: "For all of the heated battles across this despatch box, for 13 years he has led his party, for 10 years he has led our country, and no one can doubt the huge efforts he has made in terms of public service." He wished Blair "every success for whatever he does in the future".

Ming Campbell said that, despite political disagreements, Blair had been 'unfailingly courteous' and extended his party's best wishes to the outgoing PM and his family. You can declare war and bring catastrophe to millions but as long as you're courteous that's okay.

Even Brian Reade, whose Daily Mirror articles consistently uncover double standards in sport and politics, was swept along by the parliamentarians' admiration.

Where was the pen usually dipped in arsenic when dealing with cant and hypocrisy? While alluding to Iraq in passing, Reade affectionately likened Blair to Frank Sinatra performing one of his 'final' retirement gigs.

Socialist Party members often say there are now three wings of the same party governing Britain. As if confirming this, Blair was given a two-minute standing ovation, in breach of parliamentary tradition, with MPs of all parties applauding his exit from the political stage.

On the bizarre appointment of Blair as Middle East envoy, the Daily Mirror said: "If Mr Blair can use his communicative skills and persuasive charm to bring the fragments of this blighted region together for a real and lasting peace, then he will find a true place in history."

Serious commentators know it will take more than a few one-liners and a phoney smile to sort out the duel catastrophes of Iraq and Palestine.

A Times comment dismissed as 'nonsense' suggestions that Britain's troubles in Iraq have hurt Blair's credibility in the Middle East. Perhaps Times-owner Murdoch has a map showing Iraq as an oasis of tranquillity somewhere in the South Pacific.

Blair as envoy to bring peace to the Middle East? Again one is stretched for a suitable simile. "Putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank" is hackneyed, and lacks the appropriate level of farce.

A truly spectacular simile is needed to encapsulate the vision of a man who completed the destruction of Labour as a workers' party, who worships at the altar of wealth and privilege, and leaves in his wake catastrophe in Iraq, yet receives a standing ovation from all parties in parliament.

One is reminded of old Hollywood film-maker Sam Goldwyn, a master of malapropisms, who when promoting one of his blockbusters and being tired of over-used slogans famously declared 'What we need is some new clichés.'

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In The Socialist 5 July 2007:

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Blair's toadying surpasses all clichés


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