There were three discrete blocks of information I could have chosen to focus on this evening. From 7pm to 8pm, we had the journalist Andrew Marr interviewing the prestidigitator Tony Blair. My overriding feeling at the end of the taped version I eventually saw was one of terrible sadness. I once liked Tony Blair very much. I don’t any more.
But not because of anything he said in the interview. Rather, because of how he’s saying it these days.
I have to say that I also felt considerable anger towards Marr himself – with regard, at least, to his own professional behaviours and those of his colleagues in the trade. Comparing then and now, I mean.
Tonight, he showed a remarkable perspicacity and persistence as he politely but firmly pursued Blair’s honed obfuscation on the subject of Iraq. Meanwhile, when it mattered, during Blair’s reign itself and alongside his media pals, he took the rather easier route of choosing to faithfully transmit the obfuscations without so much as an “Excuse me Prime Minister but that’s arguably a load of hogwash”.
Interesting subjects were covered too, mind. The subject of liberal interventionism will never go away since it attempts to address the immorality of oppression in sovereign countries with a dose of what I assume to be relatively good faith. It does also, however, allow those at the top to substitute carefully engineered but hardly populist long-term policies of economic realignment with short-term policies – often of an enormously florid and vote-gathering nature – which accentuate those tendencies certain politicians always exhibit of abusing the services of our armed services.
But, in the end, as I have already said above, from my remote standpoint as a mere Labour Party member, when I now think of Tony Blair I can only bring to mind lost opportunities.
In a sense, David Cameron’s behaviours in the past few months surely indicate that he must be only too aware of such dangers, dynamics and realities.
Curious, isn’t it? I sometimes wonder if Tony Blair continues along this path whether he won’t in some bizarre and back-to-front way end up appearing to be Cameron’s heir.
Instead of the other way round.
When I started writing this post, I wasn’t intending to talk very much about Tony Blair. The sadness has overtaken me.
The sense of a lost generation is gathering, I think.
I do not know if that generation will most importantly be Blair’s or more tragically my children’s. But something, somewhere, for someone or other, will soon break quite awfully because seven years ago, at that crossroads of Iraq, Tony Blair and Andrew Marr and all their media pals – whose sacred job it was to create a conduit of communication of democratic trust in British society – seriously messed up in just about everything they ended up doing.
If that Andrew Marr interview with Tony Blair indicates anything of use to the rest of us mortal souls, it is that during Blair’s time the media was peopled with clever individuals who could have said and done far more on behalf of the truth and ourselves than – in the event – they chose to do.
In fact, when Anthony Painter talks about a collective responsibility in relation to the Blair years, the collective he may really be thinking about could quite easily be our journalists.
Our challenge, now, in the light of all this, is surely to understand why this conduit didn’t operate as it should have done and ensure that, next time round, everyone is more clearly aware of where their true responsibilities ought to lie.
So what else did I see this evening? What else made me ponder?
What about the Labour leadership hustings on Channel 4 from 7.20pm onwards?
Little to report, I’m afraid.
All I can say is that David Miliband’s eloquence worries me, Ed Balls’ confidence bemuses me, Diane Abbott’s purity puzzles me and Ed Miliband’s youth makes me want to ruffle his head of hair as I do my eldest son’s quite frequently.
Meanwhile, Andy Burnham seems kindly enough and makes me feel he’d be pretty good as my local MP.
That, however, is the problem of allowing oneself to see politicians through the eyes of the television camera. A terrible error of judgement I managed to avoid committing until today.
Fulsome apologies, incidentally, to you all for describing you all in such a superficial way. Sadly, the format of the debate degenerated all potential for dialogue and conversation into what became a question of policy ping-pong. Jon Snow didn’t help by providing the candidates with quotes from Tony Blair which were batted dutifully back and forth with the respect generally afforded an oracle of questionable wisdom.
If only a different format had been chosen. A competency interview, for example. But I suppose that would be expecting too much – either from even a well-intentioned TV station or, indeed, an eager and I’m sure deserving cohort of leadership hopefuls.
My wife and daughter probably got the best deal this evening. Nicole Kidman in “The Golden Compass”.
Next time round, I might just consider joining them.