Monday, June 23, 2003

Well, I suppose I really ought to write something vaguely connected to the aims of this blog.....

The reshuffle furore demonstrated a very good political rule, which is that doing something wrong in the right way scores many more points than doing the right thing the wrong way. A paradox which is important at the moment, when the political class spend so much time and energy telling us that - whatever evil horror they have come up with - it's all for the best and the end justifies the means. With any luck, this might supply a little revenge in the end. The decision to abolish the lord chancellorship was a long time coming, but it's basically a good 'un. A judge who is also a legislator, who is also a minister representing a particular party - but acts as a neutral speaker in the Lords. It's not natural. But, Christ, what a mess. The government looked stoopid, chaotic and without command. George Bush's career shows what can be achieved by looking Tough and Resolved and Macho in those of your appearances you can control, however badly things are going in reality. If Tony Blair still believes that a similar leader image will save him, he's got another think coming. Britain doesn't have the tradition of "Supporting our President", in actual fact nothing could be more foreign than US Congressmen clapping the president. And the still-widespread belief in Blair's popularity has been delusional for at least two years - the degree of loathing he inspires in so many people is truly impressive. It was always a feature of politics that, even when everyone else seemed to love him, Blair provoked an unusually savage hatred in some. This has spread, now, well outside the hard-right mind ghetto in which it began.

Strangely enough, it's only now, six years in, that an important feature of the Labour government has really begun to tell. That is the fact that so few of them have serious administrative experience. The emblem of this is the sacking of Michael Meacher from the Environment slot. Meacher, who has done an unexpectedly good job in sticking up for environmental issues, was also the most experienced minister - he had spent 24 out of 29 years in parliament since 1974 as a minister or opposition front bench spokesman. No wonder he knew which civil service bowlers to pull down over the eyes. It contrasts with Tony Blair, who after all has gone straight from opposition to the premiership. And it shows in the periodic, disrupting panics the government is so given to - the reputation for mechanical efficiency and control was always questionable, and the key moments have been marked by unnerving botches, as if no-one in the Blair clique really believes that the state will still exist tomorrow. Rather like a pilot who does not trust the instruments, the PM tends to over-control violently and get into a dangerous spin.

Great blog here.

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