September 7th, 2006

crumpet2

The state of Roz and the world

I don't know why I haven't been posting - I'm hard at work on the book, but that hasn't stopped me before, and I have been hitting some resistance on that too. I guess it is partly the endless changableness of the weather, and my fairly dire financial situation. (Staff changes at Heinemann meant that no reading came out to me for two months). On the other hand, my health is good - bar the odd migraine - and I had one of the best medical checkups for years the other day; when you get to be my age, it is truely gratifying to be told that you have the blood pressure of someone thirty years younger and a lot lighter, and that the odds are fiercely on your side and against heart disease. I guess sometimes one's brain hits a fallow patch.

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There is a very good post by Teresa at Making Light about the woman outed by Cheney's office as a member of the CIA. It turns out that this was not only disgraceful and illegal, but quite specifically an act of spite towards someone whose job it was to look for WMDs and for links between Saddam and Al Quaeda and reported that she could not find any. Teresa writes with her usual forensic intelligence and withering scorn.

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Which are what is needed for the discussion of the fall - for so it is, even if it takes months longer, of Tony Blair.

It is premature to write his obituary just yet - he still thinks he can carry on into next year, though my guess is that he will be gone within weeks - but I am too eager not to get stuck in now.

What I particularly hate about him is not Iraq, bad as that is, or his creeping privatization of everything the Tories never got round to, or his sponsoring of schools in which religious fanatics can teach nonsense like creationism, and persecute queer pupils, or his failure properly to reform constitutional matters that he promised to and either avoided - as with electoral reform - or messed up - as with the House of Lords. After all, there are some positive things his governments did which make up for a lot, though not for Iraq - the minimum wage, civil partnerships, increased rights for the trans community, a general feeling that minorities were to be respected and treated as equals that was refreshing after years of the Tories.

What I particularly hate is the way he seduced a lot of people, who had started off as idealists with some sort of commitment to social justice into becoming his accomplices. One of the reasons why I let my membership of the Labour Party lapse long before the 97 election was Clause Four, not because I was a fanatical devotee of the sort of nationalisation it had often meant, but because its abolition was a way in which he could stick two fingers up at the Labour past and make most members of the Labour party sign up for his doing so. He implied that a vote against him on this was a vote against beating the Tories and people persuaded themselves that going along with what he wanted was the right thing. It set a pattern of compliance which was an early step on the road to Baghdad.

He always had a coterie of creeps - at one point, my friend P was dating someone from one of the think tanks, and after a Prom, at which I bumped into them, I ended up at a party in Islington which was full of Blair's creepy fanboys and fangirls. They were all cooing and blethering about whether or not The Leader would ever go over to Rome - it was clearly erotic and naughty for them to think about such aspects of his life - and someone asked me what I thought.

I remember saying that I had been a cradle Catholic, and more importantly a Catechism Catholic, and that I was taught that to deprive the labourer of their hire was a sin crying out to Heaven for vengeance and that I wasn't sure he could be relied on on that one.

And then there was Liberty.

During the period when I was one of the Deputy chairs, the chair was John Lyons, who is married to Sally, later Baroness, Morgan, one of Blair's staff. John and I did not get on - he eventually changed the organization's constitution to get rid of me - and in particular we had a row over the decision not only to sack a member of staff for being an anarchist troublemaker, but to deprive her of two thirds of her accumulated redundancy. Lyons blackmailed the rest of the staff into going along with this, by threatening to sack more people to pay for her. Most of the executive knew this was disgraceful - and I did eventually manage to claw back another third of her money - but none of them would oppose him openly, because most of them were careerists who were worried that to offend him, was to offend his wife, and thus the entire machinery of Labour party careerism. 'If I back you,' one guy, with a real record of commitment and achievement, said 'I will never get a Euroseat or a peerage'. He further claimed that the previous chair had got her safe parliamentary seat and her junior ministerial post by helping John beat me in the election - which, let us be clear, I did not believe because I don't think I could ever have one. Though she did try and persuade me that my status as a trans dyke ex-whore pervert might make me a liability to the organization.

What is most worrying about this is not just that Blair used patronage far more intensely that most Labour leaders to manipulate people, it is that he created an atmosphere in which people believed absurd things about his reach and his power, and that he surrounded himself with people who hero-worshipped him in a creepy way and to this day talk about him as if he were something special. It is also that he created an atmosphere in which, regularly, to appease him, people did trashy things at other people's expense as a way of making their own careers. And once you have done that once, made your bones, eaten forbidden flesh, there is no going back without repentance and atonement.

Look at Clare Short. She did what she was told and helped the leadership trash a leftwing woman like Liz Davies. That made it harder for her to say no when Blair asked her not to resign over Iraq, to stay on and do some good, and made it hard for anyone to respect her when he did not need her any more and fired her.

Blairism is not an ideology, it is a way of running the Labour party and the country that depends on seduction, corruption, patronage and the moral cowardice of people who knew better. We should probably be grateful that he has done nothing worse than he did with the power we allowed him to have.