…the second time as farce

There’s been quite a lot of talk comparing these last days of Blair’s premiership with the end of Thatcher’s reign in Downing Street. Blair of course in many ways modelled himself on Thatcher, and adopted much of her legacy in defiance of the party he led. And indeed there are striking parallels – the long-serving party leader, winner of three successive elections now looking but now looking increasingly like an electoral liability; the scheming colleagues manoeuvering for advantage under whatever new dispensation succeeds to the post; the back-stabbing briefings; the resignations; the assassin-in-chief and would-be successor who fails at the last; and the seemingly delusional attitude of those in the bunker [insert Berlin 1945 metaphor of choice here].

But yet, but yet, the difference decade and a half makes. While the fall of Thatcher still looks in retrospect like a tragedy (in the theatrical sense), with its combination of hubris and conspiracy, the end of Blair is being played out in a petulant atmosphere more reminiscent of the school playground (“I was going to sack him anyway, so there!”). It’s hard to imagine Thatcher planning a farewell tour including appearances on Blue Peter and Songs of Praise (perhaps an appearance on the JY prog on Radio Two, though). Thatcher at least recognized (eventually) that the end had come and that she had to go – Blair just looks like someone desperate to cling on to position (if not power) as long as he possibly can, to squeeze every last drop of personal – and financial – advantage from his post. He seems the opposite of dignified. The Old Pretender, meanwhile, looks increasingly like he’s just chicken (perhaps remembering Hezza’s fate). It’s all very well to play a long game, but as Keynes noted, “in the long run, we’re all dead.”

But who knows, maybe Yates of the Yard will give us a new meaning for the phrase ‘conviction politician’.

“You have sat here too long for the good you do. In the name of God, go!”
Cromwell, dismissing the Rump Parliament in 1653.

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