Warning: This post was published more than 11 years ago.
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Watching the Prime Minister on Sunday AM this morning was depressing. If you think you’re up to it, you can watch the interview here on the BBC site. To think he was just eight years ago the fresh-faced everyman who would change the face of politics – a pretty straight sort of guy – is nothing short of tragic.
This morning, he stumbled over even the most simple questions about his innermost beliefs – clearly not struggling to express himself because of enthusiasm, but struggling to remember the prepared answer the focus groups told him he needed to spout. When faced with the tough questioning over Iraq, he largely ignored the questions posed in order to give his own egotistical speech. He looked disinterested, bored, and above all, exhausted. This is not the ‘Great Leader’ elected in 1997 – this man could hardly be further than that. He’s not even effectively manipulating the media any more – when questioned about stepping down, he replied (I’m paraphrasing) that he knew what he was going to do, but he wasn’t going to tell us lowly mortals. Eight years ago, he wouldn’t have dreamed of making that so obvious – he’d have given a crowd-pleasing non-answer, not taunted the interviewer.
The questions about the BBC’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina were met with the worst of all answers – He could have easily stuck to the ‘private conversation’ line, he could have given a flattering answer about the Beeb not covering things as he saw it, but the Beeb being impartial and him perhaps being more personally involved, or he could have simply chosen not to answer at all, saying that it was not his place to comment on the Beeb’s editorial decisions. Instead, he chose the worst bits of all of those options, saying that it was a private conversation but then divulging details of it anyway, and openly criticising the BBC all at the same time. That’s not the Blairite way.
Of course, there could be greater forces at work here, with the PM intentionally being painted as weak and over the hill in political terms, so that Gordon Brown’s confident conference speech will make him look like the natural successor. That’s one suggestion I can’t even entertain. Mr Blair couldn’t play down the statesman in himself intentionally even if he wanted to. He thinks he’s bigger than his party, and certainly his place in history is more important to him than the future electability of his party.
So what’s going on? Blair’s lost his touch, he’s drained, and ultimately, his eight years at the top have left him completely soulless, more a creation of spin-doctors than a real human being. He climbed the ladder for what he saw as the good of the country, attempting to be the great saviour. But he lost himself along the way, and allowed the advisers with which he surrounded himself destroy his very person. How very Shakespearean; how very tragic.