William Keegan in last Sunday's Observer:
… my strong impression is that the public squabbling has done the Labour Party a lot of harm.
Confirmation of this came in Friday's Guardian:
The scale of the challenge facing Gordon Brown as Labour's likely next leader is revealed today by a Guardian/ICM poll showing that voters believe David Cameron would make a more effective prime minister and that Britain will be better off if Labour loses the next election. … its reputation for unity and direction has taken a battering, with the chancellor, accused by some of prompting the leadership crisis, appearing to receive much of the blame.
Martin Kettle: 'every step Labour takes towards the Brown succession is now also a step towards electoral defeat'.
The British people have put their trust in us. A new dawn has broken.
… it will be a government that seeks to restore trust in politics in this country. That cleans it up, that decentralizes it, that gives people hope once again that politics is and always should be about the service of the public. And it shall be a government, too, that gives this country strength and confidence in leadership both at home and abroad, particularly in respect of Europe.
It shall be a government rooted in strong values, the values of justice and progress and community, the values that have guided me all my political life. But a government ready with the courage to embrace the new ideas necessary to make those values live again for today's world -- a government of practical measures in pursuit of noble causes. That is our objective for the people of Britain.
Above all, we have secured a mandate to bring this nation together, to unite us -- one Britain, one nation in which our ambition for ourselves is matched by our sense of compassion and decency and duty towards other people. Simple values, but the right ones.
Dawn of Hope, indeed. Craig Brown: 'In fact, fear was one of the most successful growth industries of the Tony Years.'
I was rifling books, trying to find where Freud (?) talks about how what a people forget in their History is as, or more, important than what they remember, when I stumbled over another quotation I'd also been trying to track down for a while. Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human,1878, Hollingdale translation, Penguin, 1977):
The point of honesty in deception. — With all great deceivers there is a noteworthy occurrence to which they owe their power. In the actual act of deception … they are overcome by belief in themselves: it is this which then speaks so miraculously and compellingly to those who surround them.
Thank God for satirists. Their power may be limited (I guess everyone knows Peter Cook's remark about the Berlin satirical cabaret clubs of the 1930s which 'did so much to prevent the rise of Adolf Hitler'), yet it still exists. There was a world-weariness about Armando Iannucci's column in today's Observer ('I don't know whether to be cheered by the fact that things haven't got much worse, after all, or depressed by the knowledge that neither have they got any better'), but it was a great column:
I'm about to quote something someone actually said. I'm finding I'm doing this more and more. Normally, with the party conference season upon us, I look forward to making up the sort of weird, meaningless, verbless sentences politicians deploy in their speeches. 'Forward to an exciting burst of tomorrows' and that sort of thing.
But now I find quoting actual politician's sentences is even better. My favourites so far are David Cameron's: 'I think more young people should be forced to become volunteers', Tony Blair's warning to Iran that 'no country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq', and George Bush's: 'The Iraqi insurgents are being defeated; that's why they're continuing to fight.'
When all this is over, the question remains — what was our role in the Tony Years? (Craig Brown: 'Were we the tight-lipped ventriloquist, and he the all-talking, all-winking dummy? Or were the roles reversed?'.) I'm late in coming to J G Ballard (he's glaringly absent from the curriculum, the exception being the popular Empire of the Sun). Here he is, writing in the New Statesman earlier this month:
We will all miss Tony Blair
Autumn is almost here, and the new political season approaches in a half-hearted way, the last act of an overlong play that has begun to bore the audience. All the same, I suspect that we will miss Tony Blair when he is gone. The boyish charm is fraying but still intact. The exhaustion, the desperate need to convince everyone of the truth of his own delusions, the raw emotions worn as a kind of exoskeleton, all show one of the great actor-managers in heroic decline. Blair may be the last British prime minister able to trade openly on his emotions. He knows that we are secretly rather drawn to bad acting and are happy to collude in his exposure of his weaknesses.
He is the beaten husband, still in charge of the car keys and the TV remote, but aware that the rest of the household despises him and is impatient for him to bring down the curtain. He jokes and winces, and makes fun of his own despair. The longer he hangs on, the more he can steer us towards the steamy, emotional bath we were happy to help him prepare. Would he like to drown us? After all, we like being lied to, we like promises that will never be kept, we like being locked into his smiling neediness.
His successor is likely to give us a shock, especially if it is Gordon Brown, the greatest mystery in British politics for the past 50 years. High in intelligence and self-control, but zero for acting skills and emotional martyrdom. Will we be happy with him? I seriously doubt it. Perhaps only damaged actors can lead modern societies down the crooked paths that they prefer.