I was listening to the excellent Reduced Shakespeare Company on Radio 4 perform 'The Condensed History of Tony Blair'. You can catch it again here (about 45 minutes in) between now and next Sunday's Westminster Hour. Jonathan Isaby, writing on The Daily Telegraph website:
It opens with the line: "In the next 15 minutes, we will present 10 glorious years of the greatest prime minister ever known to man," announced by Long with several large dollops of irony. Now I did initially wonder whether having Americans playing the characters would work, but it really does. Blair and Brown are played in the style of Californian dudes, rather like Bill and Ted meets Beavis and Butthead. … listen out for the hilarious song about the Millennium Dome, the love duet between Blair and Alastair Campbell, and the 45-second finale which summarises the entire Blair decade.
Armando Iannucci's Observer column yesterday was again great stuff:
Am I going mad? I heard that Tony Blair thinks so. Not just me; everyone. You too. He thinks we're all mad. Someone close to his circle told me recently that the reason Blair seems so resolute, so calm in the face of criticism, is that he thinks the media are just mad. And he confronts unpopularity with the knowledge that we, the public, are turning mad as well. The more we say: 'He's going mad', the more it proves to him that we must be mad. Is that the logic of a madman?
I only mention this because I was struck by the madness of a remark Blair made last week. It was just as the High Court ruled that the government's recent consultation with the public over what our future energy policy should be wasn't consultative enough, and that he and his ministers would have to consult us on the policy again. Asked if this would put on hold his plans to build more nuclear power stations, he said: 'No. This won't affect the policy at all. It'll affect the process of consultation, but not the policy.'
Take a good hard look at that quote again. It's mad. It's based either on a belief in the possession of psychic powers so discriminating they can predict the outcome of a consultation before it happens (which is mad) or they're based on the belief that words have no meaning other than the meaning one chooses to give them and that this meaning can change at any particular moment (which is at least three times as mad as the first example of madness).
John Naughton quoted this yesterday and wrapped up, 'Britain needs a new constitution. At present we have an elected dictatorship which can do what it likes so long as the Prime Minister has a working majority'.
k-punk, writing about Robbie Williams and post-modernism:
There's surely a Robin Carmody-type analysis to be done of the parallels between Williams and Tony Blair. Williams' first album, the tellingly-titled Life Thru a Lens was released in 1997, the year of Blair's first election victory. There followed for both a period of success so total that it must have confirmed their most extravagant fantasies of omnipotence (Blair unassailable at two elections; Williams winning more Brit awards than any other artist). Then, a decade after their first success, an ignominious decline into irrelevance (the post-Iraq Blair limping out of office as a lame-duck leader, Williams releasing a disastrous album and checking himself into rehab on the day before this year Brit awards, at which he had received a derisory single nomination). Of course, there are limits to the analogy: Blair is popular in the States, whereas Robbie...
Williams and Blair are two sides of one Joker Hysterical face: two cracked actors, one given over to the performance of sincerity, the other dedicated to the performance of irony. But both, fundamentally, actors - actors to the core, to the extent that they resemble PKD simulacra, shells and masks to which one cannot convincingly attribute any inner life. Blair and Williams seem to exist only for the gaze of the other. That is why it is impossible to imagine either enduring private doubts or misgivings, or indeed experiencing any emotion whose expression is not contrived to produce a response from the other. As is well known, Blair's total identification with his publicly-projected messianic persona instantly transforms any putatively private emotion into a PR gesture; this is the spincerity effect (even if he really means what he is saying, the utterance becomes fake by dint of its public context). The image of Blair or Williams alone in a room, decommissioned androids contemplating their final rejection by a public which once adored them, is genuinely creepy.
Spincerity — who coined that? Search for it on Google and you get (just now) 87 results, headed, 'Did you mean: sincerity'.