Not Saussure

June 13, 2007

Blair and the feral media

Filed under: Blair, Politics, press — notsaussure @ 9:03 pm

What is one to make of Tony Blair’s reflections on the media yesterday? I’m linking, by the way, to the BBC transcript rather than the one on the Number 10 site because, for perfectly understandable but pleasingly ironic reasons, the BBC one is a more complete and accurate account of the great man’s words; the version on the Number 10 site excises the passages

We paid inordinate attention in the early days of New Labour to courting, assuaging, and persuading the media. In our own defence, after 18 years of Opposition and the, at times, ferocious hostility of parts of the media, it was hard to see any alternative.But such an attitude ran the risk of fuelling the trends in communications that I am about to question.


When I fought the 1997 election – just ten years ago – we took an issue a day. In 2005, we had to have one for the morning, another for the afternoon and by the evening the agenda had already moved on,

explaining the absence with the chaste comment ‘[Party Political content].’

I was puzzled by his description of the media as ‘feral,’ a metaphor that takes us into all sorts of strange places. What sort of wild beast does he have in mind, one wonders; are the media a tiger, on whose back he has taken a ride and is now he finds it difficult to dismount, or are they savage wolves, whom he would like to domesticate into pet dogs (very loyal to their masters, dogs)? Or are they like the feral children who so worried Mr Blunkett and Mr Blair a few years ago, and who need ASBOs to sort them out? Or does he just mean the press have been beastly to him recently? (more…)


June 11, 2007

Blair to become a Catholic?

Filed under: Blair, Catholicism, Politics — notsaussure @ 7:26 pm

Via Bel is thinking, the news from the Daily Mail that Tony Blair is, apparently, hoping to convert to Roman Catholicism after he leaves office next month. This, in itself, is hardly news; the Telegraph had much the same story last month; what is news is that Blair apparently has apparently discussed with Fr Timothy Russ, priest at the Immaculate Heart of Mary near the Prime Minister’s official country residence, Chequers, the possibility of his being fast-tracked into the role of deacon, if and when he’s received into the Church. Says the Mail, quoting

a new book soon to be serialised by The Mail on Sunday – The Darlings Of Downing Street by Garry O’Connor,

so it’s almost certainly untrue,

Mr Blair is reported as asking his confidant Father Timothy: “Would this be possible?” He was told: “It usually takes two or three years”, to which he replied: “The fact that I’m PM, could this make a difference?”

Bel’s looked up the qualifications for becoming a deacon and, probably by some oversight, being a former Prime Minister doesn’t appear to be among them, Anyway, you can read more of this in Bel’s excellent blog.

For my part, I was struck by the way Fr Russ seems to have mellowed; it was only in 2004 that he was being spectacularly indiscreet and not at all complimentary about Mr Blair. Then the Telegraph was reporting that

Fr Russ, the parish priest of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in nearby Missenden, Berks, told a newspaper that Mr Blair had raised the issue of conversion over lunch.”When he asked me, it was in the abstract,” the priest said. “It wasn’t, ‘Can I become a Catholic?’ but, ‘Can the Prime Minister of Britain be a Catholic?’ He said Mr Blair would be “freer to consider the matter” after he had left office. “But even if he resigns or whatever, I doubt he has the ‘necessary’ to join the Catholic Church.

“It is always a work of grace,” said Fr Russ.

“He would probably have a lot going for him, but he also has to change a lot.”

Mind you, Fr Russ’s judgement seems slightly questionable; at the same time, he was telling The Guardian, of Mr Blair,

“He’s a good person and he’s very concerned about humanity. And whether he becomes a Catholic or not, I think he’ll use his position to do something constructive, perhaps in Palestine. He’s got integrity and I can’t see him doing what other former prime ministers doing and going on lecture tours of America.

“It’s not a question of whether he becomes a Catholic but a question of where his conscience leads him.”

May 31, 2007

Making the world a better place…

Filed under: Blair, hubris — notsaussure @ 7:46 pm

The BBC, today:

Tony Blair has used a keynote speech in South Africa to say there is a “moral obligation” to use political action “to make the world better”.Mr Blair, who promised more training for African peacekeeping forces and continued aid to the region, defended his interventionist foreign policy.

Mr Blair, writing in The Sunday Times this week,of his ‘interventionist foreign policy’:

tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes [in Afghanistan and Iraq]; we replace them with a United Nations-supervised democratic process and the Muslims in both countries get the chance to vote, which incidentally they take in very large numbers. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims.What’s more, British troops are risking their lives trying to prevent the killing. Why should anyone feel angry about us?

May 27, 2007

Blair, civil liberties and the rights of suspects

Filed under: Blair, civil liberties, nemesis — notsaussure @ 3:17 pm

Mr Blair seems determined to leave office, perhaps as an ironic tribute to the Viking who will succeed him, with a positively Wagnerian bonfire of civil liberties.

Where to start? His article in today’s Sunday Times is perhaps a good place, since it’s pretty breath-taking in what it reveals about the way our PM’s mind works. He wants, he says, to ‘clear away some of the absurd criticism of the police and security service over the three individuals who absconded.’ That’s a bit of a half-truth, I think, because the criticism hasn’t, as far as I know, been particularly aimed at them; it’s been directed at his Home Secretary. ‘Why,’ people have wanted to know, ‘is the Home Secretary forever blustering on, whenever anything goes wrong, about how he needs more and more power?’ (I think there’s a Star Trek joke there, somewhere). Could it not be, one wonders, that the man’s not particularly competent at using the ones he’s already got? Or could it even be that there’s a deeper problem?

In any event, Mr Blair’s answer is the usual one: it’s everyone’s fault but ours. In this case, the culprits are, of course, those infernal civil libertarians in general and the judiciary in particular. Mr Blair explains, (more…)

May 12, 2007

Tony’s resignation speech

Filed under: Blair — notsaussure @ 8:29 am

Craig Brown has the first draft:

But I ask you to accept one thing – hand on heart, I did what I thought was right.

I could have done what was wrong, of course I could. But I didn’t. I did what was right, even when it was wrong, which it wasn’t, because as I keep telling you, I thought it was right. Great! So even if it was wrong, it was right, because that’s what I thought. I may have been wrong. That’s your call, though you’re frankly in no position to judge.

But believe one thing if nothing else – there’s nothing else to believe but this one thing. Look, I did what I did because I thought it was right.

Even if it was wrong. Which it certainly wasn’t.

I’m glad to have cleared that one up. Great!

April 24, 2007

Blair on the effects of the invasion

Filed under: Blair, Iraq, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 3:28 pm

The BBC, reporting Mr Blair’s warning that

that terrorism continues to be a “global” threat and needs to be fought whether it is in “Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else”,

a view he concedes, with remarkable candour, is “not popular”:

Mr Blair acknowledged the situation in Iraq was “hugely difficult”.”It’s difficult because you have external elements – al-Qaeda up near Baghdad, and Iranian-backed elements down in Basra – who are deliberately creating the problem.”

He said it was not true that Saddam Hussein “was a kind of lid” on sectarian violence which “poured out” once the dictator was toppled.

“If you talk to ordinary Iraqis – whether they are Sunni or Shia – they want to live together. You have these outside terrorists coming in and linking up with internal extremists and causing this carnage.”

So isn’t he saying, in terms, that the carnage in Iraq wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the invasion? That the invasion was, at least in part, the cause of the current sectarian strife?

Yes, yes, if you’re foolish enough to ignore warnings not to keep your PIN number in your wallet along with your cards and you then leave your wallet lying around in a pub, that doesn’t excuse someone making off with your wallet and emptying your accounts, but you couldn’t thus wholly absolve yourself of your responsibility for the misfortune, could you?

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March 27, 2007

Blair’s legacy: bright ideas on Security, crime and justice

Filed under: Blair, civil liberties, Politics — notsaussure @ 8:15 pm

Yet another addition to the ramshackle and grotesque edifice, Blair’s legacy, was unveiled today in the form of a gargoyle called Building on progress: Security, crime and justice. This is a hotch-potch of measures, many of which, such as the plans to detect potential future criminals virtually from the moment of conception by the more effective use of databases, monitoring and ‘interventions’ have been wheeled out before, and look no better second time round. This time the details are fleshed out a bit; for example, we learn that

Early intervention can be highly effective in preventing future crime. Individuals can move in and out of risk. However, by using intelligence on risk factors (such as conduct disorder or living in very low income families), high-risk individuals can be identified early and specific, tailored interventions used. The availability of this kind of intelligence is increasing, meaning that a more systematic approach can be taken both in identifying which interventions work best and in applying them. There is strong evidence that, when targeted effectively, early intervention and prevention can have a significant impact and be cost-effective

Several thoughts occur to me from this. One is that they’ll have their work cut out, since apparently (more…)

March 3, 2007


Filed under: Blair, Photography, Politics — notsaussure @ 1:03 am

Justin, at Chicken Yoghurt, sympathises with the photographers who’ve withdrawn, ‘for commercial reasons’ the picture they took of David Cameron and Boris Johnson back in 1987. He’s had his copyright breached too, recently, very annoying he finds it.

Apparently there were fears that Labour planned to use the picture — no, not the one Justin took, the other one — for a political poster. Withdrawing the picture seems a bit pointless, since it’s always open to Labour to have an artist recreate it, as have Newsnight and The First Post. And, as the latter suggests, under Gordon Brown’s leadership, Labour won’t have to worry about the Tories retaliating with images Tony Blair’s Oxford days.

I don’t know about Blair’s making rude gestures at the camera — though the BBC’s suggestion that ‘It is also possible he was playing “air guitar”‘ sounds wildly improbable, to put it mildly; the fact he just looks such a twerp would surely have been the greater cause for concern among his present advisors.

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February 22, 2007

Blair’s Iraq interview

Filed under: Blair, Iraq — notsaussure @ 9:11 pm

What is there to say about today’s performance (broadcast here; detailed write-ups here and here)? Benedict White pretty much sums it up in his piece. Time and again, Blair insisted that

I don’t think we should be apologising because we’re not causing the terrorism.
It’s being caused by internal extremists who are linking up with external extremists.

and that

These forces that are operating in Iraq at the moment are not the fault of a lack of planning or administration. It is a deliberate attempt [by] external extremists, like al-Qaida [and] like elements connected to Iran, who are linking up with internal extremists to thwart the will of the majority.

I don’t know why I’m surprised; it’s on a footing with the usual excuses. It’s not, for example, the government’s fault ASBOs aren’t working; it’s the fault of the teenagers who aren’t taking any notice of them. Though, somehow, I don’t think it will have gone down too well at today’s meeting on gun crime if the assembled folks from the police and the Home Office said, ‘We don’t what you’re all looking at us for — it’s those bloody people with guns who’re causing the problems. If it wasn’t for them shooting each each other…’. (more…)

February 4, 2007

Why is Blair staying on?

Filed under: Blair, Politics — notsaussure @ 9:10 pm

He can’t be much enjoying it at the moment, after all. My take on this, for what it’s worth, is — Blair’s desire to go into the record books as part of that select number who’ve been PM for 10 years apart — that he and the senior people in the Labour Party realise that the worst thing he could do — at least as far as either his successor or the Labour Party are concerned — is to stand down this side of the local/Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly elections.

Consider the timetable. I don’t know how long it takes to organise a leadership election in the Labour Party, assuming it is a contested election, but it’s going to take several weeks — during which time, of course, the government would be even more ‘paralysed’ than are the Conservatives complaining it is at the moment. Incidentally, I think the present government’s being ‘paralysed’ is no bad thing; I’d far rather they were incapable for a while of doing anything they’re likely to do.

Anyway, assuming it doesn’t take a ridiculous amount of time to organise a contest, virtually the first thing with which a new leader, whoever he is, would have to deal would be the pasting that Labour will inevitably receive in the forthcoming elections. A new leader, whoever he is, wouldn’t save them from what’s in store come May.

Better by far, a least from Labour’s point of view, is for Blair to step down after the forthcoming debacle, effectively taking the blame for it and thus giving his successor the chance to try to present himself as offering a fresh start. It’ll also mean the leadership elections and subsequent cabinet reshuffle take place during the comparative peace of the summer recess and that the new leader can start the new parliamentary session after the dust has settled and with a severely chastened Parliamentary Labour Party, who realise that they’re in dire danger of losing the next election if they rock the boat too much, behind him.

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