|What We Think||Tony sorts out the world|
It is a hallmark of most politicians who lack grip over the affairs for which they are responsible that they deflect attention from their failures by grand public postures, preferably on the international scene or connected with some armed conflict or other in which they can strut the world as figures of "strength", "purpose" and "resolution". If some "patriotic" dimension can be given to the act, all the better: a situation of "national emergency" can be invoked. Politicians know that in such situations people's critical faculties can be numbed, or at least voluntarily suppressed. It is a time when "we all have to pull together" - meaning that any dissenting voice can quickly be slapped down as "disloyalty" and even "treason". It is also a time when the midgets of politics can assume heroically gigantic proportions merely by way of the scale of the scenarios in which they are cast.
Tony Blair and the functionaries of "New Labour" know all this only too well. They are skilled in nothing if not "spin". To them, "image" is all important. The public perception of them as moulded by the mass media is infinitely more relevant and vital to them than the reality of their actual deeds. If focus on the latter is allowed for any prolonged period of time, they shrink to their natural dimensions, which are those of utterly useless, incompetent and failed jobsworths - many fathoms out of their depth in the handling of the real national problems that are their proper province and which they are promoted and paid to deal with. That is why for them, the world crisis occasioned by the terrorist attacks on the United States is a heaven-sent opportunity, almost a deliverance. For Blair in particular, it is a photo-call unique in its possibilities even by comparison with the Diana funeral in 1997, when Tony of the quivering lip was able to parade his grief and sympathy before a nation whipped up into maudlin frenzy by a media circus in part quite cynically manipulated by his own press office. Then, of course, the Blair administration was new and scarcely tried; now it is tired, faded and badly discredited by its singular lack of achievement in virtually every branch of national affairs. In place of the "Bambi" expression of four years ago, there has been the worn and washed-out look of a leader stumbling from one domestic fiasco to another, desperate to find a new trick to focus attention elsewhere.
Then on the 11th September there came salvation. Both international and national politics became an entirely new "ball game". The issues of yesterday seemed to shrivel into insignificance beside the dominant issue of world terrorism and how to meet it.
Tony experienced rebirth. The failed prime minister of a failed government, presiding over disgraced public services in which virtually nothing ran properly, became transformed into a world statesman, strutting the capitals and conferring with the eminences of every power, great and minor, speechifying to mankind and conjuring up visions of a perfect universe of peace, plenty, reason and brotherly love - if only all nations, races, creeds and factions would embrace the Blair vision of the liberal utopia, a prospect about as realistic as the flight of pigs, but mesmeric in its effects on the legions of mindless boobies comprising Tony's natural constituency.
But in the midst of all this a rude jolt was provided by a small incident which, once known, badly soiled the beautiful picture. A hitherto obscure apparatchik in the grossly inflated Blair bureaucracy, one Jo Moore, sent out an e-mailed memo confessing how welcome the death and destruction in America had been to the government because it provided a big smokescreen under which items of news unfavourable to Blair & Co. could be released with much reduced public notice taken of them. Entirely without Miss Moore's intention, this blew up into a major national scandal, which embarrassed the government far more than all the news items in question added together. And of course the source of the embarrassment was the commonly recognised truth that Miss Moore was not just speaking for herself, but was reflecting the mentality of the whole apparatus of government of which she was just a small part.
All common sense dictated that Jo should immediately be sacked for her appalling gaffe but, as we should know by now, nobody gets sacked from Tony Blair's gravy train. Blair himself dismissed the e-mail as "horrible and wrong and stupid". But there the matter ended. Why? The popular view in the media world seems to be that, if the lady got anything more than a ritual ticking off, she would spill the beans on her superiors while probably providing evidence that what she said was general gospel throughout the corridors of political power. For once, we think the media probably have a point - because the memo was all of a piece with everything the government has been doing since it took office in 1997, and is indeed confirmed by Tony's current global headline-grabbing. But for these theatrics, British minds might be focused with much greater concentration on real British problems, which pile up ever more embarrassingly as its premier seeks to bring order to the planet.
Chaos at home
Let us remind ourselves of a few of these. Our health service has now become much more than a shambles from which many thousands of patients suffer; it has now become a source of national humiliation as those who can afford it travel to France or Germany to get the treatment they cannot get at home. Yet after years of national hand-wringing over this gross failure of government there seems no sign that things are getting any better. Complete paralysis rules where the country is crying out for action.
In the field of public transport, things go from bad to worse - the latest symptom being the collapse of Railtrack. It is not that the nation is lacking in awareness of what has to be done, only that there is a seemingly total lack of will to do it.
And in education much the same story is present. Standards are the lowest in Europe, probably in the developed world, but again paralysis prevails.
British manufacturing industry continues in its ever steepening decline. Last month 5,000 jobs were lost in what remains of Rolls Royce - once the world leader in the production of motor and aero-engines but now a shadow of its former self, with the motor car section having passed under German ownership. Aero-engine orders are suffering, and this is blamed on the slump in air travel following the disasters in the United States: but the real culprit is the global economy and the way in which successive governments have failed to protect the industry against foreign competition, while denying it the investment necessary to its sustenance and growth. National leadership in proper command of the economy, and with a policy and a will, would cope with these problems, but to New Labour they are only of minor concern beside the opportunity for Tony to pontificate and gesture before the world's TV cameras with his quack solutions to conflicts of which he has little understanding.
And while all this is happening the flood of immigrants into overcrowded Britain continues unabated, with government at a total loss either to stop it or even to explain why it is not being stopped. Here is a genuine national crisis, which calls out for firm leadership and firm action, but our boss man is abroad sorting out other people's problems. Even in the one place where those problems genuinely affect us and where we can do something about them - namely in respect of the uncomfortable numbers of Islamic terrorists and their supporters residing within our own borders - the limit of the government's capacity seems to be to reaffirm how much we owe to Britain's Muslim community and how innocent its members are of any complicity in hijackings and murders around the world.
Britain's fifth column
The true reality behind these pious out-pourings was revealed by The Sunday Times (hardly a "racist" paper) in a report on the 21st October which focused on Muslims in Britain seeking to join the terrorist army of Osama bin Laden. Two from East London were interviewed in Pakistan, where they declared their readiness to kill for Islam. Just how many more there are in our midst is beyond calculation, but one stated that our own British army was unwittingly facilitating training for some militants: "Prominent clerics in East London mosques," the report said, "had encouraged men to enlist to train for the jihad (holy war)." One of the men said he knew 10-15 people, including "British" soldiers, who had left this country to fight.
The brutal reality is that out of a Muslim population in Britain officially acknowledged to be two million (in truth probably far larger) there is an incalculable number sympathetic to Islamic terrorism and ready to take part in it. This fifth column exists right in our midst because Tony Blair's government, with its liberal immigration policy and its commitment to multi-racialism, allows it to exist. If Blair wants to do something to combat terrorism, instead of his present globe-trotting he would be far better advised to come home and get on with the job of sorting out Britain - beginning with the would-be terrorists within our own borders.