Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world

FROM BLAIR TO BREXIT

How are these linked, apart from history? Could it be that the installation of Blair as labour leader ushered in an era of truth-bending in which distrust of government grew and grew and grew? And so this year, when government made a massive effort to persuade the nation that ‘Nanny knows best’ the response was rejection. Nanny was seen to have done a lousy job for a long time and was properly kicked in the teeth.

Commentators on the Chilcot report have said that it only tells us what we have known emotionally for a long time. We knew (some of us) that Blair was a man so convinced of his own rightness that he ignored unwanted opinions or evidence. Why did he do so? Because he is a very clever, able man (look at his wealth) and knows it. I was always amazed at the way he could make contradictory promises and convince people that both were deliverable. I came to the conclusion that whatever he said he actually believed at that moment, in his own mind, to be true. He is the epitome of the Scott Fitzgerald quote “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”. It was a disaster that John Smith died young to be succeeded by Blair.

In the Blair period the concept of ‘spin’ developed. Leaders have always sought to influence their followers, and told half-truths to do so. It works if the people are convinced enough to do what is required and if the end result is obviously beneficial. (In WWII we were told many half-truths to keep up morale.)  Under Blair the practice became slick and widespread and was used to pursue personal goals. Those in power came to believe that they did not need to listen to the popular voice because they could always manipulate it. The Brexit vote had many causes, but one of them was disgust at the long-term failure of government to acknowledge popular feeling.

Disregard of popular feeling was well expressed by Allister Heath in the Daily Telegraph of 7th July. Writing of the banking crisis. “It violated the basic principle….that the rules of the money-making game are fair. People who work hard and take risks are entitled to make money”. What the public saw, writes Heath, was banks being bailed out with public money, and those in charge when the crisis was building walking away with millions – and nothing being done about it  The headline of this piece includes the statement “Our government doesn’t work well”.

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