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OfflineEchoVortex
(hard) member
Registered: 02/06/02
Posts: 859
Last seen: 8 years, 2 months
Has Blair Gone Mad?
    #1417402 - 03/29/03 11:07 PM (13 years, 8 months ago)




Are we witnessing the madness
of Tony Blair?
Matthew Parris


Most of us have experienced the discomfort of watching
a friend go off the rails. At first his oddities are
dismissed as eccentricities. An absurd assertion, a
lunatic conviction, a sudden enthusiasm or
unreasonable fear, are explained as perhaps due to
tiredness, or stress, or natural volatility. We do not want
to face the truth that our friend has cracked up. Finally
we can deny it no longer ? and then it seems so
obvious: the explanation, in retrospect, of so much we
struggled to reconcile.

Sometimes the realisation comes fast and suddenly. It
did for me at university when my Arab fellow student
Ahmed, who for months had been warning me of the
conspiracies of which he suspected we might be
victims, pulled me into his room to show me the
death-ray he could see shining through his window. It
was somebody?s porch-light. Likewise, the madness of
King George III, which came in spells, was undeniable
when it came. At other times the realisation is a slow,
sad dawning of the obvious. Sometimes it is a friend
about whom we worry. Sometimes it is a prime
minister.

I will accept the charge of discourtesy, but not of
flippancy, when I ask whether Tony Blair may now have
become, in a serious sense of that word, unhinged.

Genius and madness are often allied, and nowhere is
this truer than in political leadership. Great leaders
need self-belief in unnatural measure. Simple
fraudsters are rumbled early, but great leaders share
with great confidence tricksters a capacity to be more
than persuaded, but inhabited, by their cause. Almost
inevitably, an inspirational leader spends important
parts of his life certain of the uncertain, convinced of the
undemonstrable.

So do the mentally ill. It can be extremely difficult to
distinguish between a person who is sticking bravely to
a difficult cause whose truth is far from obvious, and a
person who is going crazy. It took us quite a while to
explain David Icke?s beliefs in the only useful way in
which they could be explained ? and he was on the
political fringe. A national leader commands vastly more
respect and will be given the benefit of many more
doubts than Mr Icke ever was. Colleagues,
commentators and the wider public are usually late to
face up to evidence that the boss has gone berserk,
even though the evidence may have been around for
quite some time.

There are good reasons for this. To call somebody mad
is bad manners even when fair comment. To tackle your
opponent?s argument by questioning his sanity can look
like a childish copping-out from sensible discussion.
How can the victim answer back?

But the charge is sometimes germane. It may become
the only thing worth considering. Winston Churchill had
lost the plot long before the proper public discussion
this deserved got under way. And I myself believe that
one of my political heroes, Margaret Thatcher, began to
lose her mental balance well before the end, and before
those close to her allowed themselves to consider this
explanation of her behaviour. For me the suspicion first
dawned when the then Prime Minister devised for the
Lord Mayor?s banquet a dress with such an extravagant
train that she needed someone to help her with it into
the Mansion House. This was when she was beginning
to refer to herself as ?we?, and treating friends who
warned her of her fate as treacherous. A telltale of
incipient insanity is when the victim begins to take a
Manichaean view of the universe.

There are good reasons why those at the top can go
quietly bonkers before their inferiors wake up to the
warning signs. The first is obviously deference. ?The
Madness of King Tony? might ? I accept ? seem an
impertinent way of discussing our leader during a war
when, whatever application it may have in Tony Blair?s
case, it applies to Saddam Hussein in spades.

Beyond deference, however, those at the top of the
pyramid who are anxious to impress us with truths
which are not obvious have another powerful weapon at
their disposal. They can credibly claim to know more
than we can be told. To the man in the street, the most
potent of Mr Blair?s arguments for invading Iraq is that
he and George W. Bush are in possession of special
intelligence which supports their stand but which
cannot be divulged. And no doubt that is true. The
question is about the amount of support such
intelligence lends, not its existence.

Note from your own experience, as well as from the
history books, how those with a claim which sounds
incredible tend to support it by claiming a private source
of information they are unable to share. Joan of Arc
heard voices. Ahmed said he could feel the lethal
qualities of the apparent porch-light and reminded me
that his enemies would obviously decoy the ignorant by
disguising death-rays in this way. One or another
version of God has been a time-honoured way for
madcap leaders to give their actions an authority not
apparent to the five senses of their audiences.
Cornered by reality, ?private sources? are the last refuge
of the deluded.

Is Mr Blair among them? Let me outline some of my
grounds for worry. Any one of these grounds might be
dismissed as negligible, or indicative of nothing more
sinister than conviction; but cumulatively I find them
worrying.

Mr Blair has stopped sounding like a career politician.
He has lost the professional polish of a man doing a
job, and developed that fierce, quiet intensity which,
from long experience of dealing with mad constituents, I
know that the slightly cracked share with the genuinely
convinced. He has lost his feel for whom to confront, or
when and where, and puts himself into situations (like
the slow handclapping by anti-war women) which do
not assist his case. Historians may point to Mr Blair?s
private ? but publicised ? audience with the Pope as
an early sign of a dawning unrealism about the
perceptions of others. Did he this week stop for a
moment to think what impression would be made on
grieving parents by his wild-eyed suggestion (based on
misinformation) that two British soldiers had been
executed by the Iraqis in cold blood?

Blair?s long-standing tendency to compartmentalise
logic (a habit all politicians share to some degree) is
now being pushed to extremes. The speeches the ?old?
Europeans are making ? about giving Iraq more time,
accepting gradual progress and not sticking to a literal
interpretation of earlier demands ? are exactly the
speeches Mr Blair himself gives (persuasively) in
defence of letting the IRA off the decommissioning
hook.

This logic-chopping alarms. The Prime Minister has
lost his sense of how his indignation at Iraqi brutality
jars, coming from someone attacking a country whose
puny forces are grotesquely outgunned by ours. His
anger at the French (whose position has been
consistent and identical to that which Blair held until a
year ago) is inexplicable to those of us who are not
doctors. He displays a demented capacity to convince
himself that it is the other guy who is cheating.

He has started saying things which are not only
unsustainable, but palpably absurd. The throwaway
remark to Parliament that he would ignore Security
Council vetoes which were ?capricious? or
?unreasonable? was more than ill-considered: coming
from a trained lawyer it was stark, staring bonkers. It
was breathtaking. For risibility I would bracket it with
Ahmed?s death-ray. The whole country should have
been crying with laughter. That the British media should
have been mesmerised into reporting him in any other
way still leaves me dumbfounded. No sane lawyer
could have said what Blair said.

He keeps retreating into a hopeless, desperate
optimism: another sign of lunacy. He seems to have
promised the Americans he could deliver Europe, and
told the Europeans he could tame America. There was
scant ground for hope on the first score and none on
the second. The belief that irreconcilables can be
reconciled by one?s personal contacts and powers of
persuasion is a familiar delusion among people who
are not quite right in the head. While each futile promise
is in the process of being demonstrated to be
undeliverable, he goes into a sort of nose-tapping,
?watch this space? denial. When finally the promise is
abandoned he turns insouciantly away ? and makes a
new promise.

This week he has been promising to sort out the
Americans, and persuade them to let the United
Nations supervise the post-conflict administration of
Iraq. He is probably telling the Americans he can sort
out the Security Council. He can do neither. Meanwhile,
he has forgotten that his previous position was that the
coalition partners invaded as agents of the UN anyway,
so it isn?t up to Washington to give permission. Any
bank manager used to dealing with bankrupts with a
pathological shopping habit who have severed contact
with arithmetic will recognise the optimism.

Have the rest of the Cabinet tumbled yet to the
understanding that this may not be about Iraq at all, but
about the Prime Minister? My guess is that those
closest to Mr Blair must be beginning to wonder
privately. It is time people pooled their doubts.

The Times Online


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Offlinefriartuck
Man of God

Registered: 03/29/03
Posts: 2,007
Loc: England
Last seen: 13 years, 25 days
Re: Has Blair Gone Mad? [Re: EchoVortex]
    #1417450 - 03/29/03 11:39 PM (13 years, 8 months ago)

Pretty funny too wordy


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