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Bryan Appleyard on Tony Blair

I have just added Bryan Appleyard’s blog to my personal blogroll, here, this being one of several recent reasons why:

He has been the greatest politician of his generation and a truly awful Prime Minister. This distinction can be made so clearly in his case because he has so successfully separated the acquisition and sustenance of power from its exercise. Having made his crucial mistake – not sacking Brown – ten years ago, Blair has effectively been unable to do anything domestically. Brown has blocked or wrecked every initiative. Meanwhile, New Labour’s management ineptitude has produced one financial catastrophe after another – the NHS computer, tax credits and so on. This has driven Blair to undertake foreign adventures and to redefine politics not as what actually happens but as a combination of what is said and the tedious, personality-driven soap opera of Westminster. …

As for Blair’s recent Labour Party Conference fairwell triumph:

Blair’s speech was, thus, a cosmetic masterpiece – piss and wind, basically – and no more. …

I don’t know if Blair has “done up Brown like a kipper”, as is earlier proclaimed in the paragraph quoted from above. Time will tell. But separating “the acquisition and sustenance of power from its exercise” is central to understanding Blair and the Blair era.

However, the essence of the Blair message throughout has been “I’m not like those appalling Conservative gits”, and now that the Conservatives seem to have found their own version of Blair, similarly ingratiating to the voters, similarly obsessed with getting power and similarly indifferent to doing anything worthwhile with it, Blair may be leaving the stage at just the right moment.

My thanks to Stephen Pollard for alerting me to the Appleyard blog.

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11 comments to Bryan Appleyard on Tony Blair

  • Nick M

    Brian (and Bryan),

    Bravo! That is so on the money.

    I must read Mr Appleyard more often. I always enjoyed him in the Sunday Times back when I used to buy print media.

  • guy herbert

    If only it were true. Had this government actually been paralysed and done nothing since 1997, it could have my vote. In reality it has been the most revolutionary government since Henry VIII.

  • Many thanks for the mention. I shall check back here often.

  • Nick M


    I simply don’t buy that. Labour have not really achieved anything since week 1 when they made the Bank of England inderpendent. Yeah, they’ve screwed a few things up but they have failed to unscrew many more things.

    Remember “Education, Education, Education”. That was (allegedly) like priority #1 and all they’ve done is tinker really. What happened to the ten year transport plan? What about an energy policy? What about fox-hunting? The ban was popular with the electorate and NewLab had a stonking majority and it still took them years to get the law through.

    The only bloody thing they’ve managed to do is to put up taxes. They are a sixth-form debating society pretending to be a government.

    And no, Dave wouldn’t be much better.

    Which leaves us in a bit of a quandry, really.

    The Lib Dems have shown themselves as the joke they truly are. The BNP are evil nutters. The Greens are totally cracked and UKIP are viewed as a bunch of single-issue obsessives. I quite like them but they ain’t got a chance.

    And people wonder why I didn’t vote last time around…

    So next time around it looks like a choice between two incredibly dull solicitors from Fife who both want to rob me even more or Tim-Nice-But-Dim. With an outside chance that it’s Anybody But Gordon. Who the fucking hell is Alan Johnson? David Millipede (who in a decent country would have been dragged out into the street and shot years ago)? John “no longer a commie” Reid?

    A true rogue’s gallery.

    PS. This is a rant but I caught part of Millibland’s speech at the Lab conference on TV and almost had an apoplexy. He’s got a website somewhere. Check it out if you wanna vomit on your keyboard.

  • RAB

    Well I’m with Guy on this one.
    This, in my opinion, is the worst Government in my living memory, and I’ve survived a few real stinkers. Wilson and Heath leap to mind.
    The things that NuLab has done is all destructive.
    Devolution is the main one.
    I was hunkered down in a Cottage in Shropshire working my way through a bottle of single Malt watching the returns on the Referendums coming in from Scotland and Wales.
    I didn’t hold out much hope for Scotland rejecting the idea(we all know how bloody minded and anti-English they are) but I did hope that my fellow countrymen in Wales would see sense.
    I was all set to pour myself a large one in celebration of the defeat of this nonsense, (the returns were very much against up to this point) when the last result came in from my old home town of Caerphilly.
    This was also the constituency of that lying little thug Ron Davies.
    Well the referendum was magically carried by 6000 votes (I swear that Ron rigged that vote.)
    On something like a 30% turnout of the electorate Wales got an Assembly.
    Now NuLabs brainless belief in this was that it was all cosmetic. Scotland and Wales always votes Labour doesn’t it so they will continue to do so.
    Oops! Now the fourth raters are flinging their weight about. Plaid Cymri may well win in the upcoming elections! And in Scotland, the flat out Commies are in charge (nothing crypto about that bunch).
    I have witnessed the destruction of the United Kingdom as I knew it. Scotland is about a decade away from splitting altogether. It is a disaster!
    So does anyone think that when Cameron gets in, he is going to announce the abolition of those pointless Parliaments? In a pig’s eye!
    Gordon Brown, the safe pair of hands (sic) , has raised taxes almost to Wilsonian levels, ruined the pention funds of millions, managed to sell half our gold stocks at the bottom of the market, and still gets lauded.
    Education? Dont make me laugh! This government has forgotten what is for (if they ever knew). We have been going down the road of institutionalised certified stupidity for thirty years now since the abolition of Grammars.
    Health!!? More money will make you well, appears to be the mantra .Wrong.
    Immigration? Never heard of it squire.
    Freedom of speech? We are watching you white middle class folk very carefully, unlike our Muslim friends who all vote for us.
    I could rant on too Nick M but I have to go bath the dog. Unlike this Govt I know how to be constructive!

  • James

    Appleyard’s book “Brave New Worlds” was a waste of good time I’ll never get back, but he’s right about the Ford Ranger (even if mine is currently up on jack stands waiting for me to change the brake discs).

  • Nick M

    Well RAB,

    Yes I guess there is the devolution thing. Being English I’d forgot about that piece of insanity.

    A proper federal republic in the British Isles might have been a player but this half-assed fuck-up is a complete embarassment.

    I’m not sure mind. As a little kid I grew up through Wilson, Heath and Sunny Jim. Well… Ever been to Newcastle? They’ve got a great big deparetment store called Fenwicks, During the 70s strikes it was lit with sodding candles.

    This has never happened under Blair. Which is why I have to disagree with your summation. We have had worse governments…

    And I’m with Basil on this.

    Altogeher now, “Harold-bloody-Wilson”

    What happened to TSR2? What happened to Blue Streak and Black Arrow? What happened to P1154?

    Bloody Wilson.

    Wedgie Benn promised the “white heat of the technological revolution” then canceled all our top-line aerospace programs.

    The Gov ordered BAC to burn the mainly Al and Mg frameworks of the TSR2s, They went up like roman candles.

    I saw one of the two remaining airframes at Duxford. What a piece of work. What a tragedy.

    Wilson was a wanker tetrated.

  • RAB

    Ha!! the white heat of technological revolution indeed Nick!! As a reader of Air Pictorial at the time, I was well pissed off about TSR 2 etc.
    I used to talk to Mr Wilson occasionally back then.
    No I’m not joking as usual. I grew up in the same neighbourhood as Viscount Tonapandy and used to play football outside his bungalow in Heath Park.
    Well George would come out for a walk in the park, and we’d all say hello Mr Thomas, and he’d say hello to us.
    Invariably soon after, “Mam” would come out and ask us to find George cos ‘arold was on the phone. I was about 13 or so. Sometimes I talked to him cos the message was too complicated for Mam to convey to us.
    Then when she’d given us sixpence as a reward, we’d go find him and tell him what Harold wanted.
    Mobile phones would have been a boon back then, but you would never have had the likes of Tony Benn endorsing them. I still hate him for the Marine Broadcasting Offences act that sunk my beloved Pirates.( Main reason for abolition. They interfere with emergency service broadcasts. Utter crap!!) They faded in and out like buggery in Wales.
    There were great times to be had back then though too, in the adversarial way we all had to put up with things together.
    One of my fondest memories is of Lady Bay Road in West Bridgeford (we students had a house next door to the chip shop, and accross the road from the pub. Student Nirvana in those days!)
    The power cuts would come twice a day and three or four times a week. Sodding Candles indeed!.
    This one night it was mid winter and snowing hard and settled in nicely. “The right kind of snow” as it were.
    The power went off, in the middle of your favorite track or tv prog natch, and the whole street said sod this and went outside for a snowball fight that lasted hours!
    Then we all went to the Lady Bay, which had gravity pumps still, so no lack of electricity could affect them. Played dominoes and darts by hurricane lamps and candles and had a brilliant time!
    This bunch are not scuppered by falling expectations and lack of resourses, but a deliberate fuck the electorate! who are they anyway attitude.
    Back then they were trying to do their best but didn’t have a clue.
    Now they know exactly what their doing, but couldn’t give a shit.

  • Nick M


    West Bridgeford. Well dunno what that was like in your day but when I was at Notts Uni it was way to posh and I lived, inevitably in Lenton.

    Lived in a massively subdivided gaff on the Park Estate and then a house on Lenton Boulevard. For some reason there was a tampon stuck to the ceiling. Stayed there all year.

    Apparently, if you drop a tampon in a glass of water and throw it hard enough at the ceiling it sticks via capilliary action – or so I was told by Andy, who was a med student in the house… Ah the long winter nights simply flew back then.

  • Nick M writes:

    So next time around it looks like a choice between two incredibly dull solicitors from Fife who both want to rob me even more or Tim-Nice-But-Dim.

    As a long-time reader and only very occasional commenter, this might be a bit presumptious, but – could I nominate a quote for the day?

    Re: the TSR-2 – both of my parents worked in defense electronics in the 60s, and saw their work destroyed… it switched them from Labour to Conservative, which at the time was a meaningful and probably good thing. Every cloud has a silver lining for someone.

  • Nick M



    What truly outraged me about TSR-2 was that the last thing the workers were ordered to do (before being sacked in many cases) was burn the airframes and jigs.

    Although to be honest I suspect the cancelation of P-1154 was as bad (although to a large extent the fault of inter-service bickering rather than Harold Bloody Wilson). Think about it in the context of the F-35B entering service 2012.