Magazine article The Spectator

Deeds, Not Words

Magazine article The Spectator

Deeds, Not Words

Article excerpt

There are some people who cannot stick the Prime Minister at any price. They find him phoney, insincere and reeking of greasepaint. They resent his clenched chin, his toothy beam, his awshucks public school self-deprecation. In his perspiring appeals to religion, morality, community and all the rest of it, he reminds some people of an American telly evangelist at the height of his powers, who may or may not be on the brink of exposure for some fraud or scarcely credible sexual dereliction. Nothing Mr Blair ever says or does will shake the belief of such people that he is a mountebank and snake-oil salesman. It is time, however, for an awful admission.

We on this magazine do not entirely share that view of the Prime Minister. At least, we partly share it, but not entirely. Listening to his speech on Tuesday, it was very hard for a conservative free-marketeer, let alone a Thatcherite, to find anything objectionable in what he said. There were passages that were suspicious, and self-aggrandising. But there was nothing that was obviously irrational. Mr Blair's critics will not like the remarks about Africa, in which he seemed to suggest that the massacres of the Great Lakes would not have taken place had he been in Downing Street in the early 1990s. He will be accused of wanting to solve the problems of the world, and having a Jesus complex. These criticisms are in one way true, but also slightly unfair. There is nothing disgraceful, at a time of affluence, for a British prime minister to draw attention to the suffering of Africa.

His analysis of globalisation - that in the end it benefits the poor far more efficiently than the sequestering of national markets - was sound. He voiced unimpeachably right-wing opinions about America: great country, land of opportunity, beacon of hope and freedom, etc. In his moral analysis of terrorism, its causes and how it should be requited, he could not be faulted. For many conservatives and Conservatives, in short, Mr Blair's latest speech may have induced a slightly queasy sensation: that in spite of themselves they are compelled to admire him, and his sentiments.

But how can we admire him? they may be asking themselves, guiltily. He is still a Labour prime minister, advancing a politically correct agenda of chippiness and divisiveness. To all those in such a state of psychological conflict, we respectfully offer this advice. Yes, you may think Mr Blair is good at the words. Don't be ashamed of your feelings. …

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