Magazine article The Spectator

Blairophobes May Indeed Be Crazy, Mr Aaronovitch, but They Aren't Stupid

Magazine article The Spectator

Blairophobes May Indeed Be Crazy, Mr Aaronovitch, but They Aren't Stupid

Article excerpt

David Aaronovitch writes for the Guardian. He has suggested ('Why do they hate Blair so much?', 18 May) that opposition to Tony Blair has driven some of us crazy. I fear Mr Aaronovitch is right, and will try to explain why.

His argument is straightforward and, though directed more to Mr Blair's critics on the Labour Left than on the Tory Right, it has application too to Conservatives like me.

Essentially, says Aaronovitch, we Blairophobes are in denial. We cannot accept what in our hearts we secretly fear: that Blair is right and - worse - that Blair has won. We therefore continue in a fool's paradise where the present Prime Minister's apparent successes are only hollow and will shortly be exploded; where Blair himself is a kind of vacuum and will shortly implode; and where the Gods of the Copybook Headings (according to the Left the truths of Marxian class analysis; according to the Right the virtues of small-state laissez-faire capitalism) will shortly come down from the mountain to break up the Blairite feast in honour of his Third Way golden calf, and re-establish the eternal verities we had temporarily forgotten.

I must say I do recognise in this caricature something both of myself and of some of my friends on the Labour Left. The Left keep thinking that New Labour is all falling apart, yet it never quite does. As for me, I wrote in the Sun seven years ago that readers should tear my column out of their newspaper, put it in a drawer, and return to it in 12 months' time - whereupon they would recognise that the man they had at first worshipped as the prophet of a new dawn for Britain had within a year become one of the most hated men in the land.

Every year or two I write a column announcing a slight delay to this timetable but insisting that it will all come to pass just as I have written. I am still saying this. I still believe it. I am beginning to resemble those sandwich-board men you used to see on Oxford Street in London, announcing that the end of the world was nigh.

And what particularly baffles people like Mr Aaronovitch is that all this furious prophecy and denunciation has been provoked not by some towering ideologue in the process of tearing society apart and rebuilding it according to some fanatical new model, but by an essentially alliance-seeking character whose manner is amiable, whose smile is perennial, and whose direction seems patient, rational and in many ways centrist.

The Iraq war, Aaronovitch would concede, rather strains that picture of our Prime Minister, but I agree with him that loathing of Mr Blair by many of his critics preceded the Iraqi adventure; they saw the war as just a new and grisly example of what they had been warning of all along.

So let me say where I think David Aaronovitch is right, but why what he overlooks matters so urgently, and ought to matter so urgently, to the Blairophobes.

He is right that Blair is not a wild extremist, and that broadly speaking (and excepting Iraq) the cumulative effect of his seven years as Prime Minister has been, by comparison with the 'old' Labour alternative, benign or at least neutral. Here of course I must part company with the Left: as a Conservative I rejoice that the present government, which might have been much more revolutionary, has fiddled around with and begun to erode the achievements of Thatcherism, but can hardly be said to have launched a frontal assault. …

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