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Monday, June 02, 2003

Political rhetoric

Many notable politicians start as statesmen and deteriorate into tyrants. A good example is Robert Mugabe: once the hope of Zimbabwe, now its scourge. He long ago lost touch with reality.

Yesterday, I read an article by Andrew Rawnsley contrasting the achievements of the first and second Blair governments. In general, I had to agree with the writer's analysis: initially, there was substantial and worthwhile progress. Andrew Rawnsley writes things are presently unfolding, it is much more likely that the rollcall of change in his second term will look a lot less impressive compared with a first term in which the Government actually did a substantial amount. The national minimum wage, a Labour goal since Keir Hardie led the party, was established. Power to set interest rates was handed over to the Bank of England. Political parties were banned from trawling for cash abroad and compelled to publish a list of their donors.

The hereditaries - well, most of them - were finally expelled from the House of Lords. The privatised utilities were taxed to fund the New Deal for the young unemployed. Scotland got its Parliament, and Wales an Assembly. London was given a mayor, even if it wasn't the mayor who Tony Blair wanted.

The IRA went on ceasefire, the Good Friday Agreement was brokered and Northern Ireland's first-ever all-inclusive government was created. The Human Rights Act was passed. The age of consent for homosexuals was equalised with heterosexuals. The police were, for the first time, subject to race- relations law. Handguns were banned. Extra help was concentrated on poorer pensioners. Britain opted into the European Social Charter. Primary-school class sizes and standards improved. The internal market in the health service was abolished.
This second stint has so far been very unsatisfactory. There have been two loud warnings to us, besides the dubious justification of actions in and relating to Iraq. Firstly, the Blair speech about feeling the hand of history on his shoulder. Squirm. The second, in talking to the troops in Iraq, the rascal spoke of the Iraq war as being a defining moment of the century. Double squirm.

We haven't had two and a half years of the century, yet. Mr B liar is too far up his own exhaust pipe. When politicians are carried away by their own rhetoric, we are wise to get them to think of spending more time with their families. One can forgive quite a lot but not delusions of grandeur. With his moral fervour allied to a messianic nature, with his thoughts already on his legacy, he reminds me of one of the worst African dictators in the making. Thank heavens we'll be able to chuck Blair out one day but he's still got a long time to go. Perhaps his party will see the danger signs...

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