Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Trial of Tony Blair


It was a genius programme. ‘The Trial of Tony Blair’ came closer to illustrating the true nature of the Blair legacy than acres of newsprint. Starring Robert Lindsay as the increasingly tormented premier (perhaps a little artistic licence there, in the suggestion of Blair’s personal torment), the programme imagined a post-resignation Blair facing a possible war crimes tribunal. Lindsay brilliantly conveyed a man shorn of the trappings of power, but still subject to the delusion of importance. There was poignancy in the depiction of Blair striding around his huge new office, in the company of just two aides, his phone obstinately refusing to ring, and his only task the dictation of his self-justificatory memoirs.

There were some fine touches too. Who could not take grim satisfaction at the idea of Blair, arriving at a police station to be charged, and being confronted with the humiliating procedure of his own police laws as he submitted to a mouth swab for DNA samples? Or of a neglected Blair in casualty, his wife saying that “They’re not telling us anything”? (That scene, by the way, occasioned a great exchange between the fictional Tony and Cherie. As she has to remind him that there is no such thing as a private casualty ward, he replies “How did we let that get by?”)

The supporting performance of a dour Gordon Brown was well realised too – particularly a cringe inducing scene that showed him during the election meeting a group of primary schoolchildren, and clinging desperately to his one line of small talk, “And what’s your name?”. The Brown Blair relationship was also illustrated in all its painful glory, particularly when Blair cuttingly tells Brown that “You and charisma have always been strangers to each other haven’t you?”. A brilliant cameo of David Cameron added lustre. Accompanied by his sloaney advisers, Fiona and Zoe, we saw him ‘getting down with the kids’ and giving the full pseudy Cameron treatment.

But it is the plight of Blair that is central to this gem of a drama. Since he’s a British prime minister who supported an American action it is unlikely that he will face the war crimes tribunal imagined by the drama’s writers. But the question to what extent a prime minister should face the consequences of his actions remains an intriguing one, and this programme raised it sharply, and brilliantly.

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