Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bashing Blair, Cabinet Confusion and Other Stories

A quick round-up of some recent commentaries, starting with the Economist's Bagehot on Tony Blair and his Middle-East speech.  Blair has never been the most profound political thinker in the world, and his observation that radical Islam poses a global problem was a little akin to a modern scientist reminding us that the world is round.  Nonetheless, Bagehot begins with the harsh statement that "One of the most hated men in Britain gave a speech on 23rd. April...." Admittedly, the Economist columnist's point was to suggest that while Blair's stock remains low - almost down at banker levels - we should be reminded that he was a giant of his times.  In fact, Bagehot is trying a rather schizophrenic approach to Blair in his column, spending the first half eloquently reminding us why the man is such a political millstone these days, but then trying to recant that view with a less convincing call to recognise his real greatness.  The worst part of Bagehot's contorted approach is at the end, when he seems to suggest that David Cameron is a mere minnow in foreign policy terms because he focuses too relentlessly on pragmatic stuff like trade, while at least Blair had a vision that took him marching dementedly into other countries.  It was at least 'ambitious'.  Er, yes.  I bet the Iraqis, the Afghans, and the countless victims of Blair-Bush Middle-East interventionism are over the moon about the scale of Blair's misconceived and even worse executed 'ambition'.  Cameron?  Wouldn't even send a few planes and troops into Syria, damn his timidity.

Less weightily, but indicative of confusion at the heart of government when faced with the unexpected resignation of a cabinet minister who had been under intense media pressure for days, is a piece that recounts the farcical tale of Nicky Morgan's brief Cabinet career.  30 minutes long, it seems.  Politics Home reports on how the need to replace Maria Miller with a man - Sajid Javid - led to confusion about the "Women's Minister" role.

Incidentally, while Miller showed poor judgement and worse morality in both her initial expenses scam and then her attempted recovery, the whole affair did at least seem to prove that there's no beast bigger or more fearsome in the political jungle than the press.  They may have wittered and whinged about how the Leveson Inquiry was going to damage freedom of the press, consign us to being an authoritarian dictatorship, send us back to the Dark Ages etc., but in fact their ability to handily dispatch a minister still seems pretty potent.  And her replacement is a man who is certainly not going to be putting regulatory bodies in place over the only institution that matters in the body politic.  Which is good news for a free press, and bad news for anyone who happens to get in the way of the next sleazy-but-inaccurate story they choose to print.

Two thoughtful pieces on the Tory and Labour strategies in the last year before an election are printed in the Telegraph and New Statesman respectively.  Benedict Brogan, who appears to have survived the Telegraph cull of real journalists, has an excellent commentary on the fractured nature of current politics, and the opportunity this offers to Cameron to finally reinvent himself successfully.  His comparison of the populist demagogues Farage and Salmond, with their weird mutual love of Vladimir Putin, is particularly apposite, but his conclusion on Cameron is one that should be read with care in No. 10.  Meanwhile, Nick Faith in the New Statesman looks at the difficulties facing American strategist David Axelrod, as he tries to weave some Obama magic around Ed Miliband.  The main problem being that Miliband isn't Obama.  Or anywhere close.  More sort of Jar-Jar Binks without the silly accent.

And on the subject of Jar-Jar, the really big news comes from Deadline Hollywood with their revelation that Harrison Ford could be playing a 'gigantic' role as Han Solo in the new Star Wars film.  Because you wouldn't want to leave anything to chance like, say, a new character or plot-line.

Oh, and if any historians get this far, I've put a little piece with links about the Hungarian Rising on the history blog.  It's worth looking at, really.






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