"All things are wearisome, more than one can say." - Ecclesiastes 1:8

Monday, July 31, 2006

The strange world of Tony Blair

"But for heaven's sake, above all else, lead", said Tony Blair in a seriously bizarre self-assessment of his own leadership style that he made in California before a gathering of Newscorp executives. Yet again, Blair shows his usual traits of sometimes amazing ahistoricism - this is what allows him to see 'new things' everywhere - combined with the air of impatient bewilderment that he adopts when confronted with those who, to his moral astonishment, happen to disagree with him:
"Mass migration requires rules. Biometric technology means that countries are increasingly insisting on biometric visas, which in turn mean biometric passports. A biometric ID card is a short step away. It is, to me at least, almost incredible that the proposal to introduce an identity register in the UK should be so extraordinarily controversial - but it is."
No one with any historical knowledge of how internal passports have been used by various regimes in the twentieth century would find it strange that the prospect of such a scheme so alien to the traditions of British liberty should prove so controversial. Neither would anyone who might care to imagine how this might be used by a future government who might be even less scrupulous, but more competent, than our present collection of Pretty Straight Guys.

He went on to say:
"Political leaders have to back their instinct and lead. The media climate will often be harsh. Non-governmental organisations and pressure groups with single causes can be benevolent, but can also exercise a kind of malign tyranny over the public debate.

For a leader - don't let your ego be carried away by the praise or your spirit diminished by the criticism, and look on each with a very searching eye..."
"Searching eye" indeed! How much searching does an eye have to do before it identifies something so obvious as excessive size? It's difficult to know where to begin with Blair's assessment of his own leadership and his treatment of it as a concept. For one, there seems missing the simple understanding that you're only a leader if people are following you. Missing too is the humility it would require to admit the possibility that not only is it not essential that his 'leadership' should continue, it might even be desirable if it didn't.

But there's a more profound problem with what Blair has said here. After nine years as Prime Minister, Tony Blair does not understand the difference between leadership and government, or rather doesn't understand that they are two different things. Blair thinks it's his job to 'lead' everything - the Labour Party, the country, the 'process of reform', the free world, or whatever.

Of these, only the Labour Party is his responsibility. With regards to everything else, he doesn't seem to have understood that what is required of elected politicians is not that they should lead but that they should govern.

Blair seems to be only capable of understanding his role as 'leading change' in the rules, never in administering the set we already have. How can any person do a job properly if they don't know what their duties are?

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