26 September 2006

A Tough Act To Follow

So the ITV commentator said of Tony Blair's valedictory address to the Labour Party Conference, and illustrated his point with a camera shot of Gordon Brown grinning feebly as the soon-to-be former Prime Minister wowed the masses with a masterful blend of sop and sentiment that seemed to to leave many of the party faithful wondering just why they wanted to get rid of this guy in the first place.

Blair's going will leave a large vacuum in the Labour Party, much as Thatcher's did to the Conservatives. The difference is that Blair, who I'm beginning to think is even a sharper politician than Lady T, has managed to get the crowds missing him before he's even gone. While Thatcher pretty much had to be bludgeoned and dragged away from the seat of power, and to brood in exile for a good while before the Tories realised that bumbling along under John Major or William Hague or Ian Duncan-Smith was never going to be quite the same, Blair has pulled the plug on his own Premiership before it could be done for him.

Or rather, he promised he would do it at some unspecified date, and then set about saying his long, agonised goodbye-in-advance that had many pundits tonight wondering if perhaps Labour might reverse itself and decide that it's better off with its charismatic incumbent than his competent but drab challenger. "How can I miss you if you won't go away?" the old saying (or was it a song) went, but Blair seems to have reversed that equation: where only a few weeks ago demands that he leave sooner rather than later were reaching a crescendo, he's now in a position where the more he promises to go away, the more likely it becomes that he'll be asked to stay.

Will he? Probably not, though I'm sure he'd get a good laugh out of the look on Gordon Brown's face if the prize were snatched away from him yet one more time (and probably for the final time; if Blair were to manage to wriggle out of this one and hang onto power for another year or three, Brown would be finished, or at least reduced to a laughingstock). And while I, like most people, have grown weary of Blair, the contrast between his speech and Brown's on the previous day was dramatic. While Brown plodded through a formless mush of clich├ęs and catch phrases, Blair was positively electrifying. I was going to call him Kennedyesque, but he was more statesmanlike that that. Not quite Churchillian, perhaps, but in the ballpark, with a dash of General MacArthur's "Old soldiers never die" farewell thrown in for good measure. Both Brown and Tory leader David Cameron come across as pygmies by comparison.


Eric said...

I quite agree. He has managed to secure a peaceful transition of power.The speech wasn't quite good enough to get him another three eyars- but maybe just about enough to last until May without complaint. And I think even vague comparisons to Churchill are perhaps an example of well meaning hyperbole. But is was undoubtedly good for him and how he will be remembered. It is thus less damaging for his party- so it has a chance of winning. And a peaceful transition is what is in the interest of the British people- and that is what is most important of all.

kendra said...

peaceful? ha! labour's going to self-destruct, and it pains me to say that. i will be sad if gordon brown is pushed out, but it looks like that's what's going to hapen.