Category Archives: Blair, Tony

The psychopathology of Tony Blair

Psychiatrists, writes Dalrymple,

are only human (more or less), and it is only natural for them to use their experience of humanity in general to assess important political figures in particular.

For many years Dalrymple puzzled, for example, over Tony Blair. Eventually,

it came to me in an illuminating flash: he was suffering, poor man, from delusions of honesty. He seemed to believe, all the contrary evidence notwithstanding, that he was an honest man.

But

whether this was out of keeping with his culture is another question.

Britain’s spiv economy, polity and society

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Tony Blair: capo di tutti spivvi

The UK House of Commons, Dalrymple reports,

wants to strip [the tycoon] Sir Philip Green of his knighthood because it alleges that he is a spiv.

Dalrymple is

perfectly prepared to believe that he is a spiv, though I cannot claim to have followed his career closely. At the very least he seems to be a man given to vulgar show.

The Saturday supplement of the Financial Times newspaper: for people with more money than taste

The Saturday supplement of the Financial Times newspaper: for people with more money than taste

But Dalrymple asks:

How many members of the British parliament and government are spivs, or hope to become spivs at the end of their political careers? Two of our last three prime ministers were clearly of spiv calibre, one of them indeed to spivs what the capo dei capi is to the Mafia. If Parliament deprived them of their pensions, then it might have done something useful.

Once you grasp the concept of spivvery,

much about modern Britain becomes explicable. You have only to read the Financial Times’ Saturday supplement, How To Spend It, to understand how much of our economy is in essence a spiv economy. The supplement is aimed not at people with more money than sense, but at a group of people far, far worse: people with more money than taste, for whom Sir Philip is a leader of fashion.

David Cameron: clearly of spiv calibre

David Cameron: clearly of spiv calibre

We have, Dalrymple points out,

raised up spivs to the summit of our economy and society.

Moreoever, Britain has a tax system

that turns accountancy into the queen of the sciences.

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Sir Philip Green: leader of fashion

Brains of tinsel

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 13.16.38Turning to the Olympics and

the expenditure of billions on infrastructure that is so soon to crumble to worthlessness and liability, all for the sake of a couple of weeks’ gormless global entertainment,

Dalrymple writes that

only someone with brains of tinsel, such as Mr Blair, the former British prime minister who brought the games to London, could have thought it worthwhile; not as bad, perhaps, as the endless mass parades in Pyongyang, but of a similar genre.

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One of the greatest national emergencies of our time

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 23.27.26Dalrymple reports that the baldness of Wayne Rooney, the footballer, is returning,

despite the many thousands of pounds that he has spent on hair transplantation.

Dalrymple comments:

As Tony Blair said so memorably at the outset of his career as prime minister, we are a young country. Can we seriously afford to have a balding man playing for our national team? Not, of course, that it is very good at what it does.

Rooney ruefully touches the hair of a fellow player in the national team after England's defeat at the hands of Iceland (population 330,000) at the 2016 UEFA European Championship

A rueful Rooney, who suffers from alopecia, enviously examines the full head of hair of a fellow national squad member after England’s defeat at the hands of Iceland (population 330,000, about that of the single English city of Coventry) at the 2016 UEFA European Championship

Blair: dishonesty and dishonour

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Lack of character plus moral grandiosity, a lethal combination

The grandiose are found out by reality, and left squirming

Tony Blair, writes Dalrymple, exhibits

the most frivolous earnestness. He is given to gushes of cheap moral enthusiasm — cheap, that is, for him, not for others who have to pay for it.

Blair has been

exposed as the frog in Æsop’s fable that puffs and puffs himself up in an attempt to prove himself as big as the cow, until he explodes. But we cannot blame him entirely. He is one of us, the new Britons. The least we can do is to put some teddy-bears by the railings outside his home to help him come to terms with his humiliation.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 09.50.34Britain, Dalrymple reminds us, is

of very slight account, with a population increasingly unable to distinguish the trivial from the important and the virtual from the real. It has over several decades undergone profound social and psychological changes, of which Blair is both a symptom and an accelerating cause.

When moral grandiosity meets lack of character,

no good can result. Grandiosity and lack of character are two sides of the same coin. When someone believes that he is born with Original Virtue, he comes to believe that all his opinions, all his ends and all his actions are pure, moral and right. He is able to change from moment to moment, and to act in a completely unscrupulous manner. He may act in contradictory ways and change his opinions to their very opposites, but the purity of motive remains when everything else has disappeared.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 09.19.39Such a person

can have no honour, for honour implies a loyalty to a fixed standard, even or especially when it is not in that person’s immediate or instrumental interest to uphold it.

The lack of character

derives also from the elevation of sensibility over sense and of personal opinion over personal probity. Purity of sentiment and opinion become the whole of virtue, and the louder one expresses it the better the person is; morality is not a discipline and an abjuration but an opportunity to shine in front of one’s peers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 10.23.23Needless to say,

purity of sentiment and opinion are not incompatible with our old and trusted friend, the thirst for power, a combination which naturally enough results in a bullying sentimentality and a self-righteous lack of scruple.

The desire to be

both policeman and lady almoner, General Patton and Gandhi, Rambo and Elizabeth Fry, is not conducive to clear thinking or clear policy.

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What Blair says about the British people

A modern Briton

A modern Briton

One of Blair’s motives for going to war might have been

an eye to his post-retirement value on the very lucrative American lecture circuit.

Blair, Dalrymple notes,

shows a greater avidity for vulgar high living than any recent holder of his office.

Dalrymple says Blair

presents us with a special puzzle. Although by no means an interesting man, in the sense that Doctor Johnson was an interesting man, we all find ourselves thinking about him at frustrating length. He is like a tune, neither loved nor lovely, that one cannot get out of one’s head.

In some ways

he appears to resemble that product of the diseased communist imagination, particularly beloved of Che Guevara, the New Man, at least in the sense that he does not resemble previous generations.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.06.14Blair

is neither honest nor dishonest: he escapes entirely the criteria by which such a judgment of him could be made. To argue with him that what he says or does now is incompatible with what he said or did yesterday is about as fruitful as arguing a paranoid man out of his belief that the secret services of many countries are after him, or that his neighbours are listening to his thoughts through a screening device that they have invented. In short, Blair, having been born with Original Virtue, suffers from delusions of honesty.

Leaders, Dalrymple notes,

grow out of societies and a social context: they do not fall like bolts from the blue. Blair both represents, and is a cause of an acceleration in, a change in character of the British people. He is far from unique in his ability to find the happy coincidence between his thirst for money and power and the highest moral principles.

Anyone who has had dealings with the British public service, Dalrymple points out, will know that the principal qualities required for advancement within it are

  • unceasing sanctimony
  • brazenness
  • a craven dedication to orders from on high
  • an ability to justify a complete change of direction at a moment’s notice
  • a capacity for bullying those lower down the feeding chain, or those jostling for a place at the trough
  • a rigid self-control, to suppress any independence of mind or a tendency to consider the ethics of orders to be implemented

What is required in the civil servant is the ability, for example,

to present cancelled operations as an inestimable benefit to the patients concerned, while at the same time spotting niches for a little commercial activity of his own, whether it be by using the rules of employment to his own financial benefit or setting up a consultancy to advise his former employers.

Dalrymple recently met a public servant

who had risen up the ranks and had about him the air of a successful revolutionary. He travelled to London on the train first class every week (a ticket costs the equivalent of an annual working-class holiday in the sun), and attended sumptuous functions there attended by others such as himself, under the impression that by so doing he was working.

Here was the voice

of militant mediocrity, who expressed himself even in private in the language of Health Service meetings, believing that his large salary and high living at public expense were all for the good of those who paid for them. Just as the countries of Eastern Europe once had their little Stalins, so every department of every branch of the British public service has its little Blairs.

Today the ruling characteristics of the British are

  • deviousness
  • ruthlessness
  • an eye fixed on the main chance
  • sanctimony in the midst of obvious wrongdoing
  • toadying
  • bullying

As late as 1979, the British people, including administrators in hospitals, were largely upright. Some of the old virtues were seen, such as

  • stoicism
  • honesty
  • fortitude
  • irony
  • good humour

These can still be found,

but only in people who are of no importance,

for in Britain, good people

are like a defeated class.

Dalrymple says that

when words become the test of virtue, they also become the masks of vice. That is why sanctimony and ruthless self-interest are such powerful allies.

Blair’s psychodramatics

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 23.32.03The words good and bad faith, writes Dalrymple, have no application in the case of Tony Blair,

for just as a man who has no concept of the truth cannot be a liar, so Mr Blair, whose mind resembles the Goodwin Sands, is incapable of bad faith because he is incapable of good.

Dalrymple has long puzzled over Blair’s

particular psychopathology, which has irritated me because, while Blair is important, he is uninteresting – apart, that is, from his psychopathology.

Blair’s

cardinal symptom is a delusion of honesty.

He

believes himself to be an honest man, all evidence to the contrary.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 23.50.04Along with his

peculiar truth-blindness

goes

an invincible sense of Original Virtue. No action by someone possessed of Original Virtue can besmirch him. He will always be able to reply to his accuser: ‘Surely you cannot believe that I acted from discreditable motives? Even if I was in the wrong, I was, in a deeper sense, in the right.’

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Another great performance — this was pure Blair

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‘I feel deeply and sincerely — in a way that no words can properly convey — the grief and suffering of those who lost ones they loved’

Masterly self-exculpation over Chilcot

Tony Blair, writes Dalrymple,

plays upon the sensibilities of people as upon a pipe.

He suffers, however, Dalrymple points out, from

delusions of honesty.

Blair

keeps inviolable his belief in the existence of a purely beneficent essence of himself, a belief so strong that no quantity of untruthfulness, shady dealings, unscrupulousness, or impropriety can undermine or destroy it. He came into the world marked by Original Virtue.

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Honest as the day is long, with the straightforward truthfulness of a child, and authentic piety. He is, yes, pure, righteous and infinitely beneficent

Starting with an assumption of his infinite beneficence,

he assumes infinite responsibility.

It might be argued, Dalrymple says, that in a demotic age politicians must consent to indignities if they are to be elected.

If so, it is hardly surprising that we repeatedly elect nonentities distinguished only for their ambition and relentless pursuit of office. Unfortunately, mediocrity and ambition often combine with vast self-regard; and there is no better example of it than Blair.

The sorrowing penitent: 'I express more regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe'

The sorrowing and tormented great leader, close to tears: ‘I express more regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe’

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Pure genius: he came into the world marked by Original Virtue. To those who died in Iraq, and to their families, he says: ‘I will be with you, whatever.’ Or he may have said that to George W. Bush. No matter — such words are a comfort

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A saintly kind of essence: he is full of pity and understanding for the victims of infelicitous wars for which he cannot, in all reasonableness, be personally blamed but for which he is prepared to take responsibility out of largeness of spirit

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Manly, and at the same time unafraid to give voice to an almost feminine compassion for the wretched of the earth, such as those who, most unfortunately, may have found themselves in the path of his bombs: ‘I take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse. I express my profound regret at the loss of life and the grief it has caused the families, and I will set out the lessons I believe future leaders can learn from my experience’

Twin corruptors of the NHS

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 19.27.49Discussing the spectacular rise in the cost of the UK healthcare system, Dalrymple writes:

First Margaret Thatcher (inadvertently) then Tony Blair (deliberately) corrupted our civil service—Thatcher by allowing the bureaucrats to pretend that they were businessmen, with perquisites to match; Blair by expanding this class of persons enormously, creating a powerful political lobby.

The British system

is now capable of absorbing infinite amounts of money with minimal benefit to the health of the population, though with great benefit to the pocketbooks of those who work in it.

Every ad agency’s dream

With Gerry Adams at the Bobby Sands and James Connolly commemorationSome observations on the next prime minister of Great Britain

Jeremy Corbyn, writes Dalrymple, has throughout his years in the House of Commons

voted for his beliefs, not for his career,

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.34.30refusing to join

the majority of the MPs at the trough of expenses.

While Tony Blair, for instance, is a public egalitarian in search of a private fortune, Corbyn is no hypocrite. He

lives his ideals. He is a man of grinding and unnerving integrity, a man of such probity that he would let the heavens fall so long as his version of social justice was done.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.40.08There is, says Dalrymple,

not a bien pensant cause in sight to which Corbyn does not wholeheartedly subscribe with the uncritical belief of an apostle, and for which he would be unprepared to go to the stake.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.28.50A point in his favour is that he does not appear to be

a man of erudition, culture or literary talent.

Another plus is

his evident authenticity by comparison with other politicians, most of whom are as synthetic as the toys that used to be put in cereal packets.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 15.39.09This dour monomaniac dresses

like a social worker from the 1970s, but at least it is from his own choice, not that of a public relations firm. He is genuine. He is not the product of an advertising agency, and by self-evidently not being such a product he is an advertising agency’s dream.

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