Friday, 10 July 2009

Can Tony's faith save the planet?

GLIB. Smug. Blue-eyed, vapid, slightly open-mouthed stare, almost life-size, from the Sunday supplements.
Yes, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is back among us. Hard to believe it’s two years since he went away.
Hard to believe such a light-weight was so record-breakingly successful as leader of the party that had been Labour.
That he ever had the political clout to take Britain to war against the wishes of so many of its electorate – and its elected.
That he should have become the world’s most highly-paid after-dinner speaker (one speech roughly equivalent to a week’s work for the world’s best footballer).
That having been seen (rightly, in my view) as one of the villains of the Iraq war, he could then see himself as a potential saviour of the Middle East.
That he could ever be so self-deluding as to see himself as a world statesman. And, more astonishingly, be taken at that face value by other world leaders.
Maybe that’s the thing about leaders. Look at them closely and you see how ordinary, how essentially second-rate, most of them are.
Adolf Hitler was a failed sign-painter with an insignificant background, mediocre school report and paltry war record.
Josef Stalin was a provincial thug, gang-leader and bank-robber.
Ronald Reagan was a B-movie actor who once co-starred with a chimp.
And Tony Blair was a pushy kid from a minor public (i.e. private) school where, according to his biographer John Rentoul: “All the teachers I spoke to said he was a complete pain in the backside and they were very glad to see the back of him.”
As we all were in 2007 after enduring ten years of his patronising, Tony-knows-best leadership.
The thing is, I think Tony really does believe he knows best.
Changing the rules of the Labour Party to strengthen his position as leader? For the best.
Deleting the party’s defining commitment to public ownership in order to flog off or give away more of the country’s assets than even Maggie Thatcher countenanced? For the best, obviously (well, it was probably obvious to Tony).
Lying about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction? Not really a lie, ladies and gentlemen, because we had to get rid of that nasty Mr Hussein anyway, didn’t we? So it was all for the best.
And now here he is back, after two years of being conspicuous by his invisibility in his role as Middle East envoy.
Back in the old messianic mode. Back to save the world again. Back to tell us, once again, what must be done.
And you know what? He’s right. Sort of.
The trouble is, as he starts lecturing us about climate change and the need to do something about it, can we forget his past record for self-aggrandisement? For glib untruths?
When he says that, recession or no recession, “we will just have to find a way” to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions he’s absolutely right.
But of course with Blair you can never get away from the self-preening personal pronoun.
“I first put climate change on the G8 agenda in 2005,” he says.
True – up to a point. It was hardly a new issue in 2005. It had been on the agenda of serious science for at least 40 years by then and could hardly have been news even to politicians.
Now he says: “For years, the emphasis has rightly been on persuading people that there must be sufficient will to tackle climate change. But leaders, struggling to cope with this challenge even amid economic crisis, need to know that there is also a way.”
Again, this is true – up to a point.
And the point is that Blair – the man who had faith in the ‘dodgy dossier’ on Iraq, faith enough to convert to Catholicism, faith above all in himself – is again relying on faith.
Faith in science, and the application of science, that goes far beyond that of almost all scientists.
For, incredibly, he appears to believe that global warming can be staved off without anyone having to give up their excessive lifestyles. Without greed and consumerism being reined in.
“The answer to climate change is the development of science and technology. Yes, we will get changes in the way we consume but we will be consuming differently, not necessarily less.”
Ah, so that’s OK then. We can leave it all to the scientists. And of course to good old Tony and all those other wonderful world leaders.
Oh no, we can’t.
Not just because their record up to now has been so woeful.
And not just because they’re all as fallible, self-deluding and selfish as the rest of us.
But because while technology does have to play a part in whatever future we may have – so do we. Every last one of us.

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