Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A regular sort of guy

I can think of only one person who would use the phrase “a regular sort of guy” without any intended irony.
In fact I remember him saying it about himself, and not just once.
That person is, of course, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, former prime minister of this realm.
And like so much of the rubbish that has passed his lips before, during and since his term of office, I'm sure he believed it.
It's a symptom of what has been called his “messiah complex” – I said it, so it must be true!
Neither of those phrases (regular or messiah) is exactly original in respect to Blair.
But apparently they're good enough for the author Robert Harris. A man who was once a friend of Blair's and who, it's probably safe to say, isn't now.
I found Harris’s what-if-the-Nazis-had-won novel Fatherland thoroughly gripping when I read it, many moons ago.
And if I can’t really comment on his more recent bestseller The Ghost, that’s at least partly because I didn’t fancy a book about Blair. Or someone curiously like him – a deposed PM accused of war crimes.
Harris has now told Total Politics magazine that Blair seemed a regular sort of guy when they first met in the 1990s, but that becoming PM had changed him.
“Who knew he would become a great friend of George Bush and would want to keep bombing people?” he asked.
Who indeed?
Moving on to his life post-Downing Street, Harris accuses his old mucker of being “passionately interested in making money” and living “this strange life with the billionaire super-rich on yachts and private jets”.
It’s all to do with what Harris identifies as the former leader’s narcissism.
Which makes it all the more bizarre that Harris says it was “a tragedy” for Britain and the Labour Party that Blair quit national politics after being forced out of No 10 in 2007.
The truly sad thing is that he was ever in politics at all.
With possibly only another year to run, is the government running out of steam?
Casting an eye over what, electorate willing, may be their last Queen’s Speech I could find only one Bill to get really angry about.
That was the coyly named Infrastructure Bill. Which is the one that will give free rein to companies engaging in shale gas mining. Or fracking, as it’s better known.
Once again the Tories have listened only to moneyed interests and ignored the impartial advice of experts.
People such as Professor David Smythe of Glasgow University, who offered detailed evidence of how fracking could seriously contaminate water sources.
And that, of course, is only one of the potential dangers.
Would you want big, mostly foreign-owned, mining companies fracking under your home?
If the Infrastructure Bill becomes law – and it’s hard to see who’ll stop it – they won’t need your permission.
We’re on the verge of the biggest party in football – arguably in all of world sport. And I nearly forgot to mention it.
I was going to fill this space with an interesting anecdote about birds and mobile phones. (That’ll have to wait until next week. Bet you can’t wait.)
Can it be that I’m getting old? Tired, not of life certainly, but of football.
Of course, England have precious little chance of going far into the tournament, but that’s never killed my enthusiasm before.
Yes, the on-going shenanigans over the choice of Qatar to host in 2022 have cast a sorry shadow over everything to do with Fifa, the game’s governing body.
Yes, there are real worries over Brazil’s fitness to stage the contest its teams have graced more than any others over the years. The stadiums may not all be ready, the transport chaotic, the natives justifiably restless at the expense of money that might have been put to better use.
Yes, the best players may be too shattered to play well, if not actually injured.
And yes, international football may be of a lower standard than the club game, where players aren’t virtual strangers to each other.
But heck, this is the World Cup.
I should be excited, itching for it, like any self-respecting football nut.
My interest will probably perk up once the action kicks off on Thursday. Probably.

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