Friday 29 January 2010

Today's Chilcot Winners - Johnson & Harman

Listening to the Chilcot enquiry today, you can almost imagine him squiriming in deep discomfort as the questions came raining in. Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, wishing it would all be over soon. It's an ordeal which must raise grave doubts about his future, especially when those who haven't yet seen or heard today's events tune in to the highlights on the evening news.

What's that? Blair? Oh no, I didn't mean Blair, I was referring to Gordon Brown.

It's two and a half years since the vast majority of British voters have heard Tony Blair speak so publicy. They will have mostly forgotten how smooth a speaker he is, how persuasive and erudite his demeanour, and how effortlessly he handles public pressure.

Here he is, over the course of six hours, being relentlessly quizzed, with the spotlight of the world's media on him, and with an anti-war contingent hanging on every syllable for signs of error, contrition, or weakness.

Yet he has let almost nothing past his guard and has instead appeared confident, measured and, most importantly, honest. Whether it is the real Blair on show or just the skilled actor only he will truly know, but the public perception, far from being the high profile slaying some were hoping for will, I suspect, be largely positive.

And perhaps importantly, today's performance will highlight the noticeable differences between Blair and Brown, which should make Gordon feel rather uneasy.

Blair didn't litter his answers with ums and errs like Brown, there was no stumbling over words, or mid-sentence corrections. Nope, his quick mind considered each question, paused if need be, before delivering his responses with consummate eloquence.

Contrast this with Gordon's monotone communication. His regular flustered gaffes. Blair wouldn't have blundered into claims to have saved the world, or have boasted of spending increases of zero per cent. When Blair speaks, he chirps, while with Brown, one hears the murmur of storm clouds in the background.

For many, hearing and seeing Blair again in a public setting will merely emphasize how very poor Brown, the communicator, is in this new era of personality politics.

There is talk of Blair joining Labour on the campaign trail for the general election, but if I were Brown, and I intended to remain as leader of the Labour party until polling day, I would want Blair as far away as possible. His presence would only serve to remind the electorate that if they vote Labour, they won't be getting the jewel in the party's crown, but the fake Rolex with a cracked face and a stuttering minute hand.

As such, Blair's testimony will have been welcomed by any pretender to Brown's leadership. Anything that detracts from the PM's public approval can only be good news for the likes of Alan Johnson and Harriet Harman, and when Brown takes the stand at the same enquiry, the gulf in class will only be further illustrated if Brown can't match Blair's unflustered ease ... which he won't.

The re-emergence of Tony Blair into the public eye today could have the effect of hastening Brown's exit ... because he's just, well, not Tony. I'd have thought that Johnson and Harman, maybe ickle Miliband too, will be quietly pleased at the day's events.

While the Tories will just be hoping that any potential coup comes later rather than sooner.


Oldrightie said...

The BOTOX was weird.

Captain Ranty said...

I watched almost all of it. (I missed the kick off).

This was a polished performance. It was done by a master. I looked and listened but I couldn't see or hear any sign of rehearsed answers.

He was very good, and I find that galling. (Having to praise the bastard, I mean).

You are spot on though-Gordon looks and sounds like complete dipshit in comparison.


RB said...

Quite right, the difference between them is a chasm. One that stretches between one scary place and another. Neither have any redeeming feratures in my opinion.

My own view of watching the whole thing was that Blair was indeed rehearsed. He had themes he came back to time and time again, often off topic of the question asked of him.

I found him not very persuasive, not becasue I believe in conspiracy or hold strong views about some of the issues, like many do. WHat I found so disappointing, but expected, from the start was the appalling presidential nature of this man. We are supposed to have cabinet government in this country, but not once did Blair say "the consensus view", or even "we", or the "governement felt". From the off it was "I thought", "my judgment" "I believed" and the whole performance laid bare the ethos of Blair's time as PM. Add to this the clear fact now that the cabinet had little input and scant documentation supplied to it and what you have is Blair laid bare.

He really doe think he is a demi-god and it is just appalling to hear him talk about the Iraq disaster including such huge loss of life and suffering in the context of his decision making. A less collegiate man would be hard to find and leadership like that is dangerous, as it has proved to be with him, and now with Broon.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TB was one of the most ineffective and meaningless Prime Ministers of all time.

At least GB can lay claim to having really f***ed things up (while Chancellor or as PM), rather than having ridden some happy wave of NICEness and done some fairly pointless and minor things like invade a country which none of us care about or could locate on a map.

When people study history in future, GB is the interesting one, not TB. Further, GB appears to have undergone a personality transplant recently (some say he has had a stroke) and he is a force to be reckoned with.

Dick Puddlecote said...

"TB was one of the most ineffective and meaningless Prime Ministers of all time"

Hey, I wasn't defending him. It's the stark difference in delivery which will strike a chord in a celebrity-obsessed public, not policies.

Today they will have been given a reminder of how it's done properly and how Brown is not a patch.

And if they forget, Brown will remind them again when it's his turn in front of Chilcot. ;-)

JohnRS said...

A lie a minute. Just like old times. I'm sure he's on the short list for an Oscar after today's perfromance.

But you're right about what the rest of GB's cabinet will have been thinking all day - the clunking great waste of space looks even more out of his depth in comparison to Master of Slime. Another abortive coup in a couple of weeks time would be nice, or even just more rumblings of discontent.

TheFatBigot said...

What we saw from Blair today was, I think, not acting but advocacy. He was arguing a case just as a good QC will argue a case in court.

He might not have practised at the Bar for long but an indication of his likely capabilities is that his brother was a top QC and is now (entirely on merit) a High Court Judge.

Of course there is an element of acting involved but the difference is that the actor only reads the lines, the advocate writes them as well.

One of the most important skills for an advocate is to be able to put forward a case you believe to be balderdash with not just a straight face but a sense of conviction. Like every sensible person in the country, Blair knows the dodgy dossier was full of unsupportable overstatements and that the 45 minute thing was nothing less than a lie. He was not there today to tell the truth but to support a case. He did it jolly well.

How he would have fared before a well-prepared and strong cross-examiner is a different thing entirely. He got the same soft ride he got before the Hutton commission. Neither tribunal issued a single serious challenge to anything he said and the limited challenges were not followed-up as they would be by a strong cross-examiner.

Brown, of course, can bluster and hunt for notes when asked "Are you the Prime Minister?" Whether he could stand up better than Blair to real cross-examination will never be known because neither of them will be subjected to it.