Why We Still Love The People’s Première

In that auto­bi­o­graphy you may pos­sibly have noticed former British PM Tony Blair is cur­rently tout­ing, the one called ‘A Journey’ (a title that mas­ter­fully cap­tures the sub­limely faux mod­esty of its sub­ject), Blair com­pares him­self to Princess Di.

“We were both, in our own way, manip­u­lat­ors” — good at grasp­ing the feel­ings of oth­ers and instinct­ively play­ing on them.’

The papers of course have seized on the People’s Premier’s can­did­ness, mak­ing head­lines out of it.  That and his obser­va­tion (con­veyed in a kind of morse prose) that Gordon Brown had: “Political cal­cu­la­tion, yes. Political feel­ings, no. Analytical intel­li­gence, abso­lutely. Emotional intel­li­gence, zero.”  And also his claim that he knew Gord’s premi­er­ship would likely be ‘a dis­aster.’

I agree with Tony.  Or rather, Tony agrees with moi.  Back in 2006, when Brown’s bizarre (and now con­veni­ently for­got­ten) pop­ular­ity with the media was rampant, just before his coron­a­tion as Labour Leader, I pre­dicted, with Cassandrine accur­acy, that Brown would be a dis­astrous leader of the Labour Party and that he had in fact already lost the next General Election.  I also com­pared Brown and Blair to Charles and Di, call­ing Brown an ‘oper­ator’ and Blair a ‘great manipulator’.

Of course, it didn’t really take much insight to see all that com­ing, even if most of the media couldn’t at the time.  But in the piece I talked about how Blair’s ‘lying’ was what made him a much more suc­cess­ful, much more pop­u­lar politi­cian than Brown – who was very, very bad at it.  Which is not to say that Brown was a much more hon­est man – just that he wouldn’t and couldn’t per­form for us.

Admitting he lied is not a mis­take Blair is likely to ever make. Blair’s spe­cial tal­ent, the thing that puts him ahead of most other politi­cians, cer­tainly in British polit­ical his­tory, is that he can con­vince him­self his lies are lit­er­ally the god’s hon­est truth, at least for as long as he’s telling us them. And – truth be told – in his mind, he never actu­ally ‘lies’ to us at all. He’s an actor – an actor of the Stanlislavsky school: the emo­tion he shows us is ‘true’, it’s just usu­ally attached to some­thing that is not. This is why he’s such a great per­former and politi­cian – we appre­ci­ate and are flattered by the energy and the psy­chosis he puts into his per­form­ances. He is a great manipulator…’.

Brown on the other hand is a great oper­ator. And oper­at­ors, unlike manip­u­lat­ors, are pain­ful to watch. They resent hav­ing to manip­u­late us and we resent hav­ing to watch them resent­ing hav­ing to manip­u­late us. Tony is Princess Di to Brown’s Prince Charles. Brown, who tells us he is ‘quite private’ and who prefers ‘sub­stance over celebrity’ as if these were reas­ons why we should be inter­ested in him, clearly wants power but he doesn’t really want to become the thing that power is in this medi­ated day and age: an actor. He won’t be for­given for that by the electorate/audience.’

Brown’s des­per­ate agree­ment to appear in those Election X Factor shows – in which David Cameron and Nick Clegg, both thespian heirs to Blair, shone with their ‘look, guys’ sin­cere insin­cer­ity – only threw his bor­ing manse inflex­ib­il­ity into even more pain­ful relief.  The elect­or­ate treated him with Cowellian dis­dain (the most damning thing of all was that those listen­ing on the radio thought Brown had won the debates).

And even in the polit­ical after­life the emo­tional gulf between Brown and Blair per­sists.  Blair of course is pas­sion­ately hated, where Brown is merely des­pised. Or worse, pit­ied.

Doesn’t he look OLD?’ we spit, when Blair pops up in the papers or on telly, usu­ally to tell us with those raised eye­brows how he doesn’t regret any­thing and didn’t fib about any­thing either, hon­estly guys.  ‘Hasn’t he aged BADLY?’ we gloat, pre­tend­ing to be bey­ond his charms now.  But actu­ally sound­ing just like a bit­ter ex try­ing to con­vince them­selves that their former amore fell apart after the affair ended after he turned out to be sleep­ing with the au pair.

Truth is, Blair still has that Diana star qual­ity – partly because he is still a great manip­u­lator, but mostly because it’s so dif­fi­cult to work out which side of the reason/unreason line he’s on these days.  You can’t but watch with rapt atten­tion, try­ing to divine the con­tent of his (Catholic) soul.

Oh Do Stop Nailing Blair to the Cross: He Enjoys It

Tony Blair’s Jesus Christ Sings Edith Piaf per­form­ance yes­ter­day at The Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, giv­ing testi­mony at the Chilcot enquiry into Britain’s involve­ment in the Iraq War, dis­ap­poin­ted a lot of people who hoped he would get nailed, or at least express a few regrets.

I’m not one of them.  Now, I enjoy a good scour­ging as much as the next man, espe­cially in the wake of a war that has cost so many lives, but it seems to me that the expect­a­tions of the media and pub­lic played into Blair’s (stig­mata) hands.  Tone the Catholic con­vert bar­ris­ter excels at cru­ci­fix­ions and turned in a per­form­ance Mel Gibson would envy yes­ter­day, hanging from the cross of his ‘belief’ that ‘remov­ing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do’.  For all the spears in his side, noth­ing was made to stick.  He won’t need to rise on the third day because unlike Our Lord Jesus Christ he didn’t die — instead he thrived.

Besides, the thing that many if not most people in the UK long to pin on him – per­sonal and com­plete respons­ib­il­ity for our involve­ment in a dis­astrous US war – isn’t some­thing that can be really pinned on any one British politi­cian, how­ever annoy­ing his grin.  It has to be pinned on his­tory.  The his­tory of the UK’s ‘spe­cial rela­tion­ship’ with the United States.

Blair is more than happy to play the self-aggrandising role he’s been allot­ted by pub­lic opin­ion and the pub­lic is only fur­ther infuri­ated by the evid­ence of this.  Blair of course inter­prets his role not as The Man Who Invaded Iraq Illegally And Has Blood on His Hands, but as The International Statesman Burdened by Heavy Responsibilities, Special Knowledge and Big Decisions Reluctantly Made to Guarantee Our and An Ungrateful World’s Safety.  But it’s essen­tially the same role: A big­ger one than he deserves.  Blair is a much more piti­ful fig­ure than most of his enemies are will­ing to admit.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be offer­ing Blair a vinegar-soaked sponge, but scape­goat­ing him as all sides of the polit­ical spec­trum want to do – He lied to us!  He was syco­phantic to Bush!  A poodle!  A nar­ciss­ist! – obscures the lar­ger, much more pain­ful issue: that the UK invaded Iraq not because of weapons of mass destruc­tion.  Nor Al Qaeda.  Nor Saddam’s tyranny.  Nor Zionism.  Nor even for oil.  And cer­tainly not because Tony Blair is a weak man or a strong man.  No, in the final ana­lysis there was only one reason why we invaded Iraq. Because the US wanted us to.

Jump is what mil­it­ary satel­lites of imper­ial powers do when their mas­ter tells them to, and it’s very dif­fi­cult to ima­gine that any other British Prime Minister since 1940, with the pos­sible excep­tion of Harold Wilson (and look what happened to him – you can be sure that Blair did) could have said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to Uncle Sam’s kind invit­a­tion, espe­cially after it had been attacked on 9–11 (the fact that Saddam had noth­ing to do with that attack is irrel­ev­ant — or at least it was for America’s need for ven­geance).  The Tories cer­tainly wouldn’t have done, and their attempts now to wriggle out of their enthu­si­astic sup­port for the war –without which Blair would not have won his Commons war vote – by bleat­ing about being ‘misled’ by Blair is just shame­less opportunism.

The former premier that Blair most calls to mind is Anthony Eden, who was forced out of office after the dis­aster of Suez in 1956.  Eden bigged up Nasser as a ‘mon­ster’ threat­en­ing his own people and The World – and also fam­ously lied to Parliament to jus­tify  inva­sion, but this isn’t why he was shamed and shunned, even more so than Blair.  By fatally mis­judging America’s wishes Eden had rubbed the UK’s nose in its post-war sub­ject status.  Suez was actu­ally a much more ‘jus­ti­fi­able’ war from the point of view of British interests than Iraq –  the canal was British and French owned and the route to (what was left of) the Empire.

But the Americans were not amused: they were com­pet­ing with the USSR at the time for anti-colonial cred and told us to bog off home. And we did, pronto.  Eden was so reviled at home not for lying as many claimed, or even for los­ing, but because he suc­ceeded in mak­ing it embar­rass­ingly clear to every­one, most espe­cially the French, that the UK no longer had a sov­er­eign for­eign policy.  He shamed us in the world’s eyes.  In our own eyes.

Likewise with Blair.  Those loud com­plaints about Blair’s ‘syco­phancy’ to George Bush over Iraq – well, really it’s mostly about how we don’t like to be reminded of our national syco­phancy towards US interests, unavoid­able as it may very well be.  Sometimes its that very unavoid­ab­il­ity that makes it so painful.

Blair, ever the actor, decided to make a vir­tue of what was essen­tially a polit­ical neces­sity.  Being some­thing of a devotee of the Method School, he prob­ably even suc­ceeded in con­vin­cing him­self of that neces­sity: and yes, doing so meant that, like Thatcher before him the US gave him a global stage to preen upon.  But this is what the US has done to the UK since the Second World War.  As a mil­it­ary satel­lite of the US – or giant American air­craft car­rier, as the great American anti-imperialist Gore Vidal puts it – we’ve been bigged up by US power as a way of fur­ther pro­ject­ing that power around the world.  Like, say, Austria-Hungary was by Germany in the early Twentieth Century, but with slightly less inter­est­ing headgear.  As a res­ult we have remained far too big for our post-Imperial, post-industrial, post-everything breeches.  Though we of course prefer to term it: ‘punch­ing above our weight’.  As if punch­ing above your weight was some­thing clever.  Even when you’re not tee­ter­ing as we now are on the verge of bankruptcy.

In hind­sight, to save our sens­ib­il­it­ies Blair should have made it look like the UK wasn’t so easy.  He should have made Bush wine and dine us more – and put up more of a vir­tu­ous struggle before giv­ing Bush everything he wanted and was going to get any­way.  Instead Tone seems to have gone the whole way on the first date.  We feel cheap instead of ‘special’.

True, the way Blair and his min­ions set about ter­ror­ising us and his own party with fairy stor­ies of WMDs was very naughty indeed, but as he now cheer­fully admits, if it hadn’t been WMDs it would have been some­thing else.  After all, we elect politi­cians to lie to us.  And did any­one, apart from David Aaronovitch, really believe any of it?  Something else that shouldn’t be for­got­ten: Blair would prob­ably still be in power and only hated by a small ‘bit­ter’ minor­ity of the British pub­lic if the US occu­pa­tion of Iraq hadn’t gone so spec­tac­u­larly awry – he was remem­ber, like his mas­ter Bush, feted by the press and much of the pub­lic in the imme­di­ate after­math of the inva­sion. They only fell out of favour when they seemed like losers rather than winners.

Nailing Blair to the cross of Iraq now won’t change what happened, or even stop some­thing like it hap­pen­ing again.  In fact, by obscur­ing the real nature of our ‘spe­cial rela­tion­ship’ with the US and instead blam­ing one man’s weak­ness and men­dacity, it may make it easier for it to hap­pen again.

And it is already hap­pen­ing again. In a war that threatens to make Iraq look like a pic­nic.  Despite all the dis­cus­sion and debate in the UK media about why we’re still in Afghanistan after eight years, what we hope to achieve, and what tac­tics should be employed, every­one in the media knows – but doesn’t say – there is only one reason why we’re in Afghanistan.  Because the Americans are. Everything else is hot air.  Or, in the case of Brown’s claims that the war in Afghanistan has to be fought to stop ter­ror­ist attacks in London: another 45 Minute WMD lie that no one believes.  After the UK dis­tin­guished itself in the 7/7 London bus and tube bomb­ings as being the only coun­try in the world that has suc­ceeded in rais­ing, hous­ing and edu­cat­ing its own sui­cide bombers, every­one knows that the real prob­lem the UK faces with rad­ical Islamism is homegrown.

Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time of the Iraq Invasion and now Prime Minister in large part because of Blair’s unpop­ular­ity over Iraq, is very for­tu­nate to have US imper­ial interests rep­res­en­ted these days by someone much more appeal­ing and per­suas­ive than George W Bush.  Someone who gets handed plaudits and Nobel Peace Prizes just for being elec­ted.  But how­ever nice his smile is, the Emperor is the Emperor and our troops must still die for him.  Why are we send­ing even more troops to Afghanistan?  To lib­er­ate women, build power plants, and stop people being blown up on London buses?  No.  They’re going because Barack ‘I-didn’t-vote-for-that-war!’ Obama says so.

Blair should be held to account for his actions of course, but we shouldn’t fall for his self-aggrandising view of him­self and his­tory.  Even if it takes our mind off the rather vul­gar details of the ‘spe­cial rela­tion­ship’ and how embar­rass­ingly, van­ish­ingly small our influ­ence is over our transat­lantic boss.

© Mark Simpson 2010

Dame Democracy is a Size Queen

This week British PM Tony Blair is finally hand­ing over the reins of Government to former Chancellor Gordon Brown’s ‘big clunk­ing fists’. Despite what they say about what big fists mean (big sur­gical gloves), it remains to be seen what exactly is under our Scottish premier’s kilt.


It won’t be until New Labour’s newly crowned king stands over the vent­il­a­tion grill of the next General Election that Gordon will be revealed as either toss­ing a big fat caber of a man­date — or merely an embar­rass­ing minority.

Tony Blair must be won­der­ing where all the love went. Ten years on Tone, who once spor­ted a poll so big that it caused a ‘land­slide’, whose whop­ping major­itys made pseph­o­lo­gists faint, is now largely reviled by voters and widely seen as Bush’s pussy.

New Labour hopes that good old Gordo will reignite the kind of pas­sion that people once had for their party — and indeed there is some spec­u­la­tion on him call­ing an early elec­tion. My money how­ever is on Brown prov­ing, in the pri­vacy of the polling booth, to be an immense disappointment.

Here’s a piece pub­lished just before his elec­tion in June 1997 which attempts to explain the fickle­ness of the elect­or­ate — with a final pre­dic­tion about Mr Blair’s repu­ta­tion that proved rather accur­ate. Even if it took ten years.

Cock au vote

by Mark Simpson

(Originally appeared in Attitude magazine, 1997)

Dame Democracy is a bit of a size queen.

Actually, she’s a lot of a size queen. The vital stat­ist­ics she’s really inter­ested in are not the size of the money sup­ply or the rate of infla­tion, but the heft of a politician’s inflat­able. All those graphs, stat­ist­ics and ‘swin­gomet­ers’ on elec­tion pro­grams are try­ing to answer the only ques­tion that anyone’s really inter­ested in: which can­did­ate is hung like a baby’s arm?

And like a lot of size queens, Dame Democracy instinct­ively feels that men with faces like a bag of span­ners are more likely to be pack­ing a big­ger mon­key wrench. This is why we vote for men — and they usu­ally are men — that you might be for­given for think­ing no-one, except the occa­sional bimbo with The News of the World’s tele­phone num­ber and a cocaine habit to sup­port, would lay if they were the last suit left stand­ing at the office party.

Of course, there are excep­tions: Kennedy was a looker and still made the Presidency of the United States. But the American pub­lic was swayed by the fact that his father had one of the largest pen­ises in the American Underworld, and Jack’s encour­aging habit of fuck­ing everything that moved (includ­ing one or two things that didn’t, such as Cuba and Vietnam).

Nixon was a man who strut­ted around like the proud pos­sessor of a real tonsil-teaser. Perhaps this is why he was elec­ted in 1969. However, a spe­cial Senate Committee was set up to invest­ig­ate the true dimen­sions of his mas­cu­line vir­tue, call­ing wit­nesses and threat­en­ing to sub poena cer­tain ‘tapes’ which, it was rumoured, would reveal the ‘whole pic­ture’ and the full extent of his naughtiness.

Exposed as a liar, Tricky Dicky spent the rest of his life in dis­grace, prov­ing that there’s noth­ing the pub­lic hates more than a pussy-teaser who doesn’t deliver in the luncheon-truncheon depart­ment. His suc­cessor, Gerald Ford, didn’t meas­ure up either, des­pite the encour­aging impres­sion con­veyed by his habit of los­ing his bal­ance and fall­ing for­wards whenever he became excited.

President Carter, it goes without say­ing, had the smal­lest penis in the his­tory of American demo­cracy. Political sci­ent­ists had to employ high-powered optical instru­ments to loc­ate it. The American pub­lic was ini­tially fooled by his lazy, self-satisfied Southern Drawl and his intim­ate know­ledge of farm­ing prac­tises, but Afghanistan and the Iranian host­age crisis soon revealed him for the short dick man he was.

So the US dumped Jimmy and plumped for Ronald ‘It’s Morning in America and I’ve got a woody’ Reagan whose vir­il­ity was so enorm­ous that it even prom­ised to reach out into space, where it’s vast, hi-tech dome would pro­tect America from pen­et­ra­tion by Russian war­heads, and even­tu­ally cow the Reds into sub­mis­sion. Which indeed it did. Even if it actu­ally belonged to Nancy.

That his Republican suc­cessor was called ‘Bush’ was hubris indeed. Despite his ream­ing of Saddam in the Gulf War, it was inev­it­able that someone called ‘Slick Willy’ would force him to sub­mit. By the same token, Dole was never in with a chance in 1996 as his name rhymed with ‘hole’.

The last British leader to sport a world-class weapon was Winston Churchill, a man who didn’t need to read for­eign muck like Freud to under­stand what suck­ing on a Havana cigar could do for his pub­lic image. But then we lost an Empire and gained Clement Attlee, someone Churchill once described as ‘a harm­less, pen­isless, grass-grazing creature in the cloth­ing of a harm­less, pen­isless, grass-grazing creature’.

Sir Anthony Eden lost his dig­nity up the Suez Canal in 1956 but his suc­cessor Harold Macmillan thought he knew what the pub­lic liked when he crowed that we’d ‘never had it so good.’ Even though he was a prom­isingly tall man with large feet, the punters decided that they had had it bet­ter, actu­ally, and dumped him for Harold Wilson who smoked a big black pipe.

But Wilson suffered a for­eign exchange crisis which shrank the ‘penis in his pocket‘ and even­tu­ally lost to Heath who had the biggest nose in British polit­ical his­tory but who led us into an unwill­ing three­some with Europe and its gar­licky vagina dentata. Happily, he was brought to his knees by the stal­wart miners (stiffened no doubt by being raised on Attlee’s free school milk, which did much to ensure the full mus­cu­lar devel­op­ment of the lower orders).

So Wilson won again, but sud­denly cut him­self off only two years into his term of office. Callaghan plugged the gap but des­pite palling around with the TUC big boys he never quite got over this psy­cho­lo­gical blow and was forced into the hands of Jeremy Thorpe and the Liberals who mas­saged his frail major­ity for him.

Little won­der then that he was no match for Margaret Thatcher, a woman with the largest penis since Winston, her idol. Indeed it is rumoured that her penis was Winston’s (which after his death had been pickled in a jar at Conservative Central Office for the day when England would need it to rise again).

But Thatcher proved that even in the greedy world of polit­ics you can have too much of a good thing. The Poll Tax and EMU had noth­ing to do with her down­fall. In-party jeal­ousy over her gar­gan­tuan Hampton Wick was to blame. Excessive endow­ment, you see, can blow up in your face (see also Alan Clark and Michael Portillo).

To appease the humming-bird tend­ency and heal the rifts in the party, Maggie’s suc­cessor, John Major, was chosen pre­cisely because, des­pite his brag­ging name, he pos­sessed an even smal­ler penis than Jim Callaghan. After being trampled on for years by Maggie Stryker, Major was a man that the Tories could at last look down to.

That he man­aged to defeat Neil Kinnock, a bald Welshman with a large nose who played rugby is fur­ther evid­ence that size alone isn’t always the determ­in­ing factor. Sometimes the elect­or­ate will choose a man with a smal­ler penis simply because he doesn’t have red pubes. Shape and sym­metry also count for some­thing. Despite a con­sensus amongst pseph­o­lo­gists that Blair’s mem­brum virile is big­ger than Major’s Minor, there does appear to be some anxi­ety as to the actual width and weight of his instru­ment and whether it is one of those nasty num­bers that has an unex­pec­ted bend to the left.

Whoever Britain’s next Prime Minister is, and whatever the dimen­sions of his elect­oral tackle, it seems inev­it­able that Dame Democracy’s atti­tude will even­tu­ally echo that of Michelle, a tranny friend of mine who always crows about the size of her latest amour’s penis, only to announce, usu­ally about a week later, that she’s no longer see­ing him, say­ing: ‘Oh, I didn’t like ‘im any­way — ‘e ‘ad a really small dick.’

Copyright Mark Simpson 2007

Gordon Isn’t a Moron — But He’s a Terrible Liar

Gordon Brown, Labour’s leader-in-waiting, can’t win the next elec­tion. This week’s address to the Labour Party Conference might as well have been his speech con­ced­ing vic­tory to David Cameron.

Why is Gordie such a liab­il­ity? Not because of the dis­dain­ful ver­dict of dodgy Newsnight focus groups, or his recent impa­tient unleash­ing of political-suicide bombers on Number 10, or even because his Conference speech with its lib­eral use of the word ‘aspir­a­tions’ soun­ded like that of an ambi­tious TUC chief, but because he’s such a bad liar.

The proof? The most embar­rass­ing, excru­ci­at­ing lie from that speech – “It has been a priv­ilege for me to work with and for the most suc­cess­ful ever leader and Labour prime min­is­ter” – has dom­in­ated the cov­er­age of it.

That it should have been Cherie Blair, wife of the most suc­cess­ful ever lying Prime Ministers in British his­tory who poin­ted this out to the world is entirely appro­pri­ate. After all, she must, by now, be some­thing of an expert. She was though entirely right when she claimed she was mis­heard: she didn’t say, ‘Well, that’s a lie.’, you see. What she actu­ally said was, ‘God, you’re such a bad liar’.

Certainly, we all squirmed and tut­ted when we heard him. It may or may not have been an endorse­ment that was wrung out of Gordon by the applic­a­tion of a hot poker to the Chancellor’s red box, but it was def­in­itely tor­ture for the rest of us. Even though Tony has yet to relin­quish the reigns of power, and des­pite the fact that we’re all, in one way or another, as tired of him as he now looks, it was dif­fi­cult watch­ing Brown’s near-autistic deliv­ery not to feel like we were miss­ing Tone already. A feel­ing only enhanced by Blair’s Hollywood per­form­ance the fol­low­ing day, com­plete with his trade­mark, quavery-voiced sin­cere insin­cer­ity and impress­ively shame­less use of the word ‘truth’ in the first few seconds of his final speech to Conference.

Those who com­plained that ‘Blair lied to us!’ after it emerged that there those Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq were so fiendishly well-hidden that they, er, actu­ally didn’t exist at all, slightly miss the point. It’s his job. Tone has been so suc­cess­ful and so pop­u­lar for so long pre­cisely because he lies, and lies so well. Even after he has been caught lying in Lying Town, as with Iraq, he comes up with other lies that are equally if not more per­suas­ive, or at least moment­ar­ily divert­ing. He was, if you remem­ber, re-elected with another thump­ing major­ity after the crim­inal Iraq débâcle.

Iraq aside, Tone usu­ally tells us the lies we want to hear – and he tells them extremely con­vin­cingly. That’s what a politician’s job is. That’s what we elect them for. That’s what ‘aspir­a­tions’, the things Brown kept refer­ring to in his speech, really are. Otherwise known as ‘illu­sions’. It’s the basis of most rela­tion­ships. Like most suf­fer­ing wives, how­ever, what we don’t like and will not tol­er­ate is hav­ing our faces rubbed in it . This is why the Hungarian PM and Blair pal Ferenc Gyurcsany got into such a pickle. Not because he lied but because he admit­ted – even behind closed doors – that he lied.

Admitting he lied is not a mis­take Blair is likely to ever make. Blair’s spe­cial tal­ent, the thing that puts him ahead of most other politi­cians, cer­tainly in British polit­ical his­tory, is that he can con­vince him­self his lies are lit­er­ally the god’s hon­est truth, at least for as long as he’s telling us them. And – truth be told – in his mind, he never actu­ally ‘lies’ to us at all. He’s an actor – an actor of the Stanlislavsky school: the emo­tion he shows us is ‘true’, it’s just usu­ally attached to some­thing that is not. This is why he’s such a great per­former and politi­cian – we appre­ci­ate and are flattered by the energy and the psy­chosis he puts into his per­form­ances. He is a great manip­u­lator. (His final tear-jerking address to the Labour faith­ful demon­strated that.)

Brown on the other hand is a great oper­ator. And oper­at­ors, unlike manip­u­lat­ors, are pain­ful to watch. They resent hav­ing to manip­u­late us and we resent hav­ing to watch them resent­ing hav­ing to manip­u­late us. Tony is Princess Di to Brown’s Prince Charles. Brown, who tells us he is ‘quite private’ and who prefers ‘sub­stance over celebrity’ as if these were reas­ons why we should be inter­ested in him, clearly wants power but he doesn’t really want to become the thing that power is in this medi­ated day and age: an actor. He won’t be for­given for that by the electorate/audience. Clearly he will lie and lie to get the top job and to keep it – he has already proved this to us by care­fully par­rot­ing Tony’s lies about Iraq, for example – but unlike Tony he won’t do us the cour­tesy of lying con­vin­cingly, let alone entertainingly.

The deliv­ery of his speech yes­ter­day was full of visual proof of this. I have no idea what Brown is like in the flesh, but on telly – i.e. the real world – Brown looks like a loser. Dead, hooded eyes which offer no con­tact with the audi­ence or the cam­era, cho­reo­graphed but strangely ill-timed, claw­ing hand move­ments and weird goldfish-like gulps at the end of each line. After nine years of Tony’s glam­or­ous drag queen cha­risma, he looks like a par­tic­u­larly deluded punter audi­tion­ing for X-Factor while Simon Cowell pulls faces.

Brown may well, as he says, ‘rel­ish’ the oppor­tun­ity to ‘take on Cameron’, but Cameron looks increas­ingly likely to simply sweep him aside. After a couple of years of Brown-ness the elect­or­ate will stam­pede to elect the smooth, mois­tur­ised, green-ish manip­u­lator Cameron, someone who knows exactly what we want to hear and how to coo those sweet noth­ings in our ears. By then he’ll be seen as Tony Blair without Iraq. Tony Blair without the TUC. Tony Blair without the hag­gard face.

Tony Blair without Gordon Brown.
© Mark Simpson 2006