Saturday, March 13, 2004

Gloomy? Let Mr. Blair croon your worries away... 

Thursday's attacks on Spain upset us all - they upset me much much more than September 11th, since less than half an hour after hearing about that I was already thinking 'Oh God, look what the US is going to do now...' Perhaps it's because I've always felt very European, but I've found the scenes from Spain absolutely heartrending.

But my grief, and the grief of the collective 'British voter', is hardly likely to be assuaged by a conference speech from Tony Blair, apparently designed to 'soothe gloomy voters'. There seems to be this strange assumption in the press, and obviously among politicians, that they have influence on us beyond their impact as policy-makers, and that we will take their assertions as having some special authority. But why would we? It's not that I think politicians are all liars and corrupt; I just don't see what they have that any sensible person doesn't by way of good sense.

So Tony telling me that Britain is safe and that I can be proud to be British - which is anyway a laugh and a half for an anti-patriot - is hardly likely to make me feel more upbeat. We can see the world for ourselves and make our own judgements. Many people other than myself have made the judgement that we're all in big trouble the way we're going. British foreign policy, whether or not one supported the war in Iraq, has been deeply mismanaged, and our profile in the world - to us anyway - seems like it's being dragged through the mud.

What people like Tony Blair should be worried about is that our reactions have turned to cynical gloom, rather than to the sort of panic seen during the Cold War. You can manipulate panic, but as for gloom... Well, I think I won't be alone in reacting to his speech today with 'Tough luck, Tone. You won't bring us back to the ballot boxes like that.'

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