Lance Price, formerly Number 10’s deputy communications adviser, publishes his memoirs soon.
Among the fragrant stories, including Tony Blair’s love for the valleys (“Fucking Welsh”), we have this touching encounter:
Asking his assistant about his sexuality – Price is gay – the prime minister said: “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but when you see a beautiful woman, doesn’t it do anything for you?”
Isn’t that sweet? Parents, worried your son might be a chutney ferret? A night out with Tony down at Spearmint Rhino and a subscription to Razzle will sort him out.
Tony, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but when you see a democratic, accountable government in action, doesn’t it do anything for you? Or are just more in touch with your despotic side than us real democrats?
Then I suppose, we all do things when we’re drunk right? I remember one night, coming back from the pub after a few drinks, me and my mate Frank ended up back at his place planning to bomb a Middle Eastern country in the face of massive public opposition. Could happen to anybody. Doesn’t mean I’m autocratic though, does it?
On the whole though, this story just gives us another glimpse into the retardation of Blair’s personality. He doesn’t understand homosexuality, hasn’t any real insight, and has a sneaking suspicion that all gay men need is a bit of T&A to bring them back to his team. You could call it wilful ignorance but it’s a little more sinister then that. It’s a blind eye in the knowledge that if he knew the whole truth it would get him into trouble. An understanding or even (whisper is) an empathy with homosexual would be a ringing clash with his Anglo-Catholicism, making him complicit in something immoral.
It’s much like his attitude towards torture: as long as he doesn’t know too much about what goes in the countries to which we’re deporting people, he can keep his hands clean (“Two words, Mr President. Plausible deniability.”). It’s the moral failing that allowed him to say, “This is crazy. Why can’t we press on?“, when told that Egyptian asylum seekers could face torture and death if deported from the UK.
The childlike aspect of all this is the most chilling. You can imagine Blair and Alastair Campbell exchanging off-colour banter about Price and his sexuality. You can almost hear the petulant whine in Blair’s voice – “Why can’t these men be sent back?” – like a spoilt toddler demanding another glass of Sunny Delight.
I have an insatiable, morbid fascination with the moral failings of Blair. It’s not so much a capacity for evil that lets him do what he does but a weary petulance that sees morality and specific human lives as barriers to him achieving what he wants. I don’t know enough about past prime ministers to compare, maybe many of them had this breathtakingly cavalier attitude towards life, but in this day and age where politicians are scutinised like never before, I’m ceaselessly amazed at his ability to slip free every time, whether it be from his casual homophobia or having a number in his head that represents acceptable civilian deaths in a far off country.
It’s not just a dry argument about the machinations of high politics and the pragmatic decisions taken by men with access to frightening information. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s there for all to see how politics directly impact on peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lives. You don’t have to be a gay adviser, an Egyptian asylum seeker, a recipient of benefits or a pensioner in a private nursing home to feel the breeze. To many of us political geeks, politics isn’t a game of chess, it’s like watching a fight in a pub: the blows are real and somebody’s going home in an ambulance.
Many in the white middle classes are insulated from the failings of New Labour; that’s how they can bring themselves to vote New Labour time and time again. But this constituency is being chipped away. Today we find it’s the turn of diabetics, half of who aren’t receiving the eye care that may save their sight. I bet there aren’t many people who don’t know of someone who’s had MRSA. What next? Where’s all the money gone? To paraphrase Neil Kinnock, don’t be old, sick, non-white or poor in the UK. Try with all your strength to be white, middle-class, reasonably affluent and complacent. The irreducible core of New Labour support, if you like.
That core is getting smaller all the time, whether through apathy or personal grievance. Middle England won’t maintain New Labour forever because their simply won’t be enough votes there.