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Sunday, 26 March 2006
O'Sullivan on Blair

The interesting and delightful John O' Sullivan has a great piece at NRO on PM Blair's current troubles:

(...)The Profumo scandal, [link mine] international in its day, was largely forgotten until two weeks ago when the death of John Profumo revived memories of it. Profumo’s affair with a good time girl who also happened to be sleeping with the Soviet military attaché was the proximate cause of Macmillan’s troubles. The obituaries recorded that he had spent the forty years after his resignation quietly working for the poor in a settlement in London’s impoverished East End. He sought no further public role. He was remembered by those he helped as a “saint.”

His extraordinary atonement had a contemporary political impact because it coincided with the latest scandal afflicting Tony Blair’s New Labor government. The lawyer-husband of a loyal Blairite minister, Tessa Jowell, had admitted in a letter to receiving a “gift” of over half a million dollars from Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s center-right prime minister and media magnate, in return for protecting him in an Italian lawsuit. Jowell herself had signed a mortgage application on the family home that looked to be a way of bringing the money into the country unnoticed. And to quieten the ensuing row, she announced that she and her husband were separating at least temporarily.

The joke in London was that she was the first minister to give up her family to spend more time with her job. The more sober remark, heard everywhere, was that in contrast to John Profumo: “They don’t do that any more. They don’t resign. Or if they do, they’re back in some new government job six months later. They don’t make amends.”

“They,” of course, refers to the entire political class since the last few years of John Major’s Tory government were almost comically awash in “sleaze.” But because the Blair government has been in power for nine years, the great bulk of public odium now attaches to New Labor ministers. And anger at these multiplying scandals is felt even more deeply on the Labor benches in Parliament than almost anywhere else.

“Jowellgate” with its tales of offshore hedge funds, multimillion-dollar tax avoidance, three-month mortgages on the family home, right-wing media magnates like Berlusconi, and a payment that must be a “gift” because (in the words of the minister’s husband) “what else could it be?” — all this might have been designed to shame and anger the representatives of “the people’s party.” Even if no actual crime was committed, Labor MPs feel that their leaders should not be consorting with the international rich and helping them to play their financial games.

Scandals like this reinforce their long-held suspicion that Blair and New Labor are an alien breed who have grabbed control of a party to which they don’t really belong, which they don’t even like, and which they use for anti-Labor purposes. Blair feeds this suspicion with his plans to reform health and education along lines — freedom for schools and hospitals from bureaucratic state control — that the Tory party pioneered under Margaret Thatcher (and that, ironically, Blair undid with a flourish in his first term.) ...

Posted on 03/26/2006 10:06 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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