In 1999 I published an article entitled The character of Tony Blair in Free Life magazine. A copy is below. That article portrayed Blair as a nervous, vain, weak, cowardly fantasist who displayed traits which marked him down as a psychopath, especially his habits of telling people how moral he is – “The more he spoke of his honour/The faster we counted the spoons “ – and of lying about matters great and small. (My favourite Blair lie is his statement at Prime Ministers Questions in the Commons on a Wednesday that the British EU rebate was quote “non-negotiable” only for him to give away part of the rebate two days later).
The publication of Tony Blair’s autobiography A Journey confirms all the character flaws I fingered in 1999. Both in the book and in the promotional appearances around it Blair behaves in the low narcissistic manner of the ideal Oprah guest as he shamelessly parades himself as a victim in everything which drew blame to himself.
Sadly for Blair but happily for the rest of us , the carapace of an adolescent ego – Blair is essentially sixteen years old and will be sixteen years old if he lives to be a hundred – blinds him to the fact that his incontinent desire to bear what he fondly imagines is his soul renders him contemptible. Blair tells us that he was terrified of the realities of power, frightened of Gordon Brown to the point of abdicating any control over government spending, that he was happy lying in the service of policy , boasts that he is manipulative and admits he was in thrall to a man (Alastair Campbell) whom he describes as constructively mad, a description which clanks more than a little because Campbell spent time as a psychiatric in-patient in the 1980s. (Peter Oborne’s biography of Campbell gives chapter and verse about his behaviour leading up to his hospitalisation in a psychiatric ward).
There are two stories you will not find In A Journey . The first is the attempted suicide of Blair’s daughter in April 2004 which the valiant British mainstream media censored en masse – see http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/09/322591.html
The second concerns me. For reasons known only to the very strange minds of the Blairs , they attempted to have me prosecuted during the six most important weeks of Blair’s life, the 1997 General Election campaign. My crime? For asking them to act over racist behaviour within the Labour Party. I will return to this subject at a later date but the gist of the story is contained in the EDM below which now forms part of the House of Commons record :
On 10 November 1999, Sir Richard Body MP, put down this
Early Day Motion in the House of Commons:
That this House regrets that the Right honourableMember for Sedgefield [Tony Blair] attempted to persuade the Metropolitan Police to bring criminal charges against Robert Henderson, concerning the Right honourable Member’s complaints to the police of an offence against the person, malicious letters and racial insult arising from letters Robert Henderson had written to the Right Honourable Member complaining about various instances of publicly-reported racism involving the Labour Party; and that, after the Crown Prosecution Service rejected the complaints of the Right honourable Member and the Right honourable Member failed to take any civil action against Robert Henderson, Special Branch were employed to spy upon Robert Henderson, notwithstanding that Robert Henderson had been officially cleared of any illegal action.
The character of Tony Blair
(Published in Free Life no 34 September/October 1999)
“In November 1984, the Leader of the Opposition asked Blair to come to his room. ‘Tony was absolutely shivering,’ recalls Charles Clarke, Neil Kinnock’s Chief of Staff. (John Rentoul’s biography “Tony Blair” p161)
“Despite attempts to get to the heart of Mr Blair, however, Miss Barak found him ‘boring’ and ‘timid’. ‘He was like a scared child’, she told the Telegraph last night. …There doesn’t appear to be a message there. He may be an average politician but I don’t see him as a leader.” (Report of an interview between Blair and Daphne Barak of NBC – Daily Telegraph 4/2/97 P4)
These two quotes provide the only clues needed to go to the core of the Blair character; he is by nature very nervous. The first describes Blair’s behaviour as a recently elected MP; the second shows Blair as the leader of a party which was shortly to go into a General Election as just about the hottest electoral favourites ever. Twelve years experience and the assumption of the highest office in his party had made absolutely no difference. He was still incredibly anxious because basic character is forever.
Behaviour may to a degree be learned, but such learnt behaviour is situational not general. For example, a coward may gain confidence as he grows older in circumstances to which he becomes accustomed, but he never becomes naturally brave.
Even with the office of prime minister to bolster him, two years experience of government, a largely quiescent media and no political opposition worthy of the name, Blair is still extremely unsure of himself and finds it immensely difficult to handle any setback, for example, his tremulous response to questions about the 1999 EU election defeat. If readers wish to discover in an objective fashion how unconfident Blair is, I suggest that they tape either an interview in which he is under pressure or his performance at Prime Minister’s Question Time. Then play the tape back in slow motion. The reader will then see what psychologists call microexpressions. These are fleeting facial expressions which are so rapid that human beings pick them up if at all subliminally. Blair’s most common microexpressions are those of anxiety. Nor does it take much to cause Blair to display signs of anxiety: it happens whenever he is feels that people are not wholly with him, for instance at the 1999 TUC conference. Blair has undoubtedly gained in situational confidence since the election, but give him one good emotional belt and he will be back to emotional square one.
This nervousness finds its constant expression in his obsessive desire to control. Before the election, we saw that trait primarily in the subjection of his party. Since he became prime minister it has contaminated all parts of political life. Indeed, Blair’s first days in power confirmed the view that he is a nervous authoritarian. There he was in May 1997 as secure as a politician can ever be, yet one of his first decisions was to attempt to emasculate Prime Minister’s Question Time by reducing it to once a week.
Since then, Blair has engaged in a massive exercise of pacification of opposition through (1) a tightening of the hold of the Labour hierarchy on the selection of electoral candidates, (2) by threatening to withdraw the whip from Labour members, most notably in the case of those who campaigned against devolution, (3) through the sending of Labour members away from Westminster on a rota basis to “tend their constituencies”, (4) by unashamed cronyism and the seduction of his supposed opponents (Ashdown, Hesletine, Patten, Clarke et al) with a mixture of specious influence and jobs, (5) by the diffusing effects of devolution, (6) through the proposed effective abolition of the Lords and its replacement with second chamber utterly dominated by political placemen, (7) by the deliberate diminishment of the importance of the House of Commons through a combination of his frequent personal absence and the persistent habit of breaking policy to the public via the media before a statement is made to the Commons and, not least, (8) by the adoption of a presidential style and (9) the virtual end of cabinet government. In addition to these directly political acts, he has been largely successful in controlling the media through a combination of bullying and complicity with those who control the organs of the media. He has now reached the position of every natural dictator whereby anyone who disagrees with him is either mad, bad or an extremist, vide his outbursts against those who do not wish to get rid of the pound and the extraordinary intolerance he displayed during his speech to the 1999 Labour Party Conference, when everyone who disagreed with him was treated not merely as wrong but in morally defective. Out of his weakness and paranoia grows megalomania.
In a country without any stable political tradition, where violence and coup are the staples of political life, such behaviour might be considered normal even rational. In a country with the strongest non-violent political tradition in the world it smacks of rampant paranoia. It is also fundamentally undemocratic.
Because of Blair’s fetish of control, many assume that he is a natural leader, yet before becoming Labour leader he had never occupied a position of prime authority. An extraordinary fact but true. At his school, Fettes, he was not even a prefect let alone head boy. At Oxford he took no leading part in student politics. As a lawyer he never rose beyond the ranks. His career as a politician was coolly unremarkable until he became Labour leader. This in itself suggests that Blair is far from being one of Nature’s number ones.
His frantic efforts to avoid blame also point to a subordinate character, while his remarkable ageing since he became prime minister indicates a man under great stress. Being comparatively young, the effect of ageing is perhaps more dramatic than it would be in an older man. Yet even allowing for that, the transformation is striking: an unnatural gauntness, a face lacking muscle tone, dry hair and substantial lining of the face – he looks a good ten years older than when he took office. Interestingly a rumour was floated in the Sunday Telegraph a few months back which suggested that he might step down in the foreseeable future.
I would not utterly discount it, although it should be treated as a very long shot. Plainly he is finding the business of leading a government a tremendous burden. Why, it might be asked, did he seek high political office if he was so unfitted for it temperamentally? I attribute it to a childlike ego and a failure of imagination. Blair wanted to be PM because his self-esteem required that he was in the same way a boy might want to be captain of football.
His ego and the lack of imagination ensured that he completely failed to understand the massive difference between being an opposition leader and prime minister. If he wishes to get out, his problem (and ours) is that he is now trapped by circumstances and may find it impossible to relinquish control even if he wishes to. Such a situation would drive him to ever greater attempts a control.
Most people will say to me at this stage, hold on Robert, this man was barrister for ten years, how can he be a profoundly nervous, subordinate creature? Well, that’s most people for you, always looking for the obvious and missing it. The depressing fact is that the vast majority of barristers show considerable signs of nervousness before entering a court. Many do so within court. That is the first thing to note. The second thing to understand is that a courtroom is a very structured environment where the rules are all in favour of the lawyer. He decides what evidence is to be introduced on his side of the case; he decides what questions are to be asked; he decides the order of questions; above all he cannot be questioned. In addition, the majority of witnesses will be people who will be unaccustomed to appearing in public and possessed of a lessor education that the barrister. All in all, the courtroom is the ideal venue for the nervous person possessed of public ambition, once the procedural rules have been learned and the environment adapted to.
Those are the general advantages of the courtroom for barristers. However, the barrister can make the environment even safer by his choice of the field of law in which he practices. Blair specialised in employment and trade law. Thus he rarely had to appear before a jury, which is generally considered within the legal profession to be the most difficult of legal tests. Perhaps equally importantly, this area of practice meant that a great deal of his arguing would have been done in pretrial submissions rather than orally before a judge. Blair would also have avoided the most difficult type of expert witness, namely the scientific witness. (If the ordinary person wishes to see lawyers making complete fools of themselves, I suggest that he or she goes along to a run-of-the-mill murder trial which turns on forensic evidence. It is a most depressing experience to see the sheer level of lawyerly incompetence generally on display). It should also be noted that a barrister cannot be sued for incompetence [This has since changed].
Why is Blair so nervous? I put my money on a lack of emotional development and the uncertainties produced by intellectual mediocrity. In his behaviour, Blair is a caricature of adolescence. His hilariously bogus attempts at public emotion; his childlike belief, never better demonstrated than over Kosovo, that the speaking of high flown and impractical ideals wills their end, his continuing uncertainty in public debate and above all his desperate need to control, all suggest someone who is forever sixteen and dreadfully afraid that they will not be taken seriously as an adult.
Blair’s speech to the 1999 Labour Party Conference displayed his adolescent nature beautifully. We had the exhibitionism of his constant references to how well he had done in his life and how often he met important people. We had the equation of conservatives with evil and the designation of anyone who disagreed with him as conservative. We had the horribly contrived sentimentality particularly in his references to children. We had the fifth form PC idealism. All of this delivered in a language best described as Advanced Mawkish, with his piping fifteen year old’s voice and his usual hilariously inept phrasing. (Incidentally, the microexpressions during the speech also said he was extremely nervous.)
How bright is Blair? Obviously he is not a complete dimwit. Indeed, I suspect that he would score respectably in an IQ test. But equally there is solid evidence that he is at best an educated dullard, able to spout the odd piece of learning and capable of shallow superficial analysis, but devoid of any deep understanding of anything and originality of thought. He gained only a second at a university (Oxford) notorious for its generosity in granting good degrees in a subject (law), where hard work will get you most of the way to a first. Moreover, Blair achieved this middling degree despite having no great undergraduate distractions such as serious involvement in student politics.
I think we can say that was mediocre performance. To that we may add his performance in the Bar Examination, where according to his biographer John Rentoul he “achieved an undistinguished Third class”. That was an indication of pure laziness which points to the debilitating disease of intellectual idleness. It is probably that fault rather than an innate lack of intelligence which is the biggest stumbling block to Blair’s ability to understand.
Intellectual idleness is a big, big problem, because the intellectually lazy will, in the nature of things, generally fail to comprehend a complex problem adequately. In government that can be very expensive in terms of sins of omission and commission as the intellectually lazy politician acts recklessly or fails to act, both out of ignorance.
Time and again Blair gives evidence that he does not understand the consequences of his policies, vide devolution, the social chapter and the single currency. Worse, he appears driven by ideas that are suited to student debates but not government. His stance on Kosovo provides the most vivid demonstration of these various weaknesses.
During the Kosovan war, Blair constantly behaved in a most uncontrolled manner. He urged the use of ground troops, including a very substantial British contingent, he agreed to take in unlimited numbers of Albanian refugees, he said that cost was no object, he was willing to commit a large proportion of our military forces as “peacekeepers” for what would certainly be years and could be generations and gave no heed to the cost either of that or of reconstructing the damage caused by Nato military action (and this at a time when cuts to British welfare are very much on the agenda).
Yet all those massive commitments did not come at the outset of hostilities. Rather, they were the consequences of a miscalculation of Milosevic’s resolve and a threadbare military strategy. Not content with those irresponsible commitments, Blair has maintained a reckless aggressiveness towards Milosevic since the formal end of hostilities which has virtually ensured that he stays in power. In the longer term, Blair has stored up resentments against Britain, not least amongst the Russian political class, for seemingly driving Nato’s hardline approach which effectively humiliated Russia by treating them as of no account. All these things were done gratuitously and without apparent thought for the consequences and we have no indication that Blair understands the consequences.
Most worryingly Blair has shown himself to be an unashamed warmonger. I would like to believe that his public words were simply a cynical manipulation of the public to promote his reputation and were made in the certain knowledge that Clinton would not commit troops to a land war. Unfortunately I think that Blair was anything but cynical in his belligerence. The Observer reported on 18 July  that Blair had agreed to send 50,000 British troops to take part in an invasion force of 170,000 if Milosevic had not conceded Kosovo to Nato. Incredible as this may seem, (and it was not denied by Downing Street) such recklessness fits in with Blair’s general behaviour. So there you have it, our prime minister would have committed the majority of Britain’s armed forces to a land war in which we have no national interest, regardless of the cost, deaths and injuries. The danger remains that Blair will find another adventure which does result in a land war. Over Kosovo, he behaved like a reckless adolescent and nearly came a fatal political cropper. Yet Blair appears to have learnt nothing from the experience, vide the unpleasant and malicious fanaticism in Blair and Cook’s declarations of their intent to both unseat Milosevic from power and bring him before an international court, vide the humiliation of Russia, vide the ever more absurd declarations of internationalist intent since hostilities ceased. That adolescent idealists’ mindset could lead Britain down a very dark path indeed. It is also incompatible with a foreign policy that supposedly encourages elected governments (however imperfect they are) over dictatorships.
I do not subscribe to the view that Blair has no political policies: he has all too many drawn from the ragbags of political correctness and internationalism. What he lacks is any constancy of thought in his attachment to the detailed political ideas needed to achieve his general ends. He has detailed ideas, but not for long. All politicians change their views to a degree: Blair has most comprehensively altered his. Some time ago I went systematically through John Rentoul’s biography of Blair noting his varying positions at different times on all important areas of policy. Incredibly, there is not a single one on which he has not described a 180 degree turn. For example in 1988 he said this about the need to protect British industry: “Without an active interventionist industrial policy…Britain faces the future of having to compete on dangerously unequal terms.” (Iain Dale: The Blair Necessities P57). Compare that with his present hardline free trading stance in government.
Equally noteworthy is the manner in which he changes his mind. Blair does not do what any normal man would do in his position, namely gradually inch towards a new policy. No, with Blair it is X one day and Y the next with damn all meaningful explanation of the change. All he ever does is say is some such nonsense as “time has moved on” or “those were yesterday’s ideas”. Such behaviour raises a most pertinent question, how does one distinguish between a man who continually changes his mind without warning and a calculating liar? There is in principle no objective test to decide between the two circumstances. In effect, Blair is saying that he should never be held to account for anything. In fact, one of his strongest traits is a desperate determination to avoid blame.
This inconstancy of principle takes us neatly to the discrepancy between what he says and does. Blair presents himself as Mr Compassionate Morality. Yet his public and private actions (and increasingly his words) persistently belie this. The lines “The more he spoke of his honour, the faster we counted the spoons” come to mind.
In his domestic policy Blair has adopted a tone of aggressive intent against those least able to fend for themselves: the poor, single mothers and the disabled. This comes as no surprise to those who remember his words before he became prime minister on the subject of beggars, whom he represented in an interview in the magazine “The Big Issue” as aggressive and unworthy of help. The mixture of disgust and exaggerated fear in that interview was wonderful and ancient. On being asked whether he gave money to beggars he said he did not. And this from a man whose life is comfortable going on rich. It was the mentality of the selfish aristocrat who is utterly divorced from the lives of the masses and is both revolted and scared by them.
So much for Blair’s self-advertised compassion, but he also likes to portray himself as the Common Man. His lifestyle and that of his wife are a bit of a barrier to this. Most notably they failed to send their children to non-selective state schools despite Blair’s public decrying selective schools in accordance with Labour Party policy. Actually that little piece of business is very revealing. Blair effectively changed one of the Labour Party’s most cherished policies – non selective education – by personal fiat for once the leader had crossed the selective Rubicon the Party had to of necessity follow. Shameless hypocrisy allied to utter egotism.
So what do we have? A man who is essentially a megalomaniac adolescent; a weak authoritarian who is nervous, paranoid, cowardly, intellectually lazy, hypocritical, morally vicious, without fixed principles and seemingly oblivious to shame. A man who is never in the wrong. A man whose is highly manipulative. A man who is the most tremendous egoist. Put all that together and the word psychopath comes to mind.
What is a psychopath? The term does not mean, as is popularly thought, someone who does not understand the difference between right and wrong. In fact the psychopath is as aware of the moral rules of a society as the next man. What distinguishes psychopathic behaviour from the norm is the perpetrator’s ability to break moral laws without experiencing the normal emotional pain of doing so. In other words, these are actions without conscience.
All human beings are capable of psychopathic behaviour. But most people will only engage in such behaviour in exceptional circumstances, such as times of extreme stress or where a society’s morality is tribal rather than general. The classic instance of both types of behaviour may be found in war, which on the one hand produces a willingness to kill through fear of attack, and on the other creates a state of mind which allows the ordinary man to kill even when not immediately threatened, and to accept as reasonable killing by his fellow countrymen and allies which is to all intents and purposes murder. All bombing of civilians falls into the latter category.
What distinguishes the psychopath from the mass of men is that the psychopath’s normal behaviour is psychopathic. Blair meets this criteria. His common actions include the following: he breaks his word as a matter of course but exhibits no signs of emotional discomfort when doing so. He changes policy from one day to the next. He lies without compunction, for example the pledges he made to persuade the Ulster Unionists to accept the “peace” Agreement which have subsequently been dishonoured in the breach utterly as hundreds of convicted IRA terrorists have been released without a single weapon being handed in. He behaves without regard to the consequences of his actions on others. He is the most consummate hypocrite. He refuses to accept blame. He constantly attempts to manipulate others. Most tellingly, he claims a high moral position whilst committing all these immoralities.
What do Blair’s character defects mean for his (and our) government? Shortly before he died, the historian Max Beloff wrote a piece for the Times newspaper entitled “Third Way or Third Reich?” (9/2/99) in which he charted the similarities between New Labour’s tactics and those of the Nazis, such behaviour as the enticement of political figures from other parties to camouflage New Labour’s purpose, the tacit concordat with business whereby donations and support were traded for an understanding that a Blair government would not be radical in its treatment of the economy and the obsessive party control. Beloff also suggested that Blair might eventually be enticed by the attractions of the Fuhrer principle.
Beloff’s views were met publicly with a mixture of outrage and derision. But they are based on objective facts coupled to hard arguing. Moreover, Blair’s language and views are often remarkably similar to those of fascists, in particular to the views of Oswald Mosely. Consider these startlingly similar sentiments taken from Blair (The Blair Necessities –
BN) and Mosley (Varieties of Fascism – VoF):
I believe we have broken through the traditional barriers of right and left; that we are developing a new and radical economic approach for the left and centre 1996 BN P14
Above all it is a realistic creed. It has no use for immortal principles in relation to the facts of bread-and-butter; and it despises the windy rhetoric which ascribes importance to mere formula. VoF P170.
One Britain. That is the patriotism for the future. BN 1996 P13 LC
It must be absolutely clear to the British people that we are a political arm of no one other than the British people themselves BN 28 1996
We need a new social morality. BN 19 1996
We seek to establish a new ideal of public service, and a new authority based on merit Albert Hall April 1934 VoF
The case advanced in these pages covers, not only a new political policy, but also a new conception of life. In our view, these purposes can only be achieved by the creation of a modern movement invading every sphere of national life. VoF P171
The new establishment is not a meritocracy, but a power elite of money-shifters, middle men and speculators…people whose self-interest will always come before the national or the public interest. BN P42 1994
Many more instances exist of such echoes.
Any authoritarian is bad enough, but with Blair one gets the worst of all possible worlds for he is the most damaging type of authoritarian. He is not a strong, able man who brooks no argument because he believes that he knows best and has a record of achievement to support his pretensions. Rather he is a weak, fearful character who suppresses dissent because he doubts his own capacity. Incompetent authoritarians are always the harshest enemies of free expression for the very good reason that they keep creating ever greater crises which can only be publicly hidden, albeit temporarily, by ever greater repression of dissent.
The dangers of Blair’s authoritarian tendencies are amplified by the nature of those about him. Forget all the protestations of a change of Labour heart. These are cavorting prigs harnessed from the same stable as previous Labour governments. Mencken’s ‘Show me a puritan and I will show you a sonofabitch’ comes readily to mind. The focus of their meddling may have changed, the desire to meddle has not. They will feed Blair’s natural dictatorial instincts.
Instances of Blair’s fascistic desire to control grow by the day. These range from the risible such as his seemingly insatiable desire to formally comment on such great affairs of state as spats in football and golf (vide the Ryder Cup) and the downright dangerous such as the planned testing of all criminal suspects for drug use.
Most forms of government are institutionalised gangsterism. That is what I foresee Blair creating in Britain if he is given ten years in power. Far fetched? What would we call the behaviour of a Third World leader who appointed close personal friends to two of the three most senior positions in a country’s legal ministry. (Question. How would a person taking legal action against the Blairs be assured of impartiality? Answer. You tell me.) All the indications are, from cronyism to Blair’s unhealthy attitude to any form of dissent, that a Blair government will be one based on the primitive idea that justice is for one’s political friends and injustice for one’s political foes.
Blair controls because he fears dealing with the consequences of the unpredicted. He is a weak egotist who will behave both incompetently and viciously should he come under real pressure. He lacks courage and that is always a fatal lack in the long run.