Wednesday, September 06, 2006
I will leave it to discerning readers to identify the numerous absurdities in this statement, with one exception: . . . a picket and demonstration had been organized without our knowledge or consent . . .
Many thanks for your email. I can assure you that this behaviour was not supported by anyone at the school. Indeed we were horrified that our children had been exploited and abused by a political organisation, members of which had been outside the school gates since 8am. Somehow details of the visit, though confidential, had been leaked through a website and a picket and demonstration had been organised without our knowledge or consent.
The school had not been closed specifically for the visit. We had a planned half day induction for students followed by staff training in the afternoon. Organisationally this had been in the school calendar since before the summer break.
Our students were put in serious danger physically and emotionally by the outrageous actions of these political 'rabble rousers' who had no concern for them as young people but simply used them as pawns for their own political ends.
I have today held a staff meeting and will be holding a whole school assembly later to explain to the students how the actions of 50 out of 1500 have been perceived and how it clearly reflects so poorly on the school.
We pride ourselves on being one of the most improved schools in the UK. Our students are always our pride and joy. It is completely out of character for them to behave in such an unruly, rude and disrespectful manner. However the role played by these activists was cleverly orchestrated and the children were merely fodder for a political campaign.
I personally remain a big supporter of Tony Blair whose policies I value and who I personally feel is a man of integrity and honesty.
Many thanks for taking the time to contact me. I hope that this will help to set the record straight.
Here is Blairism in a nutshell. It encourages people in all kinds of social institutions to act in the most supercilious, self-promotional, autocratic way imaginable. For Britons, the ruthless public humiliation of Tony Blair serves the purpose of repudiating the grip that people like him, and people like this headmaster, have over their lives. Someday, we might begin to emulate them here in America.
UPDATE 1: Blair can't even visit a school without being reviled by the students and their parents. A hilarious report from lenin at Lenin's Tomb:
Yes, that's right, there's more, much more, including pictures and video, and an account of how school teachers and administrators forcibly, but ineptly, failed to shut down the protest, which will no doubt be the source of hilarity among the students for the rest of the year. Don't be surprised if the Blairs permanently move to America after he leaves Downing Street. Here's the link again if you can't resist the lure of vicarious participation.
Blair made his announcement about resigning 'within the next twelve months' at the Quintin Kynaston School in North London. It is one of his Specialist Schools, and it happens to get very flattering inspection reviews from Ofsted. He had been before in 2003, and presumably thought it would be a doss. It's one of those schools he hopes to hand over to the private sector and remove from local democratic control. Plus, Suggs went there, and it must appeal to his rock-star fantasies.
However, some of us got wind of this, and the protesters were right down there waiting for him. Now, the school headteachers had decided that since it was Blair's big day they would send most of the pupils home and keep only the exceptionally well-behaved ones behind. So, as we were setting up for our protest, the children were filing out in huge numbers. Guess what? Blair is extremely unpopular in this neck of the woods, and some of them wanted to take part in the protest. To be more precise, there was already a School Students Against the War movement in the school and I expect they had been ready for Blair's visit. This is not unusual - tonnes of young kids have been to the huge antiwar demonstrations in London. Some of the kids' parents were there too. Many of these children were Muslim. One kid explained that he was Lebanese; a lot of others simply hated Blair, as you'll discover from the footage.
INITIAL POST: Finally, at long last:
Now is not the time to hesitate, but, rather, the moment to put the stake through the vampire's heart. Of course, it is unlikely that Brown will be markedly different than Blair on foreign policy. Both supported the war in Iraq. Instead, it is about making a statement, a statement that those, like Blair, who accelerated the march to war, to the destruction of Iraq, should not only be held accountable, but personally humiliated.
An all-out power struggle between the chancellor and the prime minister, culminating with allegations of blackmail by Tony Blair and a ferocious shouting match between the two men, appeared last night to have forced Mr Blair to publicly declare as early as today that he will not be prime minister this time next year.
That may not be enough for Gordon Brown, who is understood to have demanded that Mr Blair quit by Christmas, with an effective joint premiership until a new leader is anointed by the party.
But even as Blair's narcissism compels him to endure otherwise intolerable public embarassment in a desperate, pathetic attempt to retain power, it is important to dispel some common misconceptions about him. First, as recognized by Richard Gott in an excellent, essential New Left Review article, Blair is not, and has never been, George Bush's poodle. Indeed, if anything, it has been the other way round:
It would be a good idea if we made the September 23rd demonstration outside the Labour Party conference the biggest in ages. Activists all over the country are getting ready for this. No, Brown won't be any better: we know this. No one likely to succeed Blair as Prime Minister is going to be more principled, nor more left-wing, nor antiwar. But believe me - they'll know why Blair got kicked out, finishing his career as one of the most unpopular leaders we have ever had, and the whole country will know as well. Every MP will know the risk of pursuing Blair into oblivion. And it'll give us a shot in the arm as well. I suggest street celebrations on the night that this pious hypocrite with blood on his hands is finally driven out.
Second, and consistent with such arrogance, Blair does not, as superficially appears, strike a more urbane, secular contrast to Bush. If anything, he has been equally religious, equally self-assured about being selected to perform a predestined historical role:
Blair is wrongly characterized as the lapdog of George W. Bush. He has developed into a politician with a programme of his own, and he seeks to use the power of the United States to support it. During the second world war, in what was still the era of Franklin Roosevelt, us rhetoric was hostile to the empires of Europe, and the withholding of American money in the postwar period was instrumental in accelerating their collapse. Blair’s aim is to reverse that policy, and persuade the Americans to use their ‘blood and treasure’ to restore the old empires in a form suitable for the age of globalization. His Commission for Africa, and the neo-imperialist New Partnership for Africa’s Development (nepad), are designed to re-introduce strategies of colonial control with American support.
It is of course a pipe-dream. The clock cannot be turned back in such a way. Old empires cannot be recovered or reconstructed. The citizens of ‘Old’ Europe have no great taste for war, while the United States—when true to its historical record—remains isolationist at heart. Blair may seek to find fame as a professor of international relations, and maybe a retirement home could be found for him at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, but in office he has been found seriously wanting. Few British prime ministers have been so inadequately prepared for government, and few have been so arrogantly unaware of their failings.
Predictably, Blair has, with the passage of time, increasingly echoed Bush's hyperbolic rhetoric about the Middle East, as he did about a month ago:
The strongest support for Bush's war came from Tony Blair, Britain's most religious leader since Gladstone. Like Bush, Blair prays. He keeps a Bible by his bed and says he will only answer to "my maker" for British deaths in Iraq. When David Frost asked if he and Bush prayed together on Iraq, Blair declined to answer.
Patrick Cockburn directed his trenchant response personally to the Prime Minister:
Tony Blair has warned that an "arc of extremism" is stretching across the Middle East and said "an alliance of moderation" was needed to defeat it.
Mr Blair also told the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles that Syria and Iran had to stop supporting terrorism or they would "be confronted".
His speech was planned some weeks ago but he said the Lebanon crisis had "brought it into sharp relief".
He said there was now a war "of a completely unconventional kind".
The prime minister said: "There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching countries far outside that region."
Strangest of all, however, was the recently leaked memorandum describing an exit strategy for Blair's departure:
I only hope al Qaeda, Hezbollah or Hamas do not translate your speech into Arabic since every paranoid paragraph confirms their claim that they are battling a western crusade against Islam.
As the Labour party leadership drags Blair out of No. 10, he is being exposed for what he has always been: a fantasist. My belief is that, at the end of day, 10 to 15 years from now, when all the personal memoirs have been published, the public will discover that Blair is the weird one, the strange one, more so than Bush, who, after all, presents a familiar masculine personality, at least to Americans. A psychotic, creepy Anthony Perkins to Bush's alcoholic, tempermental impersonation of John Wayne.
The retirement blueprint aims to promote the "triumph of Blairism" and allow the PM to quit on a wave of euphoria after 10 years in office.
The secret strategy - drawn up by a small group of loyalists - is well under way.
Mr Blair's "farewell tour" includes plans to appear on Blue Peter, Songs of Praise and Chris Evans' radio show.
The five-page memo, drawn up by a close-knit group around the leader including party guru Philip Gould, suggests the PM is nearer to stepping down than he publicly admits.
It warns: "Time is not an unlimited commodity."
And more concerned with his place in history than the success of his policies, the paper - seen by the Mirror - boasts: "His genuine legacy is not the delivery, important though that is, but the dominance of new Labour ideas...the triumph of Blairism.
"As TB enters his final phase he needs to be focusing way beyond the finishing line, not looking at it.
"He needs to go with the crowds wanting more. He should be the star who won't even play that last encore. In moving towards the end he must focus on the future."
Over 100,000 Iraqis died as a result.
Blair’s second unusual characteristic is his ability as an actor. Both at Fettes, the Scottish private school he attended in the 1960s, and at St John’s College, Oxford, where he was a mediocre law student, he was an accomplished thespian, appearing in the classics, in comedy revues, and fronting a band. His capacity to act and to put on an act, to perform his lines, and to diverge from a script when circumstances demand, has become the hallmark of his career as a politician, unequalled since Harold Macmillan, Britain’s last great showman prime minister.
What remains a mystery even today, and is not adequately explained in any of the Blair biographies, is how the Labour Party allowed a maverick right-winger to become their leader, a man who became a close intimate and political ally not only of a neo-conservative Republican like George W. Bush, but also of José María Aznar of Spain and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy—European right-wingers of a definably unpleasant slant. Blair is no Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour traitor of the 1930s who was seduced by the rich and famous. He is, and clearly always has been, a deep-dyed Tory, far further to the right than recent Conservative leaders like John Major or William Hague, who, as One Nation Tories, appear benign by comparison. So why did the Labour Party fall for Blair? Partly, of course, because of his surface charm and verbal felicity. In an indifferent field he made his way swiftly to the front, before anyone had had the time to penetrate beneath the veneer of competence and ideological neutrality. With the defenestration of the useless Neil Kinnock, the death of the dreary John Smith, and the lack of killer instinct in the gloomy Gordon Brown, the bland figure of Blair, youthful and glib, was seen as the only class act available.