Of sycophants and cheerleaders


Every political leader, however wounded they may be, has their cheerleaders in the media: they could be ideological soul mates, friends, journalists favoured with privileged access or “scoops”, or even political groupies. It is a fact written in stone, akin to a natural law.

We have thus located Mr Martin Kettle, a columnist whose musings on the Blair premiership the London Guardian has inflicted on yours truly for a number of years. But I just can’t take it anymore; I am human, too, you know. There is only so much a man can take - and no more.

If memory serves me right, this former political reporter “came out” in the late 1990’s as an incorrigible Blairite, claiming how he was happy to have been given other duties away from reporting on the daily activities of his old chum. Such honesty was indeed refreshing.

But then he continued, at every opportunity, to bang on about the virtuousness of his chum’s government, even when it was quite obvious to the most casual observer that this fellow was obviously talking out of his hat. However, he himself must have realised that he had gone too far in his cheerleading when in his latest pro-Blair offering he mentioned that, “ I will be accused of being Dr Pangloss”, a reference to the character in Candide, the novel by Voltaire, who would defend the indefensible on the pretext that it was the best option available.

And what was our latter day Dr Pangloss defending this time around? Nothing less than the expose that the prime blair2.jpgminister had been accepting donations to his party from business barons in return for elevating them to the House of Lords - and without the knowledge of the Labour Party treasurer.

In the opinion of our esteemed columnist, the out-of-touch commentariat were making a whole lot of fuss about something which the ordinary man and woman cared not one jot about, and which did not really matter as far as the bigger picture was concerned. And, moreover, the economy was booming and people were enjoying the good times, not worried about whether their prime minister’s government was sleazy.

Hear him hold forth: “…Unless we put things in a context, unless we have a sense of perspective about our problems, unless we calibrate our language more carefully, then our political culture will risk being like a radio with the volume permanently set too high.” Yes, people discover that their prime minister has behaved dishonourably, committed a crime - for it is one - that they had elected him to eradicate from the political process, and it is dismissed as “hysteria”.

He even manages, albeit not too successfully, to cast the current furore as an attempt by Blair opponents to kick his man out. A simple question, Mr Kettle: Did these Blair detractors plead with him to solicit and accept these donations, and to promise peerages in return and then withhold the fact of their acceptance from the party and country?

Oh, lest I forget, our hero’s effort last Saturday was a strong defence of Tessa Jowell, the beleaguered culture secretary whose husband, David Mills, was allegedly bribed to lie on behalf of Italian prime minister and Blair chum Silvio Berlusconi in return for £350,000.

Dear Guardian Editor, I humbly suggest that all Mr Kettle’s future columns be accompanied by a suitably-situated health warning along the lines of, “This piece has been written by one of our Blair cheerleaders. Just ignore it.”

And, by the way, Mr Kettle, according to several polls reported today, voters think this government is as corrupt as the one it replaced and Mr Blair has notched his lowest ratings ever.