Saturday 21 April 2012

The Sophist and the Tub-Thumper

On Wednesday night I met one of Tony Blair’s chief speech-writers, whose name is Phil Collins, over the microphones on Radio 3’s Nightwaves. He has written a useful book on how to write speeches, with some nuggets from Aristotle and Cicero (which is where I came in).

Collins is fun and  very, very clever. He talked brilliantly about clarity and audiences.  But when he addressed actual politics the charm wore off. I suddenly saw an explanation for the whole Blairite world-view when Collins claimed, in reference to the oppression of black people, ‘It’s  more difficult now to write great speeches', since ’those issues, those stories aren’t really there now’. I protested that, for example,  the ownership of 90 per cent of wealth by 10 per cent of people might be regarded by some as an issue of significance. But he insisted that ‘our politics now...don’t contain many massive, grand issues,’ because  ‘this is a nicer place than it was’.

Phil Collins
Collins was one of the chief architects of the later period of New Labour ideology. He continued to write speeches for Blair when  Labour’s back was up against the wall over Iraq after the revelations of detainee abuse in Abu Ghraib. But here he was saying, on national radio, that we live in a world without social injustice or racism serious enough to warrant indignation (which he dismissed as ‘tub-thumping’).

The only conclusion to draw from this is that the rich and the sophists on Planet Spin may not be cynical liars, as I had always thought, but actually deluded.  Perhaps they can’t see the world around them accurately because they only travel between Hampstead, Westminster and the BBC, and spend all their time with each other (Collins, although once from the north, has himself worked as an investment manager and used to go out with Natalie Imbruglia).
Perhaps this explains why the wealthy so beloved by Blair are adept at tax avoidance: they don’t think that there ARE any problems, and so it’s okay to put money in offshore tax havens like (e.g.) David Cameron’s father’s investment company. This fund explicitly reassured its customers in 2006 that its affairs were ‘managed and conducted so that it does not become resident in the United Kingdom for UK taxation purposes’. Places like Panama proved amenable.

Curiously, the fund from which Cameron’s fortune was consolidated was named BLAIRMORE Holdings Inc. By 2006, this could have been interpreted as meaning that ‘you can siphon off MORE under BLAIR’.  For myself, not having any spare cash to invest in Panama right now, I’ll have to stick to Tub-Thumping.

1 comment:

  1. "Well, if you told me you were drowning
    I would not lend a hand"