I knew that David Cameron regarded himself as the “heir to Blair”, but this is news to me:
Through much of his nine-year period as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, David Cameron has copied Tony Blair’s political strategies and emulated the Blairite system of foreign policy alliances.
This is deliberate. At a private dinner party during his leadership campaign, Mr Cameron reportedly said that he considered himself the “heir to Blair”. It is said that Mr Cameron and George Osborne both refer to Mr Blair as “the Master”, asking each other “what would the Master have done?” when in difficult situations. The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever, written by Tony Blair’s late political strategist Philip Gould, is regarded within the Cameron circle with the same awe and veneration as a Bible.
It is not widely known that Mr Cameron often seeks advice from the former prime minister. For instance, Mr Blair (so his allies tell me) played an important role in talking David Cameron into the calamitous Libyan intervention four years ago, overriding the advice both of then foreign secretary William Hague and General David Richards, chief of the defence staff. Mr Blair also urged intervention in Syria, though last year’s House of Commons vote made that impossible.
What did they so admire about Blair? But what does it matter what they admired, if the result is that “conservative” Cameron is a clone of “labour” Blair. Is it any wonder that all these people seem to be the same?
And I often compare antismoking to antisemitism. And antisemitism is on the rise:
Comparisons to the 1930’s could be seen as crass – if it were not for the fact that Jewish people living in Europe are making the comparisons themselves. As a wave of anti-Semitism swept across Europe this summer, manifesting itself in smashed up synagogues and attacks on Jews, with the recent flight of Jews from France, Belgium and to a lesser extend eastern Europe, the Jewish diaspora in Europe have once again began to wonder whether they can really call the country in which they live ‘home’.
“These are the worst times since the Nazi era,” Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, told the Guardian in August. “On the streets, you hear things like ‘the Jews should be gassed’, ‘the Jews should be burned’ – we haven’t had that in Germany for decades. Anyone saying those slogans isn’t criticising Israeli politics, it’s just pure hatred against Jews: nothing else. And it’s not just a German phenomenon. It’s an outbreak of hatred against Jews so intense that it’s very clear indeed.”
A poll conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in November found that one in every eleven Germans was willing to admit that they subscribe to fascistic beliefs, including hatred of Jews. And in February, a study conducted by America’s Anti-Defamation League, which surveyed 332,000 Europeans using an index of 11 questions designed to assess adherence to anti-Jewish stereotypes, found that 24 percent of all Europeans held some level of anti-Jewish attitude. The figure was highest in France, where it rose to 37 percent, followed by 27 percent in Germany.
Is it entirely accidental that antismoking and antisemitism are on the rise at the same time? Perhaps they’re different faces of the same thing?
I’ve never understood antisemitism (or antismoking, for that matter). It always strikes me as being deeply irrational to be anti any entire social group. But since antisemites seem to regard Jews as being inferior people (for no reason that I can see), and antismokers regard smokers as inferior people (because “addicts”, devoid of self-control, etc, etc), maybe that’s the shared trait: looking down on other people. And this also extends to drinkers and fat people. And any number of other people as well: e.g. blacks, gays, women.
Perhaps antis (of all kinds) are people who somehow need to feel superior to other people, and go about it by putting other people down. And maybe this is something that regularly happens in times of economic recession/depression (like now), when a lot of people’s sense of self-esteem falls (for example, when they lose their jobs).
The same sort of thing might drive school bullying. I used to hate school. Schools are often grim places where all the kids are suffering and being put upon (i.e. put down), and perhaps the response is to put other kids down. The school bully who puts other kids down raises his own self-esteem at their expense. He (or she) deflects some of the shared misfortune onto others.
Same might apply with nations and nationalism. The worse your country is doing, the more you deride other countries. There never used to be any football hooliganism in Britain when the England team used to regularly win (which they did up until about 1966). But now that the England football team regularly loses, we have drunken English football hooligans beating up foreigners.
And a lot of antismokers strike me as being damaged people with low self-esteem. And putting smokers down may be a way of boosting their own uncertain self-esteem. Certainly my archetypal antismoker, Dr W, was a deeply psychologically damaged individual (damaged by what, I do not know). And the Stanton Glantzes of the world don’t seem very much better. Perhaps they’re all people who didn’t get invited to the party, and have nursed a grievance ever since.
And it strikes me as a profoundly empty kind of life that devotes itself to diminishing and ‘denormalising’ other people. What a waste of a life! Why couldn’t they do something constructive, like make music, or produce art or literature or science? But perhaps they weren’t able. And instead they became vandals.