Yes, of course Britain’s Prime Minister tells lies. And his
government’s record on that score is truly remarkable. It may well have
given birth to a new Latin-Greek term in political vocabulary:
mendocracy. From ethics in foreign policy to the NHS to
Ulster, and even as far down as how New Labor’s attempt to ban
Fox-Hunting was blocked, it is hard to find an aspect of public life or
policy on which Blair and his government have not lied.

Now, I don’t want to sound sanctimonious about lying. I was raised
in a political family. My Grandfather was mayor of Santa Fe and ran for
governor of New Mexico, and my father — before he became a career Army
officer — was active in Republican politics. I
knew from a very early age that lying is part of the normal political
armory. And the peculiar British reputation for duplicity was a basic
ingredient of American folklore long before I set foot on this wretched
island. So I do not make the above observations as a disillusioned
outsider or as some sort of self-styled civic puritan.

Moreover, there is a very good case for the politician as a liar. In
public as in private life the truth is like a round of live ammunition.
In the wrong place at the wrong time it can
cause serious, sometimes lethal harm. Lies and hypocrisy are an
essential part of the social restraint that keeps us all from tearing
each other’s throats out in private life; and — in the proper
circumstances — the same need for restraint or outright falsification
is redoubled in public life. If any government should let it all hang
out, we would certainly find (whatever self-interested journalists say)
that not only the government but we the governed and our country are, so to speak, suspended from “it” by our necks.

So much is obvious to the point of bromide. But there
is a caveat to this little lesson. It is important, not to say vital
that the politician knows he is lying, which is to say he knows and
accepts what the truth really is. Then he is able to operate in the
real world. The problem with public lying today is that our pro tem
rulers do not merely lie; they appear a bit fuzzy about the actual
truth. They — and Blair in particular — seem really to believe even
their most egregious falsehoods.

What this means in practice is that these people, this
government are no longer operating in the real world, but in a kind of
virtual reality whose relation to actual reality is, at best, patchy. In

this virtual reality the (financially desperate) National Health Service

is getting better and better; Sinn Fein/IRA — among the most committed
terrorists in the world — will be persuaded by obsequious concessions,
release of terrorists from prison, handshakes from Tony Blair, etc. to
abandon their irredentism and emerge as normal members of the community;

New Labor and its “Third Way” (a term coined by Benito Mussolini) is
noble and ethical, qualities echoed in its foreign policy — selling
arms to vicious dictators and watching blandly while an African dictator

like Robert Mugabe treats his white subjects exactly as Hitler treated
Jews; and the United Kingdom will survive a slow incorporation into a
Federal Europe (whose diktats are eroding British law and destroying
important sections of its economic fabric). I name only the
highest-profile issues; there are many more.

To an American outsider, this phenomenon appears
as the natural consequence of “a vision”. Tony Blair has mentioned his
vision many times, and most recently has implied that — in spite of a
few problems — it will carry him and the country through. Through what,

to where? Ah. Here again we are fuzzy. Through its present uncertainty
into, apparently, some new, better, and modernised (and European) state
of being? Blair says so, and gives every sign of believing it is.

This looks a bit spooky to an outsider, because a
country like Britain — small, ancillary to the larger power centres and

(if one judges by some of Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s capers) even to

some of the smaller ones — has no business fooling around with visions.

The proper job of the Prime Minister ought to be administration. Is it
really his business to puff himself up with hot air and rise to the
symbolic height which (in Britain at any rate) ought to be reserved for
the institution of Royalty? To put it another way, Blair, with
throat-catching arrogance, seems to be worming himself out of the sport
jacket of New Labour’s Prime Minister and shrugging himself into royal
robes — usurping the role of a British King to rule his new mendocracy.

Are the electorate aware of this? It is hard to tell
for sure, but the polls indicate that if they are, they do not care. I
suspect that part of the reason for this is that the incredibly smug and

sanctimonious British liberal intellectual class has for half a century
carefully taught the ordinary citizen to despise his nation; this goes
also for its history, and — more recently — its sovereignty. This
exercise in destroying civic morale and pride is still going on, as any
politically correct documentary or press treatment of, for instance, the

British Empire will show; the perusal of ethnic and “European” issues
in the media consistently aims at the same effect. Among Britain’s
broadsheet bien-pensant newspapers, one has only to scan The Guardian,
The Observer or a great deal of The Independent to catch an unmistakable

undertone of disgust at any feeling of national pride, sovereignty, plus

sneering disapproval of any social trait that might be construed as
confirming a truly British identity — not to mention sovereignty. The
British are a stubborn people, but fifty years of this arrogant
brainwashing has not been without its effect on what I might call their
public nerve.

If nothing else, all this has weakened the natural
scepticism of the traditionally surly Brit in the face of a glassy-eyed,

plaster-smiling “visionary” Prime Minister, who seems to see himself not

as primus inter pares, but as a sort of capitalised Leader in European
style. A generation ago we had a rash of visionary leaders on the
continent. (Few Brits, and almost no young ones, remember the most
famous translations of “leader”: Führer and Il Duce.) Those leaders cost

millions of lives among those who were led. The Brits, though, may be
getting off easier than that. Their would-be Leader and his virtually
real vision looks to cost them little more than their country.

© 2000, Herb Greer

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