New Year's Eve: A night to remember for Brits--the way Tony Blair wants them togreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
From today's Electronic Telegraph (subscription):
ISSUE 1686 Thursday 6 January 2000
A night to remember ... the way Tony wants you to By Boris Johnson
Related story: Dome chief promises 'fine tuning' as MPs call for inquiry
I JUST love the idea of Greg Dyke losing his rag waiting to get into the Dome. How I wish I had been there to watch the director-general-designate of the BBC, and all the other big cheeses, being made to wait for four hours. According to Dominic Lawson, the editor of The Sunday Telegraph, who endured the wait himself, Greg went ape. He had to be told to calm down by a policeman.
Not that I have anything against the inventor of Roland Rat. Under normal circumstances, when not being forced to wait with the wife and kids at Stratford station, he is a warm and loveable guy. It is just that the episode delights some black corner of my heart.
Here is Greg, a man with 25,000 BBC folk at his beck and call, who has given #50,000 to the Labour Party, enduring the miseries of the multitude. There was Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, fuming and stamping, and there was Stothard, editor of The Times, and for all the respect that the Metropolitan Police accorded the helmsmen of those two great titles, they might as well have been selling the Big Issue.
How exceedingly apposite on the eve of the Millennium, when the human race was as united as it has ever been, that Greg and the rest of the super-suits should be stuck in some desolate Tube station halfway to Essex. Tee-hee-hee is my view; and the only thought that takes the edge off my pleasure is that I can see how it might also give comfort to Downing Street. We are now, to use washing-machine parlance, in the middle of the spin cycle.
Blair staked much on the Millennium festivities. He made a portentous "presidential" address to the nation. He told his wondering countrymen that they could be a "beacon". Before the Dome had even been opened, he declared it a staggering success and scorned the moaning minnies, who had wondered whether a marquee full of games machines was the best way of spending a billion.
Even when the London Eye was not ready to take passengers, owing to the late arrival of an incoming sprocket from France; even when the River of Fire turned out to be a River of Water, alias the Thames; even when many people's experience of the night was one of terror, crammed by the river among a drunken, fornicating mob, Blair has kept insisting that the festivities, with which he has managed so closely to identify himself, were nothing short of superb.
As the great night recedes, Downing Street knows that he cannot be proved wrong. It was Britain at its best, the mantra goes on. We were a beacon, say the official organs of government information. The world loved us.
According to Lord Falconer, it was all such a jaw-dropping triumph that London should be the New Year's Eve capital of the world - every year! And as Alastair Campbell casts around for evidence that this was a truly humbling and democratic event, his eye alights - aha! - on the shivering dignitaries and their wives, in their gauzy filmy gowns, a-raging and a-wailing outside Stratford station.
Yes, say the spin doctors, with their usual versatility: this was the People's event. Let the stuck-up titans of the Beeb and Fleet Street complain about their treatment. Tony couldn't give a monkey's. Let them know the ordinary frustrations of ordinary people, these chauffeured and flunkeyed Dykes and Rusbridgers.
Let them know what it is really like, in the real world, to queue for four hours at Chessington World of Adventure for a go on the Samurai Death Ride, and then queue for another hour to buy a flashfried frazzfurter for the kiddies, washed down with a draught of Tizer. Let us hear no more, say the spin doctors, about the swish New Labour nomenklatura, to whom no door is closed and who have bought their way into Downing Street. Except, of course, that it was not quite like that.
There may have been a few VIPs who were incommoded. But there were also many thousands of "ordinary people", as Lord Falconer described them, mere readers of newspapers, mere licence-payers, who did not have the cojones to do a Greg Dyke and shout at people, and who none the less waited in their redoubling queues, dumbly, hopelessly, like captive BEF soldiers at Dunkirk.
And as for the real New Labour elite, Mandelson and the other pomaded henchmen of the Politburo, do you suppose they tasted the despair of the excluded? Ha. They were conveyed in a sealed train, like Lenin to the Finland Station, while Prescott decreed that neighbouring Underground stations should be closed for "security" reasons. Far away from Blair and Cherie, London was swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight. Ignorant thugs urinated by night; and yet I doubt whether that will be the prevailing memory.
The Downing Street machine spins on. Somewhere the Daily Mail has unearthed a picture, perhaps from an American spy satellite, which seems to show that the "River of Fire" did take place, even though no one seems to have seen it. Cock-up and chaos there may have been, but slowly, by the time the spin cycle is complete, they will have been washed away and somehow, by some brilliant alchemy - and here lies the real genius of this actor-prime minister - our own personal feelings of gladness at the New Millennium will be merged with a memory of the theatrical triumph of the celebrations.
By the time the spin cycle is complete, the memory will come out clean, and bright, and different. That is the Labour trick; that is its insight. New Labour knows that in politics you do not merely have to win elections. You have to win the battle of the collective memory. With the assistance of the Tories, who have for some reason decided to plead guilty, Labour has won the battle for the history of Britain 1992-1997.
The Tories might have hoped to be remembered for brisk economic recovery and far-reaching reform. Too bad. The era is now indissolubly linked, by constant Labour sloganising, with "sleaze" and "Tory boom and bust".
Labour has won the battle for the memory of the Kosovo conflict - a shambolic venture that eventually solved, at huge cost, a refugee crisis precipitated by Western tactics. Now it is remembered as Tony's victory, his Falklands, with crowds of Albanians shouting To-nee! No one cares what is happening in Pristina now.
And in both cases, the Millennium celebrations and Kosovo, Blair's most profound insight is this: that in identifying himself with the national exertion and emotion, he cannot lose; because if we attack Blair, we seem as if we are attacking Britain. L'itat, c'est Blair. Spooky, if you ask me. But an ideal position for a politician.
Boris Johnson is editor of The Spectator
-- Old Git (email@example.com), January 06, 2000
OG; He's a pretty damn good writer too! :)
-- Michael Erskine (Osiris@urbanna.net), January 06, 2000.
Damn you Boris! Damn you to Hell!
-- Alistair (Campbell@TonyBlair2000(TB2000).com), January 06, 2000.
Yes, Michael, he knows spin when he sees it. . .
-- Old Git (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 06, 2000.