26 September 2006
Cherie Blair: Tony's lightening rod
"How could you, Cherie?" asks Anne Perkins in The Guardian. The Daily Telegraph expects us to believe that Tony Blair was "unaware of his wife's apparent candour," and was embarrassed by it.
OK, if you believe that, then you will believe anything. When la Blair made her comment about Gordon Brown she knew exactly what she was doing and so did her husband: it's called the lightening rod trick and is as old as the hills. Tony Blair is a past master at it, and the wonder is that nobody seems to have sussed him out.
Basically what a politician does is get someone else to say the things that he can't. The speaker gets the flak and the politico walks away all shiny and bright without a mark on him.
As the two authors of a Blair biography called The Survivor show, Blair has been doing this trick for years. Once when he went back to Fettes, his old (bum) boys school, he noticed an ex-prefect that he had disliked years before. Instead of making a disparaging comment himself, he mentioned the old prefect to a friend and then sat back while this man made the remarks. As Prime Minister, he has consistently used creatures like Peter Mandelson, Alistair Campbell and his wife to take the heat in this way.
Other Prime Ministers have done so as well, as anybody who can remember Margaret Thatcher's press spokesman, Bernard Ingham, will recall. So Blair is not doing anything that is either new or sexy.
Which rather begs the question, why do the press fall for the same old wank time after time?