I have never been called a snob before. Yet that is how Tony Blair
has described me - and countless others - for agreeing with Professor
Anthony O’Hear’s perceptive analysis of what the ’canonisation’ of
Princess Diana represents: the triumph of feeling, image and spontaneity
over reason, reality and restraint.
It may seem a funny charge for Mr Blair to make since he has introduced
his own personal brand of snobbery which looks down on - indeed seeks to
marginalise - all who do not wholeheartedly subscribe to his cult.
But, then, he is under attack for elevating image -almost to the
exclusion of reality - to substance. It is now easier to find Americans
who voted for President Clinton than Blairites who answer to ’Cool
Britannia’. They deny using the term now that artistes of curious talent
are complaining of being used by No 10 to epitomise the new
This is not the best atmosphere for an obsessively presentational
Government marking its first year in office.
The icing seems to be coming off the gingerbread.
This was not inevitable. New Labour brought a sense of release after the
Tories had fumbled and fought themselves to electoral oblivion. It is
also different from Old Labour since it has not yet begun to wreck the
superbly functioning economy left by John Major.
It has brought the prospect of better State education and more law and
order, if only by ratting on the politically correct social engineers it
consistently supported in office. It might even reform the welfare
state, although I suspect its Diana-esque touchy-feeliness will get in
the way. But what else has it done, apart from possibly converting Mr
Major’s Northern Ireland initiative into a real experiment in peaceful
Halfway through its Euro-presidency, its ambition to lead Europe is a
joke and its devolution plans threaten to break up the UK. For the rest,
it has been promises and soundbites - a triumph of image over reason and
restraint. Of course you can’t judge a Government after only 12 months
but you can reasonably assess its prospects on its early
Sadly I conclude that, however different its circumstances, this one is
a throwback to the Wilson Government of the 1960s. It came to office on
a slogan - forging a new Britain in ’the white heat of technology’. It
was hot on presentation. Like Mr Blair, it believed an initiative a day
kept the doctor away. It cultivated the trendies of the time. And it
After his first year, Mr Blair’s task is to persuade us that he has
something more concrete to offer Britain than New stunts, New slogans,
New wheezes - and the destruction of traditions which make us what we