I'm travelling for a couple of days, so won't be blogging again till Wednesday. But I can't resist this juxtaposition, for what it tells us about both the prime minister and the profusion of misanthropic deadbeats who've held ministerial office in his government.
The BBC reports:
Asked if there was anything he would have done differently in relation to Iraq, Mr Blair replied: "Nothing. I would have done exactly the same...."
Exactly. The only thing the prime minister did wrong in this whole affair was to make too many concessions to his critics. But it was a practical politician's fault, and it didn't hamper his doing the right thing when the need arose. Much has been made of the non-appearance of weapons of genocide in liberated Iraq, but the problem was never stockpiles: it was the infrastructure to produce such weapons, the credible threat to Iraq's neighbours arising from that capability, and the threat to our own security from the links between Baathist tyranny and sundry varieties of terrorism. One question that was not raised, still less answered, at the Liberal Democrat conference last week was, "Do you believe we have a moral obligation to free the people of a prison-state from an unspeakable dictatorship?" I fail to see how a consistent liberal could give an ambiguous or evasive answer, and given that the brutality of Saddam's regime ensured that domestic opposition was forever fruitless where it was not outright suicidal, there was an overwhelming and unanswerable liberal case for invasion.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports on dissent within Labour's ranks:
However, Frank Dobson, the former health secretary, said Labour members were in no mood to forgive Mr Blair. "If they had a vote now among the membership, he'd be lucky to get nominated, let alone elected," he said.
I can't claim this is a cerebral or weighty post, but I have to get an early flight and this might be the place to record my own experience of Frank Dobson.
During the last parliament, when he was once again a backbencher after his humiliating rebuff in the London mayoral election, Dobson announced for no obvious reason to another parliamentarian that he never bothered to respond to constituents' queries, as his central London constituency (Holborn & St Pancras) largely comprised students and an otherwise shifting population. It so happened that I was a constituent of Dobson's, and when the conversation was relayed to me I resolved to find out if his boast was accurate. It was. I wrote to him a dozen times over some 18 months - for I am not given to abandoning an experiment in mid-flight - with the same question (it was about the revelation that a former London Labour MEP, Alf Lomas, had been a declared supporter of East Germany; I sought Dobson's opinion on whether it was appropriate that a democratic party should continue to extend membership to Lomas), and never had it answered.
During the 2001 general election campaign I finally received a telephone call from Dobson's campaign. The lady I am now married to, and who had lately left her native Denmark to move in with me, took the call and was asked to impress upon me Dobson's irritation at my behaviour and a request that I desist from writing to him. Unfortunately Frank Dobson is not a big name in Scandinavia, so my fiancee, with a practical bent that was incredulously-received, asked, 'Who's Frank Dobson?'
In the end this talentless mediocrity was returned again for his safe seat, but with a large swing against him to the Liberal Democrats. Being a fair-minded and impartial enemy of that party, I wrote to Dobson once more to point out that if he behaved with other constituents as he had with me, he was unlikely to be in possession of his parliamentary seat for much longer. He wrote a grudging response, and there we left the matter.
I record this, trivial as the anecdote is, because it suggested to me at the time how lacking in the ethos of public service are many of the older Labour MPs, especially those who have failed to make a mark as ministers. Dobson, Mo Mowlam, Peter Kilfoyle and Glenda Jackson are the obvious names, but there are others. While electoral opinion has turned against the prime minister, it unaccountably doesn't seem to be pressing for his replacement by any of these figures. The Labour Party needs Tony Blair for its credibility, as it will find soon enough once he is no longer there.