Blair's old gloss can't paint over the Middle East cracks

Published: 16 Jun 2011 09:301 comment

IT WAS like old times. Tremor in the voice, glottals stopping like an intricate passage from Riverdance, that weird Anglo-Scottish hooray accent, mellowed with a mid-Atlantic tinge, and even a hint of the Middle East picked up from visitors spirited up in the private lift to the all-expenses- paid floor he occupies at Jerusalem's American Colony Hotel.

Having missed the introduction, it took time to decide whether the Today programme was staging nostalgia hour or indeed that really was Yo Blair in all his contemporary thespian splendour. But yes, it was the great Middle East peace envoy speaking in sepulchral tones without hint of irony of the "chaos and turmoil" in the region; knowing there was minimal danger of interviewer Sarah Montague apparently even wondering why he'd seemingly achieved so little in assuaging said chaos and turmoil.

Ms Montague, of the honking laugh, comes from the BBC school of interviewing that prefers arguing with the subject, interrupting three words into the first sentence of their reply or, to make them sound shifty, posing a question they know he/she would never answer in the course of several lifetimes. Oh for a tenner every time the nation shouts: "For God's sake let him answer!"

Curiously, and maybe because he's no longer our Pry Minister, she let Yo B go on largely uninterrupted about "peace" in Iraq. Libya's good, even though the current Pry Minister still won't say how many multiples of the National Debt we're showering daily in high explosive form on Tripoli's more chic suburbs. Syria's also good, even though you'd be hard pressed to spot the difference between the despot Assad and the despot Gaddafi, unless two wrongs really do make a right. Egypt's okay, Yemen, that's just Yemen, Gaza he glossed over.

Eventually even La Montague tired of bland, and turned to Milibland. Mister Ed. Yo B's dulcet tones threatened to turn falsetto as he shifted position on the fence, muttering about always supporting the Labour leader. Food for thought the next time he gets Balls up to the top floor for a chinwag and invites him to bring along the Clunking Fist. It was only when Yo B uttered the magic words "as I say in the book" that the real reason for the interview became evident.

But while it was all great fun for Blairwatchers, it wasn't remotely new, and about as unsurprising as the declaration on the tub of cod liver oil tablets I found myself examining idly at the breakfast table as I listened. "Contains fish," it read.

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