Backseat Drivers

BY JAMES BEMBRIDGE

Haunting the Prime Minister throughout the corona crisis have been the ghosts of crises past: Blair, Brown and May. Voices one would only risk hearing at after dinner speeches were it not for a media all too ready to resurrect them. We could add Major to this list, but it seems he is watching the cricket more nowadays – his carping from the side-lines doing down Brexit Britain has quietened of late.

Sky News practised political necromancy last Sunday when Blair was summoned to consider who should qualify for a vaccine – the qualifier, it seems, not belonging to an at-risk group, but to a union. One wonders how appropriate it is for Blair to advise on saving lives given his history of illegally snuffing them out.

The term ‘Blairite’ is sometimes employed to give shape to that amorphic force of bureaucratic officialdom that saturates our politics. Whatever its name, ‘follow the science’ has become its refrain. Only, Blair isn’t following science, he’s following politics. To call for teachers to be vaccinated in place of the elderly defies the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – Blair’s intervention is as partisan as it is treacherous.

I’m sure metro media producers would rather encourage Blair the politician than Blair the pseudo consultant. But like Jacob Marley, he appears to us now as a scarcely human spectre; festooned in the chains of a pointless war and with a jaw shattered by the lies used to sell it. The only link to his old party being his enduring unpopularity among the British people. Were it not for his spivvy dodginess he would be Sir or Lord Blair now. As it is the fumigation continues since his years in power – his placers in charities and quangos being routed out one by one. Hospitals still burdened under the PFI that started under Major but got out of control under Blair cronies in the noughties. Wherever you look – whether at Devolution or get-off-free letters for cowardly IRA murderers – Blair is synonymous these days with minefields and messiness.

So instead nowadays, Gordon Brown is offered to us as the ‘sensible’ option. Yes, the man who went to market with over half of the nation’s gold reserves only to return with a bag of beans. This follows a long trend of the British media gaslighting its people: avowed socialists are presented as the sensible option, ‘forensic’ even; cancel culture is talked about as if it were confected by an imagined reactionary right; and EU PR agents are presented as neutral correspondents. Let’s face it, Brown was a dreadful Prime Minister whose ambitions overreached his talents – a chancellor out of his depth next door.

It would seem that for Theresa May, secession from her party wasn’t enough – buying a shepherd’s hut like her relatively sensible predecessor was never going to be an option. The Great Moan began as soon as she left Number 10. She must slither back like a headless snake to Francois’ seat to accuse Boris of undermining British values. The only problem being, May’s values don’t extend beyond tolerance and subservience. Perhaps it is due to her Sunday school background, seeing strength as weakness and weakness as strength. Whilst she was busy turning the other cheek, the Left were busy weaponizing her compassion. When she gave her 2002 speech, ‘they call us the Nasty Party’, the Left mustn’t have believed their luck that she had taken them at their word. That speech condemned the party to speak of little else than free market capitalism lest they be regarded as provocatively ‘right wing’.

Corona has been a hard path to navigate, but everyone agrees that this lockdown must be the last pit stop. Our Prime Minister has done the best he can, he can do without backseat drivers, not least backseat drivers who saw their own cars written off.

James Bembridge is Deputy Editor of Country Squire Magazine.