Tuesday 27 September 2011
Out of curiosity last night put up the Channel 4 broadcast on Tony Blair and his new found riches together with a saved documentary on The Royal Welsh Regiment, point and counterpoint. Today there has been the customary dispute between those who are sceptical about Blair’s money and those who feel that he is entitled to take whatever cut he can get.
In the Blair item there was much solemn mention of millions, the estimated total and where it might all be. What struck me as strange and omitted was that the people and corporations who were shelling out were some of the wealthiest in the world. To them the odd million or two or even several millions was just small change. The recurring theme was oil and gas.
It was on a par with magnates and aristocrats of old rewarding Head Porters and Concierges of their hotels with good big tips to ensure their continuing loyalty and service. The more the programme went on the more the comparison seemed to be valid. Clearly, we already knew who his friends are and how well connected they were, so what changes?
The real question they tried to address but did not follow through was what value for his money Blair was and just how much useful work he was doing. Evidently, there was the odd favour he extracts occasionally. But too often he reminded me of being the sort of well meaning ignoramus that you dread to see coming through the door offering to help.
What is a lot more worrying is that if this is the way critical international relations and problems are being handled and by whom then the Almighty help us all. It is little wonder that bad problems worsen, people’s revolts and extremism are on the rise and communities disconnect. In the UK Blair’s bungling, ignorance and arrogance has more or less done for the UK.
That he is now trotting around poking his nose into some of the most difficult and dangerous world situations is enough to make fall on our knees and offer prayers. In that department, we can hope only that when Blair’s time comes the Almighty will be applying the needle eyes and camels test on entry with full rigour.
The programme on the Royal Welsh Regiment was interesting and balanced. The men (and women) these days seem much more restrained, polite and well behaved than in my day although their foot drill made me wince. But in the field they were doing the job very well indeed and could not be faulted.
What was intriguing was that as one of their predecessor regiments was the 24th Foot, whose 200 plus “B” Company held Rorke’s Drift in 1879 against the Zulu Impis. Not only does the regiment celebrate rightly the heroism of those men but that it still remains a feature of their organisation. Another feature is that the regimental mascot is a billy goat who is given the rank of non commissioned officer.
There was no mention of the delicate issue of why a large column of British Troops should have gone into Zululand in the first place. This was the great age of British expansion into Africa driven by the need to be there before other European powers, a natural hunger to possess land and very importantly to have what lay underneath the land in the shape of precious metals, gemstones and other ores and metals.
At the end of watching the second programme I realised suddenly that just as in George Orwell’s book “Animal Farm” when at the end the other animals realised that they could not tell the pigs and humans apart, I was unable to work out which was the blustering Blair and which was the grazing goat.