November 5th, 2008

Yellow head

Brand New Day

My abiding memory of the 97 election, in which Tony Blair's Labour government won a landslide victory over the Conservative party, was that day, walking up into town past rows of trees in full blossom. It was Spring, the sky was bright, and there was new hope in the air. The dreadful, clapped out, exhausted Tory's had been slung out of power, having been replaced by someone young, intelligent and charismatic.

Now I think back to that time of optimism, and I can't help but remember how it all went wrong. The trouble was that we didn't really know Tony Blair. We didn't know that the new Prime Minister was a man obsessed with power. That he was ruthless with friends and alleys, yet fawning in his dealings with others more powerful than himself. That he was so blinded by the glamour of the Whitehouse, that he was completely uncritical of Bush's disastrous foreign adventures. In fact, Blair gradually revealed himself to be rather a silly man.

I say all this as a word of caution concerning the current near-hysterical optimism over President-Elect Obama. I'm not saying that Barack Obama is like Tony Blair. My point is that we simply don't know who President Obama is, or will turn out to be once he sits in the oval office. You can't even look back to what he did and said when he was a state senator, because people can easily change once they achieve high office (or even worse, begin to exhibit personality traits hitherto unseen and unsuspected, like Tony Blair did).

Don't read me wrong though. I fully believe that Barack Obama could help usher in a better period for the United States and the world. It's marvellous to have someone intelligent and thoughtful in the Whitehouse. Here is a man who other world leaders will respect, because amongst other qualities, he's capable of stringing two words together without making a fool of himself. But he isn't Superman, Jesus or Mohammed. He's just some guy who's probably feeling a little overwhelmed today.