Thursday, January 28, 2010


(With updates, below)

From a very young age, I had a sense of 'power relations'. Whether concerned with big public institutions - schools, police, family, or with social microcosms - teacher/pupil, mam/dad, copper/youth, I had an interest in how and why things were the way they were. In common with this, I found any kind of serious debate engaging - as much for the way in which arguments were substantiated, as for which way they were won, lost or left undetermined. Remaining the case, I would go on to read of rhetoric.

At school in the mid-late 1980s, I sat in a year group assembly, with around 150 of my peers, and began to listen to some bloke (not a teacher) talk about 'politics'. I imagine that he was an officer from some ill-thought-through local authority scheme - through which young minds were to become switched on to matters political. Over the course of the man's talk - thirty minutes at most, I found myself becoming more and more engaged. This was countered by a murmur, that became a rumble, that became outright disruption, from at least 100 of my fellow audience members. At the time, I realised that the speaker's task was thankless, and his approach - reasoning with us - ambitious. These were the days before drama and dance and hip-hop were taken to be the way to reach errant youngsters. I also guessed that the man at the front was 'the kind of person who didn't shout at children'. During what was probably a fairly grim half hour for him, he lobbed a few questions at our braying mass. Some fell into no man's land, others didn't get that far. I still don't know why the bystanding teachers left it until after he had departed to berate us - their own kind of theatre, perhaps.

That day, the point at which I noticed the background noise came a moment after I'd answered a question that the visitor had called out. To have answered at all was a bit out there, but to have to repeat myself felt a bit much.

'Tony Blair', I repeated, for he was our MP at the time. Fresh-faced, ambitious, going places.

As irrelevant or as dull as such talk may have been to so many of us back then, I'm minded to wonder about how many of that assembly were later touched, destroyed, or otherwise supported or ground down, by decisions and alliances forged on Tony Blair's watch. I'm also wondering what became of that day's guest speaker - people don't plan to go in for that sort of punishment, surely.

Tomorrow, I'll listen to Blair's evidence to The Iraq Inquiry. And later, I'll listen to the maintream fall-out from it.

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UPDATE (Fri, 11:35am): I found myself recalling being examined for the Ph.D., this morning - something to do with semiotics and seating arrangements. The Inquiry panel seemed to be more visibly nervous as today's session began. Blair also very tense to start with - seems to have relaxed into it. The pre-session Five Live phone-in was predictably grim. I sometimes wonder whether they sift out those callers who might seem to be possessed of balance and articulacy (...regardless of their bottom-line position).

UPDATE (Fri 4:19pm): Getting towards the end of the session, and I'd say that there's little that hasn't been heard before being aired. The nature of the questioning and answering has made me reflect upon contrasting styles of interrogation - the hard-headed, in-your-face journalist versus the stealthy, catch-you-with-defences-down approach, versus something that is a bit more zingy - something purely about fact-finding, rather than generating news, or a peformance, or a political blow. That's about it.

UPDATE (Fri 6:03pm): Early summaries and reactions - 'analysis' would be an overstatement - as broadcast on Five Live, have been fairly narrow in their focus. Despite close to six hours hours of contextual description, and accounting for the political and diplomatic balancing act that led to the second invasion into Iraq, the detail that gets the featured coverage is the lack of an apology from Blair. Predictable, not something that offends or bothers me personally, but it's easy to appreciate how and why others have reacted as they have. There seem to me to be three main sources of anti-Blair sentiment, namely: the Tories (Blair having upset the blue apple-cart, and led government, as the Conservatives navigated dire straits); the grieving (in the absence of a sense of hard, unequivocally clear evidence of attempts to avoid military intervention); and the old left (when Labour got New, others became old/grey/disenfranchised, by default). And so it goes.


Brennig said...

I don't listen to Five Live but are the phone-ins from the same people who call Jeremy Vine on R2?

Shane said...

Radio 2?... Christ, man, that's a bit... happy. Wouldn't know if the callers are the same, but I'm guessing that they're at least related.

Brennig said...

I was off sick last week. It was either Jeremy Vine or Jeremy Kyle. Is there even a contest here to be won? :-)

Shane said...

Contest? Now you're making no sense. Check that you didn't get the horse pills and your own mixed up. Good man.