Yes, we've all been turned into zombies

Last updated at 09:50 10 January 2005


Tony Blair appears on David Frost's TV show to say he has denied the feud with Gordon Brown many times and won't bother doing so again.

He has always made it clear, he says, that there can never be any deals in this job.

We know this is utter rubbish. There were deals. We also know without question that he and Mr Brown are fighting like rats in a sack over the premiership.

Not so long ago, we would all have been talking about this political crisis, everybody would have had a view. Now it seems too complicated for us. We can't be bothered.

Neal Lawson, of the Left-wing pressure group Compass, said: "New Labour has become the party of the living dead."

Actually, we're all zombies now. Whatever the Government does - or doesn't do - the nation meekly goes along with it.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown feud over the premiership, according to a new book by friends of the Chancellor, and Mr Blair promised Mr Brown he would stand aside last year but then changed his mind.

Mr Blair's allies say Mr Brown tried to destabilise the Prime Minister so he could bump him out of No 10. Meanwhile, both pretend everything is normal. The reaction of the country? Zombie disinterest. Labour's poor ratings remain healthy.

The Prime Minister should have been driven from office by the lies told to justify the war in Iraq. We zombies couldn't care less, it appears.

Scandals come and go without damaging the Government. Home Secretary David Blunkett fasttracks a visa for the nanny of his married mistress. He resigns without a stain on his character, according to the PM, and is likely to return to the Government after the election.

Mr Blair remained at his Egyptian holiday destination - yet another freebie - long after the appalling death toll of the tsunami in Asia became clear. It now looks as if his officials deliberately downgraded - or omitted to reveal - the full extent of the British casualties in order to save his hide.

Our reaction? Wonder what Celebrity Big Brother will be like tonight... We rage about dumbeddown education and dumbeddown television programmes. How about dumbed-down politics?

Zombie Britons don't - or can't - follow what is going on unless they have a musical soundtrack.

People who don't take an interest in how they are ruled will end up losing all control over the process, and that is what is happening now.


How typical of the age we live in that BBC bosses have to go into hiding after broadcasting Jerry Springer - The Opera. Every day of the week they transmit material more offensive to human intelligence and dignity without fear of complaint, let alone death threats.

It wasn't blasphemy that drove me out of Jerry Springer - The Opera when it was on at The National. It was its crude, jeering, unfunniness, aimed at exactly the kind of idiots who'd watch the Springer TV show 'for laughs'.


Having got the Royal Ulster Constabulary abolished by the Blair Government, Sinn Fein is shocked to find its military wing, the Provisional IRA, accused of looting the Northern Bank of £26.5 million.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness denies any IRA involvement, accusing the police of trying to derail the peace process. Well, he would, wouldn't he? He has nothing to lose.

The Provisional IRA has been blamed for the robbery by Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of Northern Ireland. Mr Orde has everything to lose if he's wrong and Mr McGuinness nothing. So whom shall we believe?

Even The Guardian, usually an enthusiastic supporter of Irish Republicanism, admits: "Those who continue to vote for Sinn Fein should think about what they're doing."


So these things always happen in war, do they?

This week four British soldiers face courts martial in Germany, accused of ill-treating Iraqis.

Some of the abuse allegations are supported allegedly by photographic evidence showing captives being sexually humiliated.

We are told this is 'Britain's Abu Ghraib' - the notorious U.S.-run Iraqi prison. (Charles Graner, the alleged ringleader in the prisonerabuse scandal at the jail, has gone on trial in America.)

Those who think our troops can do no wrong say this is all a fuss about nothing. These things always happen in wartime, don't they?

Maybe so, but what is being alleged seems typical of this dirty little war.

The so-called coalition - drawn from nations with a total population of around 500 million, invading one with 25 million - enjoys such huge advantages in men and equipment that it isn't war at all in the accepted sense.

Iraqis - friend or foe - are treated as scum by their invaders, particularly the Americans.

A report in The Economist magazine discussed the U.S. Marine practice of shooting at local vehicles coming within 50 metres of them.

"If anyone gets too close to us, we f****** waste them," says a lieutenant. "It's kind of a shame, because it means we've killed a lot of innocent people."

The pointless invasion of Iraq is estimated by The Lancet magazine to have cost more than 100,000 innocent lives.

It has made the problem of terrorism worse, not better. We'll be reaping the consequences for years. The offences alleged against U.S. and UK soldiers seem part of its character.


Touch of Frost

On balance, I prefer Sadie Frost to Sienna Miller. The former is a sparkling brunette, the latter a dim-sounding dyed blonde. Of course, I could be mistaken.

Miss Frost is said to be cross that her former husband, actor Jude Law, told their eight-year-old son, Rafferty, that he was engaged to marry Miss Miller.

She felt she should have been told first. Most of us would agree. Publicly, Miss Frost wished Mr Law and Miss Miller "all the best for the future", privately she is said to have described Miss Miller's engagement ring as "something Wayne [Rooney] might buy Coleen".

Perhaps Miss Miller is a wise-cracking New Yorker in the Dorothy Parker mould. If so, it has not as yet become apparent.

So, for me, the advantage lies with Miss Frost, who is dating a flamenco guitarist 15 years her junior.


A new brand on the shelf

To the surprise of no one, the marriage of actors Brad Pitt, 41, and Jennifer Aniston, 35, is reported to be over.

Friends of Miss Aniston say she didn't want to be remembered as the airhead she played in Friends and wants to make serious films, while Mr Pitt was anxious to start a family.

So they worked out together the reasons they would give for their split - 'and how they would protect the brand they've built up'. The same kind of things were said during the difficulties in the David and Victoria Beckham marriage. Their joint brand was deemed more important than their individual ones.

Living in what is called the 'post-ironic' world, we do not question the rights of those we idolise to sell us false versions of their lives. Neither does it reduce necessarily our admiration for them.

So, Brad and Jennifer were able to announce: "We happily remain committed and caring friends with great love and admiration for one another" - without fearing we would see through this stratagem.

George Orwell thought we'd end up under the control of a government that turned the truth upside down; a rival thinker, Aldous Huxley, thought we'd be enslaved by our own foolishness. Once these were considered conflicting theories. Now we know they are complementary.


Cherie Blair summoned a photographer to witness her donation of old toys to Save The Children. Is this her only contribution to the tsunami appeal?

In America, politicians are expected to disclose annually how much they donate to charity. Perhaps that would be a good idea here, too. The Blairs give the impression that, for them, charity begins at home - and that they prefer receiving to giving.


RIP for Fergie means Revel In Publicity

The Duchess of York is accompanied by Hello! magazine on what it calls "an emotional journey to her late mother's estate in Argentina".

There are eight pages of pictures, including one of the former Sarah Ferguson kneeling by the grave of her mother, Susan Barrantes, who died, aged 61, in a car crash there in 1998.

What kind of person poses for publicity pictures at the graveside of their mother? The Duchess would no doubt argue that it's all in a good cause. Her charities are mentioned in the article.

Regally, she informs us: "This has been my chance to thank the Argentinian people for everything they gave my mother and to give something back."

Like Diana, Sarah Ferguson discovered that you can continue to be a semi-royal after splitting from the son of the Queen.

There's lots of publicity but no royal duties and responsibilities - or any need to behave discreetly.

Miss Ferguson has made a virtue of her public activities, saying they were necessary to pay off her huge debts.

Kneeling by her mother's grave for Hello! magazine is merely another gig on her publicity schedule. Will her two daughters - and her daughters' daughters - follow the same career, generation after generation, of game show royals?

More than likely the monarchy itself will have hit the buffers by then.

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