The language of hate? It was you who taught us, Prime Minister


Last updated at 12:47 12 November 2006

All of us know that dreadful feeling when you realise you're apparently sitting next to a cab driver on his day off. For me, the most recent moment was in the waiting room at the Indian High Commission.

I was trapped there for two hours waiting for a visa. The computer system was down and the number board, which tipped hesitantly towards the moment when I would be called to sort out the necessary paperwork, was out of order.

'What do you think of that?' he asked, stabbing at a picture of Saddam Hussein in a newspaper. 'They should all be strung up next to him - Bush, Blair and bloody Prescott.'

I asked if he, too, was contemplating a holiday in India. A woman next to him attempted to explain that they had found a very good deal. But her husband was having none of that talk.

He explained that George Bush was a draft dodger and Blair had talked his way out of army cadet training while at public school. As for Prescott, he'd avoided call-up by agreeing to serve martinis to nobs on cruise ships.

The man was old enough to have done National Service, perhaps to have seen action.

His take on our current political leadership was loud enough to turn the heads of the dozen or so Indian people sitting by us.

I can just about recall the row over Bush's reluctance to serve in Vietnam while Blair's decision not to join his school cadet force, even if true, is hardly a hanging offence.

As for John Prescott, I really do not know whether he ducked National Service, but his attraction to a uniform did manifest itself when he donned the cowboy outfit he was given by an American businessman keen to build a casino inside the Dome.

Senior politicians rarely leave office in a haze of approval.

But the unprompted revulsion expressed by the gentleman waiting for a visa is something deeper and more disturbing than I have ever experienced.

Time and again, such blunt outrage is poured forth by people who are not politicians and who would never previously have dreamt of expressing such sentiments to friends, never mind a stranger in a public place.

The two Prime Ministers before Blair left in bad odour. Margaret Thatcher was loathed by her ideological opponents because she had proved them wrong. John Major went down in the flames of his own dithering.

Each was demonised but neither was judged to be downright deceitful in the way the charge is laid at the door of the present occupant of No10.

The war in Iraq, of course, plays a major part in this new, boiling anger. The words of yet another parent whose child has died there say it all. Edward Hancock, whose 19-year-old son was gunned down last week, speaks of the Prime Minister as a 'traitor' and 'consummate liar'. This is the response of a grieving man.

BUT many other people who have not lost loved ones in the conflict use the same language. It is unsparing in its assessment of the Prime Minister and equates him to an evil enemy.

It is a consequence of many things, not all the fault of Blair. It reflects the need to cast instant opinion and a nation that uses its language carelessly.

But it also mirrors the way Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have conducted themselves. It is as if we, the public, have been poisoned by the culture and language that accompanies politics at the highest level.

We have learned the words that accompany the blackest of arts from Downing Street itself. The routine abuse that these people have used against each other for so many years has found its way to the public domain.

But there is another reason for this visceral dislike of the Prime Minister. Blair has freely admitted from day one that the way to define yourself as a leader is by choosing your enemies.

By doing so, Blair demeaned others to aggrandise himself and make himself look strong. This initially worked. He ignored the trade unions and attacked the Left of the party.

Then when policies faltered at home he turned his attention abroad. Militarily Saddam seemed a pushover. We now know the affair was a complete disaster.

Then he turned his attention once more to enemies at home. Terrorist attacks and mad mullahs in Finsbury Road allowed him to rage against muslim fascism in this country.

But it was a policy which has alienated many ordinary muslims in a society which has prided itself on tolerance.

Blair seeks a legacy as he nears his departure. He has one. It underpinned his premiership and can be heard in the bitterness that many ordinary people feel towards him. Basically it is that of hate.

So it is that as you await your passage to India the guy next to you will come out with a view that the Prime Minister is either mentally unstable or deserves to swing.

It is not edifying to hear but it is of his own making.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now