Compare and contrast: this week, former prime minister Tony Blair appeared in front of a House of Commons select committee to report on his work as the Middle East envoy of the so-called “quartet” countries. He put in an impressive performance. And outside the committee room he offered only solid support to his successor as prime minister.
In today’s Times, former premier John Major is having another go at the government, this time over plans to extend pre-charge detention for suspected terrorists to 42 days. He says the measures “go beyond anything contemplated when Britain faced far more regular – and no less violent – assaults from the IRA. The justification of these has sometimes come close to scaremongering.”
Scaremongering. Hmm. I seem to remember the same accusation being made against those of us who, in the wake of 9/11, warned that a suicide attack on the London Underground was possible, or even likely. Scaremongering.
But whatever his utter failure to grasp the seriousness of the threat (he was probably too busy to notice that the 7/7 attacks on London claimed more lives than any single IRA act of terrorism in its history), the most disappointing aspect of Major’s post-No 10 life is how ungracious he has been. Somehow I expect former prime ministers to conduct themselves with some measure of dignity. Thatcher has done this, as did Jim Callagan. Ted Heath, not so much, but I like to think he was the exception to the rule.
So, okay, Major doesn’t like Blair or Brown. Blair gave him an electoral hiding in 1997, and I suppose that must be hard to forgive. But the only time we ever hear from him these days is when he wants to gripe about his successors in a nasty, partisan way. Not even remotely statesmanlike.
It would be impossible to imagine Major giving the kind of performance that Blair did in the committee room. And just as unlikely that he would have anything to say anyway, except, perhaps, more bitter criticisms of his political nemesis. Frankly, it’s pathetic.
You lost, John. Just accept it and get over it.