20 November 2006

Norway Debate

Leo Amery: Does the Prime Minister concede that our intervention in Norway has been pretty much a disaster so far?
Rt Hon. Neville Chamberlain: It has, but you see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Norway?

Well, not really. I've actually played around with Tony Blair’s recent comments on the al-Jazeera network in an interview, inviting comparisons with the famous wartime Norway Debate that led to the resignation of Neville Chamberlain and his replacement by Winston Churchill. Sadly, the relevant Hansard is not available on-line, at least not that I've been able to find. Something for a scholar-squirrel to dig up and post?

I can't think of any remark that has been so close to public relations disaster by a serving government official short of Gerald Ford's famous comment in his debate during the 1976 presidential election that suggested Poland was not under Soviet control. I don't follow Blair's pronouncements that closely, but I've always had the impression that he likes to reach out to his audience and make them identify himself as one of them. I imagine he thought al-Jazeera's viewers would be unsympathetic to his Iraq policy, and might consider it a disaster. But he let his guard down, and now appears stupid.

You can also read a recent parliamentary debate on British involvement in Iraq here. It is a far cry from a Norway debate, but Blair might have been looking a little Chamberlain-like had he not already agreed to stand down during the next year.

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