Here Comes the Sun

The rains have ceased; the skies have cleared; the Sun is treacling down upon our heads. As I walk the streets, strangers smile their cheery hellos. All seems clean, new, and bright. We can start again. Obama did it.

Last night we went to a neighbourhood election party. This was great fun. Lots of whooping and hollering, and the kids ran out on the streets. At 8 p.m. the California polls closed. At 8.02, fifty four electoral college votes were called, and Obama was past the post. This was so cool, because our neighbours felt like they did it.

We Brits reminisced about a similar day in 1997, when Tony Blair did it. Suddenly politics was all shirt sleeves and optimism. But that didn’t work out quite as we hoped … OK. Hands up. Which of you has Won’t Get Fooled Again playing nervously in their heads ? “Meet the new boss … same as the old boss…”

Tell me it isn’t so.

17 Responses to Here Comes the Sun

  1. Tony says:

    I don’t think Obama is going to turn into a smarmy git with delusions of self-grandeur as did TB after his election. As least, for a while, we can hope for real change in the US from someone with a brain and who cares about people. Not something UK people want: having replaced the smarmy one with the brainy one, most people seem to just want another smarmy git from the opposite side. Wisdom of the crowds? lowest common stupidity more like.

  2. Tony says:

    OK, that’s too negative. I do think Obama will be a force for good in the world: he has managed a huge change in the US by energising vast numbers of ordinary people to get involved in his campaign. Let’s hope he can build a team around him as talented and dedicated as he is himself and can maintain his connection to people.

  3. Kav says:

    I thought TB always was a ‘smarmy git with delusions of self-grandeur’, I don’t think he turned into one, people just started to notice it more.

    I am not yet convinced that ‘brainy’ one is the correct appellation for the current incumbent.

    Andy, I wonder, do you subscribe to the notion of ‘better the devil you know’? Variations on this were the comments I heard a lot when I was in the States and George Bush was seeking re-election. The best variation I heard was ‘you may not agree with him but at least you know where he stands’.

    I think that sometimes you have to take a bit of a leap of faith to avoid being repeatedly stuck with the pitching fork.

    After weighing up the probabilities and considering all the variables of course…

  4. telescoper says:

    When Tony Blair won the general election in 1997 I was actually in the USA having sent my postal vote in before leaving. It was fun to watch the news coverage live from the BBC because all the results came in during the early evening rather than in the middle of the night. As the small British contingent in Lawrence, Kansas, celebrated with large amounts of alcohol we realised that the night was still young and we should think of something else to do. I ended up getting a tattoo of the New Labour rose done on my arm as a constant reminder of the day the world changed for the better.

    The US electorate have clearly made the right choice and I hope they don’t suffer the same disappointment that we did with Blair, who did his very best to squander the trust we placed in him.

  5. Michael Merrifield says:

    The best variation I heard was ‘you may not agree with him but at least you know where he stands’.

    Funnily enough, I had exactly the opposite problem with Tony Blair: I generally agreed with him (notwithstanding a few disasterous decisions, most notably over Iraq), but I never knew where he stood. His heart was usually in a sound, liberal-progressive kind of place, but he spent so much of his time chasing after a micromanaged solution to this week’s problem that he ended up not standing for any discernable basic principles (little things like habeas corpus, for example).

  6. John Peacock says:

    The similarity between Obama & TB is the way people project all their hopes onto a charismatic orator who enunciates noble sentiments. Both of these guys are impressively self-possessed when the heat is on, and that leads you to hope they can deliver on the detail beneath the general promises. But it’s a gamble, and you have to wait to see how they actually govern. Watching the pictures of the cheering crowds in Chicago, I was struck by the sheer irrationality of the hero-worship: it reminded me of pictures from 1930s Germany in some ways. Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t expect Obama to annexe the Sudetenaland – but having unrealistic expectations of a political saviour seems to be a recurring theme in politics.

  7. andyxl says:

    John – you articulate my concern eggzackly. The hero-worship is partly rational though; other politicians will be just as mesmerised as we are, which has to help in getting things done.

  8. Keith A. says:

    I don’t think other politicians are mesmerised however as long as _their_ electors are it has the same effect. This was how President Reagan operated.

  9. Dave Morris says:

    > having replaced the smarmy one with the brainy one, most people seem to just want another > smarmy git from the opposite side.

    Electing someone with a science degree didn’t quite work out as expected either.

  10. onlooker says:

    Well, this guy Blair, what did he ever do for us?

    Constant economic growth for ten years, doubling of money for the NHS and science, 50% increase for education, abolished the hereditary peers, devolved Scotland and Wales, played a major part in the NI Peace process, averted genocide in Kosovo and Sierre Leone, substantially increased foreign aid, got a major increase in Labour women MPs, believed the British, US, French, Russian secret services and even the sainted David Kelly that there were WMD, and most importantly fully fulfilled the main task of a Labour PM which is to keep the Tories out, and did it three times in a row.

    Now this guy Brown is clearly a whizz as Chancellor, as further evidenced by his dealing with the financial crisis, but also clearly not a whizz as PM. He still looks on course to commit the ultimate sin of a Labour PM – letting the Tories back i.

    So all you are glad Blair went? Talk about turkeys voting for Christmas.

  11. Michael Merrifield says:

    Strange, but I seem to recall being in a small crowd of around a million people in London on 15 February 2003, who didn’t believe this allegedly-overwhelming evidence of a plagiarized article from a minor academic journal, and preferred to go with the UN view (which you seem to have conveniently forgotten). And although peace broke out in Northern Ireland during Blair’s time, I suspect that had more to do with Al-Quaeda than the British government. So, by all means give Mr Blair credit for the good things that he did, but you don’t do him any favours by overstating his contribution: like all the rest of us, including Gordon Brown and even (shockingly) the Tories, he has his weaknesses as well as his strengths.

  12. Malte says:

    Those nice Californians also managed to vote in Prop 8. Swings and roundabouts.

  13. andyxl says:

    Onlooker :

    – Constant economic growth for ten years
    – doubling of money for the NHS and science
    – 50% increase for education
    – substantially increased foreign aid,
    almost certainly all Brown rather than Blair

    – abolished the hereditary peers
    – devolved Scotland and Wales
    – played a major part in the NI Peace process
    – averted genocide in Kosovo and Sierre Leone
    – got a major increase in Labour women MPs
    genuine achievements but all early, before it went pear-shaped

    – believed the British, US, French, Russian secret services and even the sainted David Kelly that there were WMD

    you are joking right ? he knew exactly what he was doing, and this is very hard to forgive.

    – and most importantly fully fulfilled the main task of a Labour PM which is to keep the Tories out, and did it three times in a row.

    now we’re talking.

  14. John says:

    Ah, I went to hear Obama speak in April, before he even got the nomination. He’s certainly a charismatic chap. Like any decent demagogue he needed to whip up the crowd with the fear of an external enemy. He couldn’t invoke Iran: that would have made him look too much like the other guy. Instead he he picked on an older enemy. I was proud to be in the crowd cheering and whooping with the rest of them as he recalled the struggle against The Tyrannous British Empire.

    John: regarding 1930s Germany….I get that same creepy feeling just by going into a roadside diner here and seeing 6 foot long flags hanging down from the ceiling.

  15. John says:

    BTW – I’ll be in Mountain View for the next couple of weeks. Fancy a pint?

  16. onlooker says:


    You divide my list of the Blair years into four groups: (1) those actually due to Brown; (2) those done before things went ‘pear-shaped’; (3) Iraq; (4) keeping the Tories out.

    (1) The economic growth 97-07 came from many things, the world economic climate among them. But it was mainly due to the substantial changes made by Norman Lamont after Black Wednesday and cemented in place by Ken Clarke. Brown and Blair together then took them forward. As to whether it was Brown or Blair, the PM of the time is responsible. The spending changes were made possible by the tax revenues from the ‘stealth taxes’, which were again a joint responsibility. Who decided how these revenues were allocated is unclear. I do remember that when Blair announced that NHS spending would rise to the EU average, it became clear that Brown had not been informed. I would say that Blair overall gets the credit. Blair was the Captain, Brown the Chief Engineer working the engines.

    (2) All the good things were done early. Of my list many took concerted effort over the whole period. The NI process and hereditary peers are the most obvious. But there are others from the latter part: The G8 commitment to Africa; the Stern report; minimum wage; EU constitution (opt-outs from); 2012 Olympics. The list goes on.

    (3) Iraq. Here I fancy we come to the core of the issue. Although the chattering classes were attacking Blair before this as he steered clear of the far-left agendas they professed to endorse, Iraq gave them, as they saw it, a weapon to vent their frustrations through. It comes down to ‘Is Blair a liar?’. I have not been able to find an example where he lied. Read the Commons debate on going to war. Where did Blair lie? The Hutton report cleared him.

    (4) Keeping the Tories out. I’m glad you agree that this was a major achievement.

  17. Ross Collins says:


    > Constant economic growth for ten years…
    > Now this guy Brown is clearly a whizz as Chancellor, as further evidenced by his dealing with the financial crisis…

    I’d hold off on any praise of Brown until that economic growth is proven to have been sustainable and not just the rise of an economic bubble. It’s easy to produce economic growth on the back of a pyramid scheme but that doesn’t mean its sustainable. With house prices collapsing and STFC wanting to set astronomy grant funding back to the levels it was at years ago, one should question the sustainability of that growth. Sure, Brown has the experience and the qualification to handle the financial crisis better than many other world leaders but that doesn’t make him a whizz.

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