'Bristol Punk' storms the Arnolfini


Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol 
Saturday 30 July 2016 to Sunday 11 September 2016, 11:00 to 18:00

Punk has more than one story

This summer at Arnolfini we embrace the unstable, the volatile and the unpredictable. In Punk’s 40th anniversary year, we draw on Bristol’s independent spirit and explore punk as an attitude that has more than one history and meaning.

Moving Targets brings an unruly summer season of music, performance, visual art and activities to the harbourside. Art works, sounds, events and workshops spill out of the building, taking over our foyer, leaking into the bookshop and café, and activating the outdoor space.
Arnolfini and the city of Bristol have a special relationship to punk. During July and August, join us to find out about other stories and ideas around punk and tell us what punk means to you.
Should we reject the future? Be angry, raw, fearless? Is there a place in punk for everyone?
Let’s step outside the gallery, make things happen, shout out loud, disrupt, improvise and make some noise! 

Punks hanging out at Arnolfini, 1977, photo Tim Williams_courtesy Bristol Archive Records

Moving Targets includes:

Outdoor poster work exploring print as protest by artist Phoebe Davies and students from UWE Graphic Design in collaboration with Bristol Archive Records
Live radio shows by artist Jenny Moore and collective, gal-dem
Inhabit, a space to debate the future of our city, created by Young Arnolfini
Unmissable Music celebrating Bristol’s punk heritage
Plus a whole host of defiant performances, films, workshops, discussions and family activities.
 Join in the conversation using #bristolpunk
*Our title Moving Targets is taken from and dedicated to Mimi Thi Nguyen and Golnar Nikpour’s amazing chapbook, 'Punk is a Moving Target', Guillotine press, 2013


'Come Near Me': Massive Attack's new video

Come Near Me feat. Ghostpoet Produced and co-written by Grant and Stew Jackson

Massive Attack, Ghostpoet - 'Come Near Me'

See what happens when you're too afraid...
Massive Attack new video, for 'Come Near Me' is out. Film by Ed Morris.
Also features a great scene where a driver is playing 'Unfinished Sympathy' loudly in the car... 
Brilliant work.

Published on 29 Jul 2016
Massive Attack feat. Ghostpoet - ‘Come Near Me’. Taken from ‘The Spoils’ - Spotify – http://po.st/MASpoilsSP | iTunes – http://po.st/MASpoilsiT | Apple Music - http://po.st/MASpoilsAM | Official Store: http://po.st/MAOfficialStore


Live dates: http://po.st/MALive



You can read more here on the video, on Dazed:

Massive Attack release tense new video for ‘Come Near Me’

The strange, stylish clip for the Ghostpoet-featuring single follows

 a couple adrift in a ‘painfully normal’ world

Massive Attack have released a new song for their Ghostpoet-featuring “Come Near Me”. The song was released earlier this week via Fantom, the band’s reactive remix app, that plays songs in different configurations depending on a variety of environmental settings with your phone.
Its tense, stylish new video, directed by Ed Morris, was shot in a day in Hove, and stars Kosovar actress Arta Dobroshi and British actor Jonathan Aris as a couple adrift in a destructive relationship. “The idea, everything I considered came from the track,” Morris tells us, “The notion of an emotional stand off, an impasse, came about quite early. I explored that visually.”
“When you are going through something tough emotionally the world around you can seem so surreal. So pointless,” he continues, “The world we portray around them is a very normal one, almost painfully normal. It’s a complete contrast to their madness.”
Morris describes the video as a “very singular, simple visual narrative”, but this simplicity is given a sudden jolt midway through when it’s interrupted by the unexpected use of Massive Attack’s own “Unfinished Sympathy”. “‘Unfinished Sympathy’ brings such nostalgia and love with it,” Morris says, “It’s basically the 90s showing up in a present day promo.”

and here:


Ed Morris on His Haunting Massive Attack Video 'Come Near Me'

A disintegrating relationship, intense performances and some surprising Easter Eggs make for a dark modern fable

Ed Morris on His Haunting Massive Attack Video 'Come Near Me'
Following on from the eerie horror of Ringan Ledwidge’s Massive Attack video ‘Voodoo in My Blood’, fellow Rattling Stick director Ed Morris has written and directed a foreboding promo for the band. The film for ‘Come Near Me’, a track featuring Ghostpoet, explores the isolation and irresistible downward pull of a broken relationship. Central to the video is the seething chemistry between the lead performers, Kosovar actress Arta Dobroshi and British actor Jonathan Aris.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with director Ed Morris to explore the film’s influences and meaning and delve into the craft behind it.

LBB> What did you make of the track when you first heard it? Was there anything about it that particularly resonated with you
EM> You should never do a promo unless you really like the track, I really liked the track. The first thing I thought was that the track was filmic. It had a very singular, immediate and arresting tone and personality. And the subject matter was compelling and rich. 

LBB> What was your way into the story and the treatment? In the early stages, were you led more by that core emotional idea or the visuals?
EM> I wrote quite a bit until I got on to an impasse, a dispute, and emotional stand off. Then I tried to visualise that.

LBB> The decision to include those outside observers – the woman in the car, the boys on the bike – who break in, over the track was a really powerful moment for me because it highlighted how isolating bad relationships can be and how frustrating it is to outside observers/friends. Maybe I’m projecting… but I was wondering what you were hoping to get at with these moments?
EM> You are right, they are there to do that. They are the normal everyday contrast to the veiled madness and isolated intensity of the relationship breakdown. They also work practically to fuck with the narrative here and there and drive it a bit.

LBB> There’s a bit of an Easter Egg in the promo, when Unfinished Sympathy starts blaring out of a passing car. When did you come up with that? Was it in the treatment or was it an off-the-cuff experiment? What did the band make of it? And what do you think it brings?
EM> At first it was two coppers. I wanted D and G to play the police but they couldn’t, so I came up with two of the girl’s mates on their way out. 
I’ve been circling the idea of introducing another second track in to a promo for a while. You know, you pull these things out the hat when you need them. I have a hat under the table.

LBB> What were you looking for in the two lead actors? They have a pretty intense chemistry and it’s that tension between them that supports the whole film – how did you work with them to capture that?
EM> I was looking for two people who could transmit everything without doing anything. I did an intense sort of mini workshop with them in a hotel room before we went out. I filmed it on my iPhone, and reviewed it with them. They got it immediately, they loved it.

LBB> It’s not the first time you’ve worked with the Massive Attack crew – there’s your short for Robert del Naja’s Battle Box. Did that create a more trusting environment for the project? If so, what sort of impact did it have on the whole process of bringing the film to life?
EM> Yeah, there is trust. That helps of course but you can’t rest on that. D and G and Marc their manager are all about as sharp as it gets and you can’t second guess any of them. If anything, there is an expectation from them; you have to honour that.

LBB> Where did you shoot it and what were the most challenging elements of the actual shoot? 
EM> We shot in Southwick, near Hove. It’s a semi industrial and interesting little seaside town. It has some interesting landmarks. I drove down there one Sunday after I’d written the script and it just had this incredible sense of place to it. Everything became crystal clear then.
On the actual shoot, I had an amazing team around me. I couldn’t have asked for better so it really was a smooth and fairly easy process. The challenge is always time I suppose, and the limit of my own intelligence - that fucking close ring fence I keep hurtling in to.

LBB> That shot on the motorway gave me a wee jump! Was that a particularly tricky stunt?
EM> Yeah, we had to go out there and rehearse the timings and do the traffic control, that kind of stuff. You know, make sure it could cut right etc. The Council are pretty jumpy about all that.

LBB> While the action of the video is quite simple, it layers up these really complex emotions and the timeline jumps back and forth… the edit is really key. How did you approach the edit and who did you work with on it? What did they bring to it?
My editor Flaura [Atkinson at The Quarry] is, I think, one of the best editors in the world, certainly when it comes to anything musical. We worked backwards. I knew the pace must come from the last scene. I asked her to string it out as much as possible, make it almost unbearably drawn out. We found the film that way; it’s rhythm and atmosphere. Then we built it scene by scene. 
It wasn’t easy because so much depended on sound and remixing the track, the stems. The film dismantles the track and the narrative. After, Scott, a great sound guy I like to work with, got stuck in. We batted it back and forth a bit between edit and sound, just crafting really.

LBB> The grade too is beautiful – especially that rich deep blue at the very end... Who did you work with on that? And what sort of influences and ideas did you have for the colour?
EM> Well Franz Lustig, the DOP, graded stills from the shoot at my place while we drank sloe gin chatted late after the shoot. He’s born the same year as me, we discovered. 
I also take film stills when I shoot and use those to inform the final grade. Then of course we take all that to Seamus O’Kane at the mill and he just makes it better from there. The Mill really took care of some magic on this. The magic Mill.

LBB> At the end of the video, I couldn’t help draw comparisons with folk tales and dark fairy tales – the siren, the Little Mermaid melting into the sea, even the Scottish selkie… Was that something that influenced that end scene? Are these stories something that interests you? Or am I projecting again?
EM> No, you are right, I’m pleased you picked that up. Yes, all forms of story interest me. Yes, it is like a little fable. 
She is luring him really, it’s her will, her dogged defiance that he ends up the victim of. She is the victor, the strength.
There’s a play by Georg Buchner called Woyzeck. It’s a favourite of mine; the final scene ends with this sad character who has killed his partner and his partner’s lover. He’s standing by a lake. He throws the murder weapon, a bloody knife out in to the lake. His paranoia fuelled by his guilt grips him and he wades out to reach down and retrieve the knife to throw it yet further. He finds it and throws it deeper again. Ever more paranoid and desperate to cover his blame, he repeats this several times until he drowns and never comes back. 
I’ve only ever read it as a play but I’ve imagined that scene again and again. It’s a hypnotically devastating end to a terrible story. 
The last scene was influenced by that. Water, submergence, complete disappearance. Water, the sea is like a kind of earthly physical heaven or other world. It is at once beautiful, sensual and indiscriminate, violent. Like sex.


Link to YouTube:



'The Spoils'

BBC Radio 6 Music shares more on Massive Attack's new tracks:

Just Added - Jul 2016

Thursday 28 July, by Louise Mason Team Laverne
We’ve got the world exclusive first play of new Massive Attack for our Just Added playlist today. Snippets of two new tracks have been shared via the group’s Fantom app, described as a “sensory music player” designed to remix and reconfigure songs on each listen. We’ve stuck to the original for our Just Added though.

In January Massive Attack released the Ritual Spirit EP, which was written and produced by the band’s Robert del Naja and collaborator Euan Dickinson. Today Massive Attack release two brand new songs, 'The Spoils' and 'Come Near Me'. 

As with the Ritual Spirit EP, you can listen to your own versions of the tracks on the Group’s Fantom app which will adjust the song according to things like your location and movement. 

Both songs are written and produced by Massive Attack’s Daddy G and collaborator Stew Jackson and feature vocals from Hope Sandoval (on 'The Spoils') and Ghostpoet (on 'Come Near Me'). 

'Come Near Me' is accompanied by a video directed by Ed Morris and features Kosovan actress Arta Dobroshi. 

In July, Massive Attack headlined the first night of this year’s British Summer Time festival at London's Hyde Park. Massive Attack are performing live across Europe throughout the summer including on 3rd September with Primal Scream and Skepta at Bristol Downs.

Link to the website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/43pjWml9LwlSQc1pH4V13g1/just-added-jul-2016


The song, 'The Spoils', sung by Hope Sandoval, is simply gorgeous, wondrous!

The second song, 'Come Near Me', features irreplaceable Ghostpoet.

The E.P. will be out this Friday!


You can also listen to the wondrous 'The Spoils' on YouTube:


'Karma Napoli'

Massive Attack - 'Karmacoma' - Live ft. Raiz - Napoli 2016

Published on 28 Jul 2016 by Antonio Barile:

Una rara performance live di 'Karmacoma' dei Massive Attack con Raiz degli Almamegretta a Napoli il 27/07/2016

Erykah Badu and Nas sing for 'The Land' movie

Listen to the song here:

Nas & Erykah Badu - 'This Bitter Land'


And watch the trailer here:

The Land - Official Trailer I HD I IFC Films

Pre-order the album and get "This Bitter Land" as an instant download: theland.lnk.to/TheLandSoundtrackSo 

Mass Appeal Records is set to release the soundtrack for the Priority Pictures/IFC Films, The Land on July 29th in conjunction with the film’s release. The highly anticipated, coming-of-age film as well as the soundtrack has Nas on board as executive producer. The new song "This Bitter Land" features powerful performances from Erykah Badu and Nas over a lush and brooding orchestration from the composer of the film's score, Jongnic Bontemps.
The official track list for the soundtrack of The Land consists of 14 songs featuring a diverse array of artists including Nas, Erykah Badu, Kanye West, Pusha T, French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly, Jeremih, Dave East, Alina Baraz, Nosaj Thing, Ezzy and Jerreau.
Directed by Steven Caple Jr., the Sundance Film Festival favorite The Land stars Erykah Badu, Machine Gun Kelly, Michael K Williams (The Wire), Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy) and more. The film follows a group of Cleveland teenagers who embark on a journey to achieve their dreams of becoming professional skateboarders.
Pre-order “The Land” soundtrack:

1. "Intro" - Nosaj Thing
2. "Paid" - Pusha T & Jeremih
3. "Dopeman" - Machine Gun Kelly
4. "Figure It Out" feat. Kanye West & Nas - French Montana
5. "Goodbye" - Ezzy
6. "Cisco's Theme" - Fashawn
7. "Frequency High" - Stalley
8. "Angels" - Nosaj Thing
9. "Never Been Told" feat. Machine Gun Kelly - Ezzy
10. "BAG" - Dave East
11. "Looking for Something" - Jerreau
12. "Fantasy" - Alina Baraz & Galimatias
13. "This Bitter Land" - Nas & Erykah Badu
14. "Outro" - Nosaj Thing


"We're all migrants"

Yesterday in Rome, Italy, Massive Attack sang 'Eurochild' and talked about coming from immigrant families...

In between their songs 'Eurochild' (sung by 3D and Daddy G) and 'Pray for Rain' (interpreted by Azekel).

"We're all migrants. We have to stand together", said 3D.

26.7.2016 Massive Attack Live in Roma

Brand new track of Massive Attack: soon on BBC Radio 6 Music

BBC Radio 6 Music
2 hrs
In Nemone with Lauren at 10am: her "Just Added" track will be the world exclusive first play of brand new Massive Attack

Nemone sits in for Lauren Laverne and plays out the People's Playlist.


Poetry of sound. Poetry of sight...

Thought of the day...

"As music is the poetry of sound, so is painting the poetry of sight". . .
James McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea 1871

Tate Britain


Painted in August 1871, this is the first of Whistler's Nocturnes. In these works Whistler aimed to convey a sense of the beauty and tranquility of the Thames by night. It was Frederick Leyland who first used the name 'nocturne' to describe Whistler's moonlit scenes. It aptly suggests the notion of a night scene, but with musical associations. The expression was quickly adopted by Whistler, who later explained,
By using the word 'nocturne' I wished to indicate an artistic interest alone, divesting the picture of any outside anecdotal interest which might have been otherwise attached to it. A nocturne is an arrangement of line, form and colour first' (quoted in Dorment and MacDonald, p.122). 
Returning from a trip by steamer to Westminster, Whistler was inspired, one evening in August 1871, by a view of the river 'in a glow of rare transparency an hour before sunset' (Anna Whistler, the artist's mother, in a letter to Julia and Kate Palmer, 3 Nov. 1871, quoted in Dorment and MacDonald, p.122). He immediately rushed to his studio and painted a sunset (Variations in Violet and Green, private collection) and this moonlit scene at one sitting. The picture is painted on panel, primed with dark grey paint, over which Whistler applied thin layers of pigment in order to create a contrasting sense of luminosity. The view is from Battersea looking across to Chelsea, and it is possible to make out features on the horizon, such as the tower of Chelsea Old Church on the right. In the foreground, a low barge and the figure of a fisherman are indicated with the minimum of detail, and the influence of Japanese art is evident in the restricted palette, the economy of line and the characteristic butterfly signature. 
This picture was exhibited, along with its pair, at the Dudley Gallery in November 1871. The critic for the Times revealed a rare appreciation of Whistler's Nocturnes, describing them as follows:
They are illustrations of the theory … that painting is so closely akin to music that the colours of the one may and should be used, like the ordered sounds of the other; that painting should not aim at expressing dramatic emotions, depicting incidents of history or recording facts of nature, but should be content with moulding our moods and stirring our imaginations, by subtle combinations of colour, through which all that painting has to say to us can be said, and beyond which painting has no valuable or true speech whatever' (The Times, 14 November 1871).
Further reading:Richard Dorment and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1994, pp.122-3, no.46, reproduced in colour p.123.
Andrew Wilton and Robert Upstone (eds), The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones & Watts: Symbolism in Britain 1860-1910, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, pp.206-7 no.79, reproduced in colour p.207.
Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer with the assistance of Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James MacNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980, no.
103, reproduced in colour plate 106.
Frances Fowle
December 2000

James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge c.1872–5


My 'Dear Friend'

'Dear Friend' - song by Paul McCartney 

Written by Paul in 1971... for John Lennon, they say...

Dear friend, what's the time?

Is this really the borderline?
Does it really mean so much to you?
Are you afraid or is it true?

Dear friend, throw the wine
I'm in love with a friend of mine
Really truly, young and newly wed
Are you a fool or is it true?
Are you afraid or is it true?

Dear friend, what's the time?
Is this really the borderline?
Does it really mean so much to you?
Are you afraid or is it true?

Dear friend, throw the wine
I'm in love with a friend of mine
Really truly, young and newly wed
Are you a fool or is it true?
Are you afraid or is it true?



Paul McCartney; Linda McCartney


En dehors de la zone de confort

There we go, we are ready now! The book will be released on October the 6th, 2016, in France, and I hope in 2017 in English...

Thanks a million to all the wonderful artists who agreed to be interviewed, in Bristol and beyond. See you soon in the West Country.

Pour les francophones, rendez-vous le 6 octobre dans toutes les bonnes librairies!


En dehors de la zone de confort

Mélissa CHEMAM

Editions Anne Carrière

Copyright / crédit : Robert Del Naja

De Massive Attack à Banksy, l’histoire d’un groupe d’artistes, de leur ville, Bristol, et de leurs révolutions

Qu’ont en commun le Pont suspendu d’Isambart Brunel, l’acteur Cary Grant, le groupe Massive Attack, le plasticien Damian Hirst et l’artiste de rue Banksy ? Ils sont tous originaires de Bristol, une ville moyenne de l’ouest de l’Angleterre. Une ville marquée par une histoire riche et complexe, mais encore jamais racontée !

Marquée par une fortune précoce liée à l’ouverture de l’Angleterre vers l’Amérique, elle devient aussi un des points névralgiques du commerce triangulaire. C’est justement cette histoire qui va nourrir, de manière inédite et radicale, la génération d’artistes éclose à Bristol à partir de la fin des années 1970. Post-punk et reggae se rencontrent autour de groupes comme Black Roots, le Pop Group puis The Wild Bunch.

Tout prend forme lorsque qu’un jeune graffeur anglo-italien du nom de Robert Del Naja signe du pseudonyme de 3D sa première œuvre de rue sur un mur de la ville en 1983. Avant de fonder le groupe Massive Attack en 1988 avec les DJs Grantley Marshall et Andrew Vowles, il rencontrera sur sa route les pionniers du post-punk de Londres et Bristol, les passionnées de reggae antillais du quartier de Saint Pauls, puis la chanteuse Neneh Cherry et le rappeur Tricky. Creuset inattendu mêlant hip-hop, reggae, soul et guitares rebelles, le premier album de Massive Attack, Blue Lines, sort en 1991 et provoque une révolution dans la culture populaire britannique. Massive Attack devient l’incarnation du succès d’un métissage à la britannique, et parviendra à toujours se renouveler, tenter de nouvelles révolutions et durer au-delà de nombreux mouvements musicaux des années 1990 et 2000, telles la Brit Pop, l’electronica et le drum and bass.

Dans le sillage de cette créativité débridée mêlant musique, art et implication sociale profonde, naissent aussi les groupes Portishead et Roni Size, les mouvements nommés trip-hop et dubstep, et le génial Banksy, inspiré dès son plus jeune âge par les graffitis de Robert Del Naja. Depuis, la profondeur artistique de ces artistes et leur engagement n’ont fait que se renforcer, tout comme leur lien avec leur ville. Ce lien va devenir le tremplin qui les porte jusqu’à l’autre bout du monde, de l’Amérique à Gaza. Il pousse aussi très tôt Robert Del Naja à se mobiliser – contre la guerre d’Irak, pour les droits des Palestiniens ou plus récemment pour l’accueil des réfugiés jetés sur les routes européennes. Rébellion, art, musique, engagement, Bristol synthétise ainsi une autre histoire du Royaume-Uni. Une histoire qui amène au sommet des charts et sur le devant de la scène de parfaits autodidactes et la part plurielle et afro-antillaise de la culture britannique.


Journaliste depuis 2004, passée par Paris, Prague, Miami, Londres, Nairobi et Bangui avant d’atterrir à Bristol, Mélissa Chemam est allée à la rencontre de tous les artistes de la ville anglaise, chez eux, et sur les routes qu’ils parcourent.


Diffusion Interforum
ISBN : 978-2-8433-7809-6
Code barre : 9782843378096
Nombre de pages : 380
Parution : 6 octobre 2016

Lien vers le site de l'éditeur:



Sir Chilcot's speech: Aftermath

Op Ed from The Guardian:

The Guardian view on the Chilcot report: a country ruined, trust shattered, a reputation trashed

The reputation of Tony Blair has never recovered from the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Now the long-awaited inquiry has hung an unforgiving verdict around his neck

As always in matters of military aggression, the humane perspective has to start with the victims. Since the US-led, UK-backed invasion of Iraq in 2003, estimates of the lives lost to violence vary from a quarter of a million to 600,000. The number of injured will surely be several times that, and the number of men, women and children displaced from their homes is put at between 3.5 and 5 million, somewhere between one in 10 and one in six of the population.
There is no disputing the vicious brutality of the regime that ran the country before, but there is no serious disputing, either, that the suffering captured in these statistics of war are of another order to anything that would be endured in even tyrannical times of peace. Thirteen years on, as the deadly blast in Baghdad last weekend illustrated afresh, the predicament of the Iraqi people remains misery without end. The topsy-turvy post-9/11 rationalisation for regime change from the chauvinist, parochial and sometimes proudly ignorant George W Bush White House produced predictably topsy-turvy results. Jihadi forces that Saddam Hussein had contained were not discouraged by his ousting, but greatly emboldened. In sum, failures do not come any more abject than Iraq, nor catastrophes any more pure.

Appalling mistake

This broad picture was clear remarkably soon after the battleship banner boast: “Mission Accomplished”. It certainly did not take the Chilcot inquiry – which began six years later, and went on to publish only today after another seven years of work – to dispel the early hallucination of success. The sheer scale of the disaster, however, is why – after multiple select committees, the Hutton and Butler inquiries – this additional probe was impossible to avoid. None of the other investigations provided an official answer to the burning, central question, of how on earth the UK had got embroiled in this great misadventure in the first place.
After Lord Hutton’s very narrow reading of his remit, and Lord Butler’s attack on systems and processes went so far and wide as to exempt individuals from blame, there were understandable fears that the career mandarin, Sir John Chilcot, would likewise pull punches, or else lapse into evasive establishment prose. As it was, however, Sir John gave a brisk half-hour statement, in which the name “Blair” featured roughly once a minute. The 2.6m words of his report will necessarily take much longer to digest, but the defining sting was conveyed in just six words penned by Tony Blair himself, in a letter to Mr Bush in July 2002 – “I will be with you, whatever”.
Here, in essence, we have the private promise from which every abuse of public process would flow, as well as that pervasive, poisonous sense that the government was not playing it straight. The prime minister was not bone-headed, his letters to the president warned of deep doubts on the part of both MPs and the public, and shrewdly anticipated great difficulty in whipping Europe into line. But he negated the value of all this insight, and fatally compromised his own preference for constructing a UN-blessed route to war, by preceding it all with the bald vow that Washington could count on him.
Regime change was the unabashed objective of the White House, and by hitching himself to Washington with no get-out clause, Mr Blair effectively made that his policy too. It was an appalling mistake, first of all, because it involved committing the country to a war of choice, for which there was no real rationale, only an angry impulse to lash out to avenge the twin towers without paying heed to the distinction between militant Islamism and secular Ba’athism. Once committed, Mr Blair switched off the ordinary critical faculties that he applied to other affairs, and closed his ears to the warnings of the experts about the difficulties that could follow an invasion, and the grave doubts about Iraq being an imminent threat.
Entirely out of character, the great election winner who always insisted that “the British people are the boss”, closed his ears to great swaths of the country. From radical leftists to commonsensical Tories of a that’ll-never-work disposition, thinking Britain – the Guardian included – smelt a rat. It took to the streets to protest in numbers not seen before. But in this case Mr Blair did not regard the British people but the US president as the boss. He would occasionally let slip to his voters “I’m afraid I believe in it”, as if that assertion was a substitute for argument.
A rightwing practitioner of realpolitik could have been straight about the calculation to hold fast to an American alliance that served Britain well, come what may. That would have been unsavoury to idealists, but would have been a cogent – hard-headed, if also hard-hearted – point of view. That, however, is not the tradition in which Mr Blair has ever placed himself. As the high emotion of his protracted and schmaltzy press conference today exposed once again – complete with a refusal to admit to having made the wrong call, and the bizarre insistence that the war had made the world safer – it is always important to him not only to be serving the national interest, but a greater good too. He knew he was right.
Seeing as he was in reality monstrously wrong, this certitude had dire consequences. The faith-based failure to plan for the invasion’s aftermath, rightly damned in trenchant terms by Sir John, was the most catastrophic for the Iraqi people, and indeed for the British service personnel in harm’s way. The grieving families have every right to question whether their sons and daughters died in vain, and to wince at the stock phrases about every prime minister regarding the commitment of troops as the weightiest decision they will ever make.
But for the processes of governance, the political discourse, and the UK’s place in the world, greater damage was done by the political – and perhaps psychological – need to wrap up a crude decision to stick with the US in righteousness. This was the context in which a press officer could pen the first draft of an intelligence dossier, later carefully spun to give the more excitable papers just enough to be able to run with the hysterical claim that London was 45 minutes from attack. It was the context, too, in which Mr Blair’s team could deem it appropriate to rip off the internet old material about Saddam’s former arsenal, long since mostly destroyed, and hand it to journalists as a second dossier. At this time, Whitehall minutes recorded discussion of the US “fixing the facts”, when the line in public had always to be that American motives were pure. And the initial insistence of the attorney general that the war would not be legal, gave way first to the concession that there was room for argument, and then – after a brutal edit of his full advice – an outright green light.

Politics demeaned

Meanwhile, as Jack Straw and top officials would plot in private for how to secure a UN seal of approval for a course that was already set, Mr Blair protested in public that he was pursuing a “diplomatic solution”. There was diplomacy, all right, but it was diplomacy aimed at licensing war. When even this failed, the final cabinet discussions were less concerned with the real looming battle, than about the PR war with the French. For any progressive internationalist, and Mr Blair was once one, the most damning of all Sir John’s verdicts is that the result of the invasion was not – as was claimed – to uphold the authority of the UN, but instead to undermine it.
The gap between the public and the private rationale fed the mistrust which has since – amplified by the banking and MPs’ expenses crises – fuelled the Brexit vote. The whole conduct of politics in Britain was demeaned, but the highest price was paid on the left. The otherwise unthinkable ascent of Jeremy Corbyn occurred, prompting Labour’s lapse into civil war. Many Labour MPs are still struggling to understand it. As they do so, they should reflect on the cool rage of Mr Corbyn, who always opposed the war, in the chamber on Wednesday, and contrast it with the complacent tone adopted by David Cameron, who originally voted in favour.
Mr Blair’s impulse to trot alongside a know-nothing cowboy might reflect a deep need to bury the CND badge of his youth and earn some muscular respectability. Mr Corbyn’s ascent is the most ironic of the consequences of his historic mistake. But by far the most serious are still being played out far away – on the streets of Iraq.