Slate Uk

With Blair Into Africa

From our man at the back of the plane.

There is no doubt that the Prime Minister is having a very good war against terrorism. Ever since September 11, he has been going faster and faster. First India and Pakistan, where he was just able to fend off a nuclear war. And then Afghanistan in the dead of night, where he was served a delicious “goat stew” that was probably made from dead dog. And now, Africa! And this time he has even left Alastair Campbell behind, so he is really getting grown-up. The Africans themselves have been friendly, if somewhat puzzled. To what do they owe the honour of this visit? Few clues have been given in our Leader’s speech in Abuja to the honourable members of the Nigerian National Assembly. It was here that he chose to launch another fearless attack on world terrorism. The people of Africa have many problems, but dealing with terrorism is not generally one of them. They have Aids, they have no running water, they have police states and gangster presidents, and yes, they have some bananas. They also have gold, zinc, uranium, oil. But no, they do not have a lot of terrorism. Never mind. On with the speech.

“Threats of weapons of mass destruction [nope, none of those either], religious fanaticism [sorry, wrong audience], cannot be escaped,” said Mr Blair at his most poetic and inspired. “There is no leafy suburb far from the reach of bad things and bad people.” What is he talking about? In so far as leafy suburbs exist in Nigeria, that is exactly where the bad people congregate. No one else can afford to live there. But there was more. “The other crucial task is to fight corruption,” he said. Since he was faced with probably the highest density of corruption in any national assembly anywhere in the world, in or out of Africa, that must have been a bit worrying for the smiling faces below the podium. But Our Leader made a swift recovery. He would cancel some of Nigeria’s debt! Very good news. That means all the aid money sitting in Switzerland can stay there. And he promised More Military Aid. Even better news! More money for Switzerland on the way! What a warm-hearted man he is and already getting the hang of the place.

In fact there is every reason for Africa to love Blair, because he is in truth a very African leader. He is surrounded by greedy and incompetent cronies. He takes huge sums of money to fund his election campaign and then passes laws to please his sponsors (e.g., on animal rights). He has a trophy wife, who spends a fortune on designer frocks, just like Madame Mobutu and Madame Bongo from the Congo. His country is in a complete shambles. And he does not have a clue what to do about it. Tonight in the forest all along the West African coast, the drums are beating out the old, old message. Welcome Tony, welcome home!