Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Monday, October 04, 2004
Pulling the petals from a daisy while waiting for the next election. Tony Blair. I love him not. Tim Worstall, linking to the Telegraph, says why not.

Tony Blair. I love him. (Metaphorically, guys, metaphorically.) Why?

Well, Isiah Berlin famously quoted the Greek poet Archilochus to make a distinction between foxes and hedgehogs. His purpose was literary criticism but the metaphor can be used more widely.

"For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel-a single, universal, organizing principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance-and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way, for some psychological or physiological cause, related by no moral or aesthetic principle; these last lead lives, perform acts, and entertain ideas that are centrifugal rather than centripetal, their thought is scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for what they are in themselves, without consciously or unconsciously, seeking to fit them into, or exclude them from, any one unchanging, all-embracing, sometimes self-contradictory and incomplete, at times fanatical, unitary inner vision."

Blair is like a fox who has grown spines. He is all fox inside but when it came to the central struggle of his times some unguessed-at dormant hedgehog gene sprang into action. In this context comparisons to his great predecessor in office do not seem to me absurd. Blair is a less important figure in a less desperate struggle but, like Churchill, he knows one big thing.

Michael Howard does not know the one big thing.

UKIP? Hedgehogs to the tips of their spines, I grant you, though about another issue. But remember that Berlin's comparison was more than hedgehog good, fox bad.