The past, present and future of Tony Blair

He could have gone down as one of the great Prime Ministers of all time, a man who took over a fractured and beaten political party, won three consecutive elections and as the Prime Minister that brought peace to Northern Ireland. These are enormous achievements for any politician but instead he will be damned as a man who led his country into an unnecessary and illegal war, some allege he is a unrepentant war criminal lacking only a trial and a cell. I am speaking of course of Tony Blair and the Chilcot Report, longer in its gestation than the war it reported on, which firmly hammered the final nails into the coffin of Blair’s reputation.

Blair was blessed, perhaps cursed, to be in power at one those fulcrums of history, narrow windows of time where one era gives way to another. At the turn of the 20th century the long post war boom was still in flow and the Cold War was over. Wise men spoke of the ‘End of History’, liberal democracy and capitalism was to be the fate of humanity. America stood at the pinnacle of the world order, its wealth and military might beyond challenge. In the view of respected historians like Nial Ferguson, it was unique opportunity to rid the world of petty dictators and rogue states; after all, there was no Soviet Union to stand in the way and China was still a fledgling superpower, twenty years from being a serious rival. Then came 9/11. The American public thirsted for revenge and George W Bush, was on open door to the aggressive neo-imperialist ideas of his Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President, Dick Cheney.

The ease with which the Taliban was swept out of power in Afghanistan encouraged the next step and Saddam was on Bush’s radar. The Iraqi dictator had humiliated Bush the Elder by refusing to fall from power and arguably cost him the 1992 election, even worse, he sent a hit squad to kill the ex-President during a visit to Kuwait. Deposing Saddam was personal for George junior and 9/11, which Saddam had nothing to do with, gave him all the excuse he needed. Bush was upfront about regime change from the very beginning but Blair knew that the British public would not buy that so a non-existent threat was hyped up to justify what was otherwise a war of naked aggression. Predictably, it all ended in tears. Pandora’s Box was opened, unleashing various violent groups, each more barbarous and murderous than the one before. It is now a rare country in the Middle East that enjoys peace and scarcely a week passes without terrorists killing scores, somewhere in the world.

The invasion of Iraq was a poorly thought out, crack-pot scheme. Expert advice that did not fit the picture of a populace that yearned for a foreign invader to set them free was set aside. Little thought was given as to what would happen next – the invasions of Iran and North Korea presumably, had British and American troops been welcomed as liberators, but why did Blair get involved in the first place?

The American alliance has been the keystone of British foreign policy since 1941 but Harold Wilson resisted joining America in the folly of Vietnam. It seems Blair was flattered that the most powerful man in the world valued his friendship and support. It is hard to resist the conclusion he was dazzled, even seduced by the trappings of the presidency and the immense power that goes with it. His eagerness to be America’s best friend became slavish devotion. Rather than the power behind the throne, Blair became Renfield to Bush’s Dracula, Igor to his Frankenstein.

In secular Britain few contemplate the role of religion in this sorry saga but Bush was an evangelical Christian and Blair, if not yet a devout Catholic, was well on the way to becoming one. Bush is on record as saying God told him to invade Iraq. Tony, it seems believed him. Such was the enormous hubris of these two men, they believed they were doing the Lord’s work and launched a modern crusade to rid the world of evil, but Arab Muslims only saw only a crusade of the old, medieval variety.

Blair’s interminable, self-serving presser in the wake of Chilcot, shows he has learnt little. The performance, and with Tony it is always a performance, was vintage Blair – his voice creaked with emotion, and his hands emphasised his points in the same old way; the speech had all the sincerity, real or faux, that he could muster. He had acted in good faith, the world is a better place for his actions he insisted. But no one listens anymore. People made up their minds a long time ago. Every word he says is presumed to be a lie.

The verdict of history will fluctuate as it always does. In a few decades time he might be respected in the same way that cynical old war-monger Henry Kissinger is by some, but his immediate future as the most despised Prime Minister of modern times is assured. He is more hated even than Margaret Thatcher, for at least she retains a dedicated cult following whereas Blair’s few acolytes diminish by the day.

He should forget about the rubber chicken circuit or playing the elder statesman and retire to Palm Springs. His biggest decision could be whether to catch the Early Bird at Denny’s where occasionally, another elderly diner, thinking he looks familiar, will approach him for a photo – not because he was a British Prime Minister – nobody in America cares about that – but because he will be mistaken for an actor, maybe Pierce Brosnan or one of the staff at Hogwarts. After he forces his trademark grin for the photo, Tony will wait for Stacey to bring the check, and think back to his glory days at Camp David when he and George shaped the future of the planet and dream of what might have been. He never for a second will doubt he was right. He will see himself as a tragic figure, like Icarus, who ignoring advice, flew too close to the sun, only to lose his wings and fall back to earth.

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  • Brian O’Neill

    He made nearly £20 million last year so all this does not seem to damage his reputation.

    He also donated £5 million to the Royal British Legion. Conscience getting to him?

  • Teddybear

    Do these ‘anti war’ protestors (funny epithet, anti war; these are the same people who supported the IRA and the evil excesses of Fidel Castro and the murderer-turned-student-poster Che Guevara) really care about Iraq or do they as I suspect want to castigate Blair for not being a communist?

    but how we all love a witch hunt to make ourselves feel righteous.

  • LiamÓhÉ

    Woeful though it was, the Iraq war is not perceived as the be-all-end-all verdict on Tony Blair as it is in the UK press. In fact, long after the event, he was largely tipped for high office in the European Union, and had pressed for creating a directly-elected president. However, the Tories naturally went ape-shit about the prospect of Blair up-ending their goal of reducing the EU to a minimal freetrade area, and did everything they could to block this happening.

    Fast forward to 2016 and the UK is imploding on Europe, due to that festering post-imperial wound and the toxins released by a rabid overpowered media. Add to that the regular Guardian pieces where the commenters have each have their thirty seconds of hate towards Blair. Oh, and let us not forget, he went Kathlik because that is obviously an important factor….. This point is also made by commenters in the ‘mainland’ press, as there is still residual distrust of ‘Papists’.

    Once New Labour ran aground under the grumpy stewardship of Brown and the global recession bit, the factors of destablisation started:
    1) the weakening of the social welfare state
    2) the increase in English nationalism on the margins of society, coopted by swivel-eyed loons into Europhobia and the press into out and out racism
    3) widening levels of social inequality evidenced by the 2011 riots
    4) the alienated left-wing base going back to basics and supporting an unelectable party leader, following a lacklustre leadership under the wrong Milliband

    TLDR: on balance, Tony Blair was the last great PM the UK has produced, and maybe for some time given the social and ideological divisions now entrenched among the electorate.

  • hgreen

    So the million or more who protested in 2003 against the Iraq invasion were all IRA supporters? Or is that what the voices in your head are telling you?

  • hgreen

    He’s a war criminal pure and simple. John Smith would have got Labour elected in 1997.

  • submariner

    This sort of nonsense may play well down the local Sevco supporters club but out in the real world people will just laugh at your bufoonary.

  • Teddybear

    It’s easy to be impressed with large street protests. May I remind you that one million out of a population of 56-60milliom is nothing to crow about.

    Empty vessels and all that

  • Teddybear

    The real world who vote Brexit and ensure a party of unfashionable but steadfast Christian principles (DUP) wins elections in style.

    Yeah sure, everyone outside your liberal bubble is a buffoon for sure. If that helps you with your self esteem
    Issues then go for it

  • chrisjones2

    The figures were vastly inflated at the time – it was more like 250000 – but no they were the usual mix of left wing protesters ranging from christian anti war, through save the planet eco warriors and others to those who seek to overthrow the state

    Basically Corbyn like figures

  • chrisjones2

    Hes not stupid ….he knows what he did and the cost …he just cannot politically admit it

    And its not just him. When MI6 KNEW the intelligence was wrong they were afraid to tell him. No doubt the Washington Neo Cons knew too and were amazed

  • mac tire

    “…party of unfashionable but steadfast Christian principles.”

    Ah, bless! The naivety is touching.

  • hgreen

    Answer the question man. Were they all IRA supporters like you implied?

  • Anglo-Irish

    ” Nothing to crow about “.

    I totally agree, now about that referendum result.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The problem arises when one judges Blair as a person living in the same reality space as ordinary people, with the same value systems at play. He is living in the world of Baudrillard’s simulacra, a facsimile of reality increasingly employed by professional politicians and the media savvy where the image projected to the public in order to stimulate a desired effect on them is the “reality”, not any pattern of human moral values that may be employed by the public in interpreting these political cues. I quote from the blurb on Adam Curtis’ “The century of the Self”, part four:

    “Both New Labour, under Tony Blair, and the Democrats, led by Bill Clinton, used the focus group, which had been invented by psychoanalysts, in order to regain power. They set out to mould their policies to people’s inner desires and feelings, just as capitalism had learnt to do with products.

    Out of this grew a new culture of public relations and marketing in politics, business and journalism. One of its stars in Britain was Matthew Freud who followed in the footsteps of his relation, Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations in the 1920s.

    The politicians believed they were creating a new and better form of democracy, one that truly responded to the inner feelings of individual. But what they didn’t realize was that the aim of those who had originally created these techniques had not been to liberate the people but to develop a new way of controlling them.”

    Blair’s attempts to negotiate the inconvenience of his responsibility for real human suffering and the potential destabilisation not simply of the Middle East but of our entire world are the signs of a man utterly unable to have been wrong to any serious degree in his own reckoning in anything he has ever done. It is not so much a case of it being “Every word he says is…… a lie” as of his perception of the very nature of reality as being something entirely determined by its convenience to his political and commercial career, and as something without any objective life outside of his evaluation of its uses or potential to disrupt his career trajectory.

  • tmitch57

    “The Iraqi dictator had humiliated Bush the Elder by refusing to fall from power and arguably cost him the 1992 election…”

    What cost Bush 41 the election was the common perception that he wasn’t interested in the economic concerns of ordinary Americans but was only interested in foreign policy, which most Americans normally care little about.

    “Blair became Renfield to Bush’s Dracula, Igor to his Frankenstein.”

    There is actually evidence that Blair was pushing Bush to invade as he had earlier pushed Clinton to go to war against Serbia in Kosovo. In the latter case he was playing on Clinton’s guilt for not having done anything in Rwanda to stop the genocide. With Bush it was quite easy because of the attitudes that Bush inherited with much of his cabinet from his father. In Britain Blair was and is seen as Bush’s lapdog. But in reality it was a pair of like-minded individuals acting out of religious convictions and being woefully ignorant of the local circumstances.

  • Anglo-Irish

    The type of organizations paying money to Blair aren’t overly concerned as to his reputation among the common people.

    He receives ( they say earns ) £2 Million a year from J P Morgan, for which he apparently has no need to visit the office.

    By complete coincidence J P Morgan made Billions from the Iraq war.

    This is a not dissimilar coincidence to Dick Cheney – former CEO of Halliburton – owning 400,000 shares in the company that won the main contract to rebuild Iraq, coincidentally also Halliburton.

    These guys make Sepp Blatter look like an amateur.

  • Korhomme

    Tony Blair is, we’re told, a man of deep religious conviction. Religion operates on another plane to the secular world. Religion is not evidence-based, it is not a substitute for reason, logic or judgement in secular matters.

    He is, he tells us, a perpetual optimist. Optimists’ perception of the world is of one seen through rose-tinted glasses, one which is ‘better’ than reality.

    A delusion is clinically defined as ‘a fixed, false belief, unshakeable by reason, and out of keeping with the person’s background’.

    Denial is, according to Freud, ‘a psychological defence mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to
    accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite
    what may be overwhelming evidence’.

  • Zig70

    I was a fan of Tony Blair at the time, seeing Labour in power and socially just policies was good. I even think if I was in his shoes with the chance to remove one of the world’s most notorious dictators then I probably would have pushed for war also. However, hearing he has no regrets considering the civilian death toll for a war that was ultimately a dirty oil grab, he is an evil worm in my book.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Think that’s a very reasonable theory. The man does appear to believe his own hype, possibly as a subconscious delusion in order to avoid facing the enormity of what he’s done.

    As someone who was raised a Catholic but is now ( and has been for fifty years ) an agnostic I am still vaguely familiar with Catholic doctrine, and I can’t help wondering if the convert Tony Blair ever attends confession, and if so how exactly does that go.

    ” Forgive me Father for I have not sinned and am therefore wasting your time in one respect. ”

    ” Although as I’m here now, perhaps there is something that has been burdening your conscience that you would like to share? ”

    ” You may not be aware of this but I do have direct communication with Almighty God and can intercede on your behalf if you so wish “.

    ” Because never forget, Blessed are the Peacemakers “.

    What are the chances that he will be made to answer for his sins in this world in an international court?

    As that philosopher Don King once put it ” Slim to none, and Slims out of town “.

  • notimetoshine

    Blair was a disaster, his refusal to make common cause with the Europeans over Iraq and the American at on terror, put one of the final nails in the coffin of European solidarity and it’s working as one geopolitical entity. I think it was Chirac or Schroeder who said that he stabbed Europe in the back, they have of course been proved right. He had a real chance at the time to be a real European statesman and to present a united front, an alternative west, to the panicked and aggressive USA of the war on terror. He threw it away.

    Also some of the blame for the global recession has to be laid at Blair’s door. It was under his government that banking and finance deregulation, along with arms length regulatory supervision, allowed the UK banking sector to over leverage, over commit and play risky games with complex derivatives.

    A legacy of a great PM is hardly what most would have in mind when it comes to Blair. All hysterics aside, it was under his watch and with his blessing that many of the things we are dealing with today from Islamic extremism to an anaemic economy and massive public debt had their genesis.

  • ted hagan

    ‘The ease with which the Taliban was swept out of power in Afghanistan encouraged the next step and Saddam was on Bush’s radar.”

    I would suggest this is utter nonsense.

  • Gopher

    Aut Caesar, aut nihil. Blair’s appetite for power was insatiable. Labour Party was not enough, prime Minister was not enough . His eyes were firmly on the EU Presidency, He attempted to join the Euro to secure it, he attempted to off load Gibraltar and dare I say it like Henry of Navarre “Paris vaut bien une messe” to achieve his ends. I’m sure the Euro Presidency had he achieved it would not have been enough either.

    The Blair household even began to resemble a court with his own chamberlain, Campbell and not to let the Tsar’s out do him their own spiritualist Caplin. Everything was seen as vehicle for his own advancement rather than any deep rooted belief in service to ones own country.

    As for Iraq, many people before have first decided a course and then framed the reasoning. Its known as punting, which is below Gambling in the hierarchy of decision making. In the absence of avenues to reach his goals or more importantly obstacles like the British electorate and his own chancellor, Blair decided to take a punt on tying himself to Bush in much the same way Mussolini tied himself to Hitler. Amazingly given all the civil and military staff at Whitehall and the vast experience of the Foreign Office failure never seemed to be anticipated in the planning.

    That takes me back to the beginning, Ceasar before he crossed the Rubicon planned for failure, He knew his life was forfeit if he failed.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As an Anglo-Catholic, I have some familiarity with the concept of self-examination in confession myself. So yes, your scenario looks just about right for someone who does not believe in any objective reality.

    The problem with actually getting Blair to the ICC is that despite over seventy years of attempting to get the “Crime of Aggression” ratified internationally it his simply too useful for the big boys and so is still perfectly legal:

  • Anglo-Irish

    The powerful do like to protect themselves against future
    ‘ unfortunate oversights ‘.

    I’m reminded of the occasion during the battle of Waterloo when a marksman conveyed the fact that he had a clear shot at Napoleon and was ordered to leave it by Wellington.

    It would never do if the ones who get us into the situations were the ones to pay the price, apart from the rare occasion of course when the offender doesn’t belong to the club.

  • Jollyraj

    Perhaps you will explain why?

  • Teddybear

    Honestly? I’d say 75% would harbour ‘useful idiot’ sympathies for IRA

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I have always found it interesting that HMRC can collapse the life of a small scale late payer in financial trouble while any big multinational can argue how little tax they wish to pay with what seems impunity.

    And, of course, the manner in which politicians can fill the boardrooms of large companies both during and after their stint in a Commission, a parliament or an assembly with little or no apparent conflict of interest:

    In this manner those apparently stellar positions such as US President or British Prime Minister become simply a stage on a career ladder into the 1%.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    So, Chris…..basically anyone who recognises in advance that the country is being grossly misled into a situation where the entire middle east will destabilised on behalf of the future profits of private oil interests, and all in our name, is…………….

  • Anglo-Irish

    The attraction of low hanging fruit. The little man can be crushed and can do little about it, the multinational will tie them up in legalities and confusion.

    It’s both cowardly and immoral but it’s the way it goes.

    My wife and I ran our own small business for 16 years and were very careful to be absolutely scrupulous in our tax affairs, too small to get ‘creative’ even if we’d wanted to. which we didn’t.

    Goldman Sachs are a case in point. This is the company that helped Greece become EU members despite the fact that they were a financial disaster area.

    Hiding the true picture and ensuring that Greece became a member damaged the EU to a significant degree.

    Goldman Sachs is an American company, the US is a trading competitor of the EU, anything which damages the EU is an advantage to the US.

    There was a time we’d have sent a gunboat to remonstrate about this type of thing.

    Why the EU was stupid enough to accept financial assurances from a non EU organization on such a vital matter is anyone’s guess.