Tony Blair's cruel fate


The war in Iraq has cost the lives of at least 100 000 innocent Iraqis – and it’s all Tony Blair’s fault. It’s highly likely that had Blair denied British support for the American-led invasion, George W. Bush would not have had the political cover at home to prosecute a war abroad.

Blair’s enthusiasm for the war allowed Bush to woo centrist and soft Democratic support for a conflict that was plainly illegal under international law. Bill Clinton even proffered the dubious argument to his own Democrats that while he would not trust Bush to run a Middle East war, the presence of Blair in the equation made it so much more comforting.

With the release last week of previously confidential advice from Britain’s Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, it was obvious that Blair knew there was little, if any, evidence to support the fantasy that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But Blair lied – once, twice, thrice. You could almost hear the cock crow.

And yet, were I able, I would vote for the dissembler in tomorrow’s British general election – and do so without a moment’s pause. I would vote for him, cheer when he wins a third decisive victory, then join the plot to bring him down and indict him before the bar of history, if not the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, as the writer Tariq Ali has argued.

Thanks to Peter Nicholson at the Australian

Thanks to Peter Nicholson at the Australian

The point is, Blair will not be held responsible for his lies – lies that led to slaughter in Iraq and a bonanza for US energy companies. That’s just not the way this wretched world works. So progressives should be just as cynical as Blair and use him and his party for another, noble purpose: not just the defeat of the Conservative Party but its marginalisation for an entire generation. Just imagine; the destruction of the Tories, the party of Margaret Thatcher.

I frankly care little if, on this occasion, the agent of our dreams is one of the most unscrupulous politicians of our time. The prospect of Tory humiliation is simply too delicious, especially for someone like me who saw, close-up, the ugly triumph of a fraternal far-right party on the other side of the Atlantic in last year’s US elections.

All the most recent polls suggest that the Tories, led by one Michael Howard, are trapped in an electoral ghetto of about 30 per cent support. That’s less than one in three voters. That’s a recipe for political irrelevance that could last a generation. Just pause a moment and savour the thought.

Even more inviting is the potential for the Tories’ vote, if not their number of seats, to fall as low, or even lower, than that of the Liberal Democrats. (Back in 1983, Labour suffered almost the same fate, polling barely 2 percent above the Liberals.) But this might be a hope too daring to seriously entertain.

Of course, it would say much about British political culture if a party forged through a union of Liberals and Social Democrats – the latter a group of right-wing Labour rats who deserted the party in the early 1980s – and now firmly to Labour’s left, were to elbow its way into official opposition status. But enough dreaming.

There is another reason to hope the Tories are thrashed – there is a fairly primitive pun in there for those who discern British schoolboy humour – on Thursday. It is to repudiate the ugly, race-baiting campaign techniques of an Australian interloper, former Liberal Party director Lynton Crosby, who is on loan to the Conservatives as some sort of campaign Svengali.

Crosby is the mastermind behind the ‘Are you thinking what we’re thinking?’ slogans that desecrate the public sphere of Britain at the moment. They are meant to suggest that only Michael Howard and the Tories dare to say publicly what you believe privately – that refugees and other immigrants are dirty, smelly aliens despoiling little England. Well, Lynton, maybe they are thinking it, but all the signs suggest they are not willing to squander their votes on it, which suggests a certain maturity on the part of the British electorate.

Crosby was largely responsible for the reprehensible 2001 ‘race’ election in Australia – a campaign in which he made his reputation in international conservative circles. How appropriate it would be for him to come undone so publicly in trying to replicate his tactics in Britain. His professional reputation would be hurt; his value in the campaign market place would be diminished; his business would suffer; he would make less money. Oh, yes, please!

But back to the tragic, pathetic figure of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. For me, the worst aspect of his behaviour was not so much that he helped fight an unlawful war, but that he appeared to enjoy it so much. His problem is the evident pleasure he displayed in his relations with George Bush. If only he had appeared more tortured, more torn, more reluctant, more as though he really didn’t like Bush but had no choice.

If only he hadn’t allowed Bush to use him during last year’s presidential election as a fig leaf for alleged international endorsement of the war. If only he hadn’t made it so hard for the Democratic nominee, John Kerry – a flawed but essentially decent man – by vouching for Bush’s ‘honour’. In short, if only Blair hadn’t been so damned Republican.

But let us, for now, consider Blair a useful idiot. He has treated the British people – and those who for decades have looked to British Labour for principled social democratic leadership in international affairs – with contempt. He has used and abused the great Labour mantle of Keir Hardie and Clement Atlee. So let progressives return the favour. Use him to win, then dump him to survive.

A cruel fate, Tony, but you should think yourself lucky that progressives are willing to overlook your multitude of sins in the name of achieving a higher purpose.

Why does new labour stand for nothing? by Josie Appleton, sp!ked-essays

The end of Blairism? by James Heartfield, sp!iked-online

‘The Lib Dems are little more than a dustbin for everyone’s frustrations with mainstream politics.’ That’s a ‘real alternative’? by Josie Appleton. sp!ked-politics

Iraq still isn’t an election issue by Brendan O’Neill, sp!ked-politics

More UK Election articles plus:
Naima Bouteldja on why French Muslim school children are not celebrating the first anniversary of the ‘headscarf ban’. At Red Pepper

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