9th July 2016
–By Paul Blanchard-
Cross-posted, with thanks, from Huffington Post
In Defence of Tony Blair
Tony Blair is a credit to himself and to the Labour Party. He is courageous, bold and selfless. He shines a light on the indecent events now taking place within the Party, and if we want to learn about real leadership we have only to look to him.
Over the last 13 years, certain sections of the Labour Party have created a narrative; one which is rolled out every time Tony Blair’s name is mentioned. According to them, he’s a war criminal; a man who lied and sexed up dossiers; a selfish, star-struck child who tagged along behind an American President because he wanted to be his friend. It’s laughable.
Tony Blair is the man who won three general elections in a row – three! It seems like a fantasy now. And the last of his Labour victories was won after the war in Iraq. He is the man who, amongst hundreds of other landmark achievements, brokered the Good Friday Agreement, introduced the minimum wage, cut crime by 32%, halved child poverty, legalised adoption by gay couples, and devolved power to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. And yet, the far-Left of the Labour Party rejects these achievements in order to perpetrate their ridiculous, and ultimately self-destructive, narrative.
Tony Blair is a true internationalist and since he left office he has ignored his own PR in favour of focusing on his good causes in Africa and elsewhere. He has spent very little time worrying about his own reputation, allowing this destructive narrative to grow and prosper. No new revelations have appeared since he left. Nothing new is known. And yet, his reputation is far worse than when he left office.
The reason why Blair’s reputation has slid downwards over the years is entirely down to a combination of the far-Left and the Westminster bubble, projected and amplified by the London-based commentariat and Twitter. It is the same combination that got the result of the 2015 General Election and the EU Referendum so spectacularly wrong.
I interviewed the political strategist, Sir Lynton Crosby for my Media Focus podcast some months ago and he put this point very well. He called it an echo-chamber around which the views of the vocal few rebound, gaining strength without truth. He suggested that in order for politicians and commentators to take the true temperature of the nation they need to get out more. They need to read the regional press; go to Working Men’s Clubs, and actually knock on doors – rather than just pretend to.
In 2005 I knocked on a lot of doors. I was the Labour Party Candidate for Ryedale in North Yorkshire and I spent weeks knocking on doors in the leafy, rural, Conservative streets. I know what real people thought of Tony Blair back then, and a very significant number of them applauded his decision to go to war in Iraq. They must have done because I, a Labour Candidate in a Conservative area, increased the Labour share of the vote by 41%, the Party’s most successful campaign in terms of increased vote. And Tony Blair won a third term in office.
In my view, it’s intellectually lazy to dismiss Tony Blair’s Iraq decision and accuse him of lying to prosecute an ‘illegal’ war. Apart from the very fact that the Chilcot Report did not accuse Blair of either of these things, it’s worth putting ourselves, if just for a moment, into Blair’s shoes.
Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator on a scale hard to comprehend today – a man who ruled his own country with savagery and violence. He had massacred hundreds of thousands of his own people in the most brutal ways imaginable, invaded his neighbour, hated Britain and the West, and had made it very clear that he was not going to give up his love of chemical and nuclear weapons.
The UN were frozen. They would not act against Saddam Hussein, despite him being in clear breach of UN Resolution 1441. They accepted he had not complied but they could not and would not act. Russia and France said they would veto military action in any event. George Bush, so soon after 9/11, was incensed.
There was one chance to depose this ruthless individual and his brutal regime; one chance to save his people and stop the rising threat to the region. Thankfully, we don’t have to make the decision forced onto Tony Blair in 2002. But which of us, in Blair’s position, at that time, in those febrile circumstances, under pressure from Bush, with a duty to protect the UK, can honestly say they would not have likely chosen this course of action? Would have chosen not to go to war with Iraq? Done nothing and left Saddam right there planning his next savage move.
As Tony Blair said in his speech on the day the Chilcot Report was published: “I took this decision because I believed it was the right thing to do based on the information that I had, and the threats perceived, and that my duty as Prime Minister at that time in 2003 was to do what I thought was right, however imperfect the situation or indeed the process.”
Roll on to 2016. To today. Compare Tony Blair with Jeremy Corbyn; a man who is being urged to step down by 75% of his Parliamentary Party; a man who clings on to power without the decency to resign and denying all sense or reason; a man whose naked ambition will let the Tories back into power in 2020. An utterly selfish man.
I for one wish that Tony Blair was still our Prime Minister because, as he said in his last speech to the Party Conference, he loves the Labour Party and all its traditions – apart from one… losing. It is the greatest tragedy of the Labour Party that we have allowed our Party to be annexed by the far-Left, and consequently allowed one of our greatest leaders, possible the greatest Labour Prime Minister, to be traduced in this way.
When Labour does not win an election there is only one outcome: a Tory Government. And I don’t want that in 2020. If you’re a genuine Labour supporter, then ask yourself: do you? If the Labour Party wants to win the next election – or any election ever again – it has no option but to listen and learn from Tony Blair.