Monday, 13 September 2010

Getting Through to Blair?

Having seen that Tony Blair has been compelled to cancel signings of his autobiography due to anti-war protests not just in Britain but also in Eire, I began to wonder what it will take to shake his self-view that he was God's gift to this country?  I remember back to the time of the Bernie Ecclestone scandal of 1997 when the leading promoter of Formula One racing had given £1 million to the Labour Party and then his sport was was exempted from the ban on tobacco advertising.  Of course, being immune to scandal this did not compel Blair to step down, not even to apologise.  The perceptive impersonator and satirist Rory Bremner did an excellent impression of Blair at the time being forgiving to us, the public.  He said that he accepted that we made mistakes about what was right and wrong, but this time he was willing to understand that we were fallible and to forgive us and move on.  That sketch was incredibly perceptive of Blair's character.

I suppose you have to have utter self-confidence to succeed in politics and those prime ministers, like Major and Brown have suffered for it.  However, Blair's attitude seems completely untempered by any recognition that he is fallible and has made grave mistakes that have led to the death of thousands.  It seems ironic that he moved from a Church of England stance, which though not really fully Protestant has some truck with those elements of Christianity which believe in predestination such as Calvinism, more prevalent in Scotland than in England.  Under such a creed Blair could believe that his greatness was all part of God's great plan.  One would expect such an attitude from George W. Bush in a USA which still adheres to the myth of its 'manifest destiny', i.e. that it was always going to be the size and as powerful as it has turned out, hence their dislike of counter-factuals.  However, Blair is now a Roman Catholic and that brand of Christianity is one which is very aware of fallibility (if not always of the Pope) and allows more regularly for contrition and foregiveness.  Unlike Protestantism which has only grace by belief, i.e. you will get into Heaven if you believe in God; Roman Catholicism needs you to have both belief and to do good works if you are to get into Heaven.  However, as Graham Greene noted in much of his writing the ability in Catholicism to confess and be absolved regularly, can lead people to do bad things in the confidence that if they pay up quickly on Earth it will not affect their entrance to Heaven.

Blair did lots of things wrong in his premiership but the one that continues to haunt him is his compliance with George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq simply to control the fifth largest oil reserve in the World.  There were spurious claims about what a threat Saddam Hussein was to the planet, or more particularly the USA, but it was forgotten that a large part of his weaponry was sold to him by western powers when fighting Iran.  In many ways removing him was like the Americans removing General Noriega, he was one of their tools that they had tired of or for political reasons no longer needed.  It is certain that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 actually increased terrorist activity across the World and whilst it freed the Iraqis from one dictator it simply plunged them into a different kind of violence and depridation.  As I noted at the start of this blog, Blair has never waivered from his self-belief that everything he has done is right.  He was very fortunate that he was able to mutate the Labour Party into the Blairite Party.  His dislike of Brown was because he was of that previous party rather than being a Blairite.  On that basis he could never have reconciled with him.  No wonder Blair found Brown 'maddening' as he says in his autobiography, he would simply not accept that Blair was the best thing ever to happen in British politics and be a true believer in the Blairite cult.  It seems like that David Miliband will be the next leader of the 'Labour' Party and so the Brown phase will be seen in retrospect as an aberration from the growth of the Blairite Party.  I have regularly given examples of this, Gaullism and Peronism being two that always come to mind; Blair with his Christian Democrat approach is very much in that mould.  It is interesing that we are so concerned with 'fundamentalists' but forget that with Bush and to a great extent Blair, we had them already in power.

Right-wing commentators have argued that the protests against Blair have been orchestrated by political groupings.  They, like Blair, still do not understand how unpopular the Iraq war was and that it has lost supporters every month.  They forget the huge and the persistent protests against it.  Blair was the favourite Labour leader of the right-wing press and wealthy because he was so like them.  He did nothing to shake the Thatcherite legacy and avoided policies which actually helped what should have been the natural constituency of the Labour Party.  The cutting out of the ordinary people has continued under Cameron, in fact, as I will analyse next month, has sharpened and accelerated.  Again, looking back from fifty years in the future I am sure we will put Blair in the same category as Major and Cameron, Thatcherites who gave some superficial elements to the policy but continuing with what Thatcher established in the 1980s and not repairing any of the damage she inflicted.  Brown tried to reverse that trend, but the hostility to his attempt is apparent in the still virulent attacks in the media on him even now he has left office.  Their fear, of course, is that with Ed Balls or even Ed Miliband will come to lead Labour, so they keep trying to scare Labour supporters and the general public so that the Thatcherite-Blair trend can continue.  In many ways Thatcher has achieved in her legacy what she set out to do as part of her mission in the 1980s, was to move to a situation where the two main political parties would be close together in policy the way the Republicans and Democrats were in the USA, though these days many Americans might dispute their proximity.

Tony Blair's self-confidence is unnerving.  It is the kind of self-confidence generally found in dictators rather than rulers of democratic countries.  I suppose winning repeatedly in elections and seeing his successor just about fall has added to Blair's ego.  However, I also believe it is a real flaw within him and the fact that he was able to run Britain and believe constantly that only his view was the correct one, shows how vulnerable the UK is to dictatorship.  I kept hoping that he would see one day that he could be wrong.  However, it does not seem to be the case, and I am coming to conclusion that only when he is turned away from Heaven will he finally realise what he did.  Then, he will probably blame someone else.  I would certainly use Blair as a model for children warning them of the dangers of such arrogance.  As yet, he may not have paid the price (though interestingly on the 'Daily Telegraph' blog there is someone threatening to assassinate him), but I hope that these protests which stop him lording around bookshops, squeezing out just that little more adoration which he clearly needs like a drug, may begin to penetrate.  I hope in time that he will be disgraced and ignored, because the danger of Blair is not only what he wreaked on people, but the fact that he has become too much of a model for other politicians and the UK and the rest of the World cannot live safely when we have politicians who believe that their personal decisions are the work of God and thus beyond even questioning, let alone challenging.

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