Sunday 30 January 2011

Sympathy for Tony Blair

I never thought I would, but I did. Reading Andrew Rawnsley's 'The End Of the Party,' I actually felt a great wave of sympathy for Tony Blair.

I'd put off reading it. 820 pages of New Labour seemed a chore.And the book came out almost a year ago. What's the point? However the Quango rule is one fiction novel, one non-fiction; and the other fiction was 'Cameron:The rise of the New conservatives,' which looked even less appealing. TEOTP looked the lesser of two evils.

I've only read about 50 pages but Rawnsley's book is magnificent. It captures the feeling of 9/11 far better than history book. Reading the words I was transported back to that day almost a decade ago. The absolubte horror. And then the realistation that the world was changed. Maybe not like for our Grandparents when Chamberlain announced war with Germany. But something similar.

George Bush had gone missing. The President, locked up in a bunker by the secret service who had conflicting reports about more attacks, hadn't said anything.
He was also George Bush. "I know they call me the Toxic Texan" he'd told Blair.

His presidency had been a poor one. He'd left the undeliverable Kyoto document unsigned, which was pretty brave, considering that for world leaders Green was the new Black. But instead of a compromise, or even a concession he'd offered nothing.

He was already the 'cowboy' president. "Gaffe" prone to an alarming degree. The left were outraged that their man Al Gore had had his election stolen. Labour had backed Gore. Even including Blair personally, so sure were new Labour that he would win. So far from being Bush's poodle, he was rooting for the Democrats.
Blair wasn't first to meet the new president. That was Chirac.
The first Blair/Bush conference ended with a ridiculous press conference after the summit. When asked what the two leaders had in common Bush said "We both use Colgate toothpaste."
Blair was already a world statesman. And good at that role. Bush looked like an idiot.

So with some justification when the Prime minister arrived at Whitehall on sept 11, he expressed his fears several times. "I hope the Americans don't something knee jerk."
On BBC radio the report of the falling towers ended with the chilling " .. another 10 airliners are in the air and are still unaccounted for."

That was the fear on the day and after. That's what I remember most. The fear that the Americans might declare war on Islam or something. As I drove past the American community school, which was covered with flowers, I really thought that they might. This was war. This might even be nuclear war..Why not? if there's one country on earth that could be hit by nuclear missiles and not made much worse its Afghanistan.
And Bush, whose British media image was the gun totin', sixshooter redneck was just the man to do it.

Blair was desperate to speak to Bush. To express sympathy and also to reassure. But also to try and head off any precipitate action. To try and exert a calming influence on a wounded ally.
Even after his first telephone conversation with the president, when Bush had said ' Don't worry. We're not going to pound sand,' Tony wasn't convinced.
"I need to look him in the eyes." Blair drafted a memo designed to 'steer Bush and keep him on the rails. We should try and get them to agree a measured response, focused on the Taliban, and keeping public support."

Blair could already see this as a world changing event. He was already telling ministers that he knew if this enemy.."had chemical or biological or nuclear weapons, they would use them Use them against our cities without a second thought."

That was the feeling in the country at the time too. That we would be next. That a mushroom cloud would soon float up over Canary Wharf. An Anthrax release at Heathrow. A cargo ship packed end to end with TNT and gas cannisters would detonate in the docks and destroy Liverpool.
And to be fair to Tony Blair, the fact that those things didn't happen is not because the threat didn't exist. Mumbai, Bali, London tube, Madrid train bombings, Moscow airport were successful. Many, many more weren't.. Shoe bomber. The underpants bomber. The liquids on airlines explosives. The bomb in Seattle a few weeks ago. The bombs in Soho. Glasgow airport...
Blair was right about intention. Just wrong about the terrorists capability.

If you think back ten years the west was suddenly under seemingly unprovoked attack. If the intelligence services were saying.. 'Iraq has the weapons the terrorists want..Iraq doesn't like us..It's a way for them to strike out..much like the Libyans in the 1980's. Iraq needs the cash..." then Blair was right to be very concerned.

So that's why I rediscovered sympathy for the former Prime Minster. He didn't know what was coming next and his job was to stop anything coming next at all.

But then he goes and blows it all on the plane to Washington on the very next page..

"The British Ambassador to the United States, Christopher Meyer, was having a screaming fit and threatening to resign . Tony Blair's special chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, had told him that he had been bumped from a seat at the Washington dinner with Bush to make way for Alistair Campbell."

Tony ! spin obsessed monster.


Ralph Musgrave said...

I agree with Anon above. Moreover, Blair made the absurd claim to have been the first to spot the dangers of Islamo-fascism: hardly compatible with his policy of allowing large numbers of Muslims into the UK.

That comes from a Sunday Times article by Marie Wolf entited “Visionary Blair: I was peacemaker”.

If you want hypocrisy, self-deception, trying to deceive everyone else, etc, etc, then Blair’s your man.

BlairSupporter said...

Great article. And you should read Blair's book, and Campbell's too, to get inside their heads as people. Yes, they ARE people.

We did not have a warmongering criminal running our country for 10 years, but a man who understood the issues at home and abroad.

He was well aware of the issues that Islam encompassed, though as is his 'positive thinking' way, he preferred to accept that Islam is fundamentally sound. And he may be right, since terrorist fundamentalists though hugely Muslim, are (thus far!) a small minority.

Like many in this country and in the west he bought into the mantra "when they experience liberal democracies" minds will change. Largely that is right in western countries. That today is not the problem. We have moved on. It is the growing power of Islamic states that we should be wary of. And that is why so many are uneasy about Egypt's present problems.

Btw, if people devour the lies of the mainstream press with their agendas, it's no wonder they are confused, and think Blair and his Iraq decision is more of a problem than the growing Islamification of the west and the entire world. One day we might be relieved to have one other democracy in the Middle East apart from Israel - Iraq.

Peter Whale said...

Does it say in the book when he gave the instruction to have all his expense requests shredded.He
certainly thought ahead there. Just another lying toerag.

Jan said...

I will never feel sorry for TB however much he tries to justify his actions. Right from the start he sought to pull the wool over peoples' eyes at every opportunity whilst acting in a weasel way eg having his little clique make all decisions; professing to support comprehensive schools whilst sending his own kids to the best schools etc etc. He was also seeking to make his own fortune along the way. As for Alastair Campbell I can't stand the man. How he ever reached the position he did beats me. In Christopher Meyer's shoes I would have been more than a little pissed off too. Let's not forget that AC was qualified to influence political decisions by what exactly?

I would say that TB wants us all to "feel his pain" and feel sorry for him. Meanwhile he's laughing all the way to the bank whilst many others are no longer with us both in the British Army and in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, they ARE people."

So was Stalin

"We did not have a warmongering criminal running our country for 10 years, but a man who understood the issues at home and abroad."

Oh come on,
we had a government that gerrymander the electorate with mass immigration. Corrupt!
Devolved Scotland and Wales (the heartland of their political base) but not England. Corrupt!
The NewLabour party only won the popular vote in England once, in 1997.
Meanwhile ofcourse he sold us out to the EU. Corrupt! without any mandate what so ever.

A party that left Britain in the worst financial state in 90 years!
Blair either didn't understand what was going on or worse he did and did nothing about it.

Blair has since 'made' millions working for US banks, which in reality is nothing more than a kick-back for his support of the neocons.
Since when was Tony Blair an expert banker? or if by small chance he is, why is Britains finances in such a mess?

Some people like Blair because he looks good, is well spoken and can talk his way in or out of anything.
If Blair had done the same things as he has, but was a rough lookin stuttering buffoon the same people would take an instant dislike to him.
Look at the policies not the man.


Oh and saying Islamic terrorism is a tiny minority is like saying the IRA were a tiny minority.
Yes its true, but ... although the numbers of the IRA were small, they at one time had plenty of support within the community, and wouldn't have lasted long without it.

Bill Quango MP said...

Anon. Blair was quite clued up it seems. he was reading the Koran to educate himself before 9/11.
Immigration into the UK wasn't the issue. Can't just close all the borders and not let anyone in.

Not to say that the complete disregard for the long standing immigration controls wasn't a terrible mistake. just that saying ..we have 5 million immigrants here already, lets have no more..wouldn't have solved the problem.

Musgrave. Blair was one of the first to pay attention. Bush had no idea. probably even at the end of his two terms he was no more knowledgeable about the Islam.
Blair took it seriously.
Doesn't excuse his Messianic role in what happened though.

Blair Supporter. I'm not giving saint Tony a free pass here. But very early on I do believe Blair made some pretty good moves.
reading bob woodward's account there is no sense of 9/11 being a terror attack. just an event. his writing is very flat. Rawnsley uses 'quotes.' or more accurately 'overheard comments.' And these seem much more real.

Peter Whale: No mention so far. but there's a long way to go.

Dick the Prick said...

Why he never sacked Brown has always surprised me. More of a threat on the back bench? Guess so.

I also think that Christopher Meyer believes the sun shines out of Christopher Meyer's arse so err...fuck him. The fact that was gonna be a modern meeja war was probably more important than a prissy ambassador's ego.

Bill Quango MP said...

Jan: Powell and Campbell had the special authority to order civil servants. the party running the machine. Very bad idea. Should not have been allowed. Probably still goes on though.

The next bit of the book shows Blair's seduction by the world stage. In his 2001 conference speech he really goes off on one. It was lauded as a great, great speech at the time. A sort of 'heal the world' speech .But read it now and its bonkers.

Anon: He certainly has a lot to answer for. The man who always promised to over deliver and always under delivered.
History will only ever give him a partial credit for Northern Ireland and Kosovo.

DP: Why he never sacked Brown has always surprised me. More of a threat on the back bench? Guess so.
That's in there. I'll do some more as i read more. In 2001, second landslide, Cherie and Alistair and Peter and others begged him to get rid of Brown. Mandelson said he wanted a plaque made up that he could just point to, sitting on his desk.

"You must always remember: The Chancellor is mad"

But yes. Blair thought the party and the voters would never understand why he had sacked someone who was doing such a great job.

As for CM. This WAS the dinner before Bush's speech to congress. Tony Blair was guest of honour. the ONLY world leader to sit with Bush. it would have been unthinkable for the ambassador NOT to be there. Totally emasculating having a puppeteer take his chair.

Anonymous said...

"Immigration into the UK wasn't the issue. Can't just close all the borders and not let anyone in."

I didn't say the borders should be locked down.

I suggest that we ended the open borders policy.
There is pretty large scope for something else inbetween the two extremes.

I see no reason why we couldn't have moved back to the level of immigration say in 1990 which was just a few tens of thousands a year, as opposed to our officially hundreds of thousands, but in reality virtually unlimited.

If I was the PM and I learnt about a globalist religious threat to my country, with a possible large number of sympathiers at home. The first thing I would want to do is put policies in place designed to reduce the connection between the home group and the extremists from outside.
ie try to prevent the bad applies coming in.

Nothing like that has happened, infact quite the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Bill Q

I doubt your sanity...!

first you swallow 9/11

then you defend bliar.

Lack of neurons!

No cred, none at all.

Anonymous said...



The US is funding elements of Egypt demonstrators.

The new Egypt VP guy is US intelligence point man in egypt.

So think proir to inserting foot in gob re this scenario.

hatfield girl said...

Spoiler it may be to say, but the Brown years dissected towards the end of the book (which I had for Christmas - I even made mince pies while grinding my teeth with rage) are the answer to what was wrong with Labour.

Why did we all hold back on calling that man for what he is? And his wife.

tory boys never grow up said...

@hatfield girl

Why did we all hold back on calling that man for what he is?

You clearly didn't mean the "royal we"

Bill Quango MP said...

Anon{1}: Why do you think the governments just abandoned checking people in and out? it seems such a stupid thing to do. Cost? Manpower?
Did they think a black economy would be a good thing. I've never really heard the decision to trim back immigration controls explained.

9/11 we won't agree on.
Blair OTOH we probably will get closer.
The fact he recognised the situation of a different world early, and took some steps to stop the USA blowing up Mecca or something, doesn't excuse what came later. The most difficult decision any leader can take is war. And he took that decision BEFORE he had all the facts. The facts that didn't fit were ignored. And the aftermath of the war was a terrible and unnecessary suffering that was entirely foreseeable in advance.

When I say "Blair thought that if the fanatics had the weapons they would use them" it doesn't mean that he should have assumed they did have them, or were about to get them, from Iraq.

The weapons inspectors were the key.
Sure they were being slow, and the Iraq's were being obstructive, but if war hadn't already been decided on then what difference would a few more months of searching have meant?

Bill Quango MP said...

Anon {again}: Mubarak was the US and the West's man. Its pretty likely they'd want another friendly in play. CIA may be funding a dozen groups. So what?
We have UK undercover cops investigating the clown movement. And that's not some joke..An actual group of subversive clowns have been under surveillance for years.

Who'd a thought there would be a budget for that?

Bill Quango MP said...

HG..How can you make pies and read?
Looking forward to the Brown chapters with much anticipation.

TBNGU: I guess HG means WE THE PEOPLE..

Anonymous said...

Bill, well.

I believe the elite running this country have been pro-EU radicals for years.
They wanted to reduce Britains national identity with mass immigration to further the EU agenda.

However more recently radical leftists wanted mass immigration for their own global socialist reasons.

I certainly don't believe its good for the economy, not when there are so many 'neets' already in the country.

hatfield girl said...

This post has fallen off into space. There must be more to come; might it move up a bit so we can keep looking at it? There is a great deal to be said about the end of the party.

Bill Quango MP said...

Will do another one soon.
Its a gripping book.

Wonder how it all turns out?