A bit of retro Tony Blair blogging

Tony Blair:

He called on leaders to consider the “absurdity” of spending billions of dollars on security against an ideology which is being “advocated” in the schools and institutions of “countries with whom we have intimate security and defence relationships”.

“Some of those countries of course wish to escape from the grip of this ideology, but often it is hard for them to do so within their own political constraints,” he added.

Presumably the ideology against which we are spending billions on security, and which is being advocated in the schools, etc, is Wahhabism, and the country with which we have intimate security and defence relationships is Saudi Arabia. Tony Blair, of course, was only too happy to kill the inquiry into BAE in order to please the Saudis and not spoil the intimate, yadda yadda.

Patrick Cockburn notes Blair’s hypocrisy on this point, but then decides that in the end Blair is being pro-Saudi by attacking the Muslim Brothers. I disagree; I think the answer is that he’s sucking up to the other Gulf states, not the Saudis.

That he’s sucking up to some patron or other is of course blindingly obvious. Philip Stephens is amazingly vicious about Blair’s money-grubbing and attention-seeking:

I struggle to think of a former political leader as diligent as Tony Blair in the sullying of his own reputation. Mr Blair’s Iraq adventure with George W Bush was always going to cast a shadow. A minority will forever condemn him as a “war criminal”. Yet it is his single-minded, almost manic, quest for personal riches that will leave the darker stain on the historical record.

As the idea that invading Iraq wasn’t quite as bad as wanting to make a pot of money suggests, Stephens is trying too hard, like a fast bowler getting carried away down the slope. Bizarrely, he says:

Mr Blair was a better prime minister than history will probably allow. As readers sometimes remind me, I thought him a remarkable politician. It was no accident that he won three elections. His organising insight – that successful democracies marry open economies with social justice – is as valid now as it was then. The pity is that it has been lost on today’s political lightweights. You would not find Mr Blair chasing after the xenophobic populists.

Mate. Blair chased after xenophobic unpopular-populists every day of the week. In office, he constantly threw out eye-catching initiatives to bother asylum-seekers and squeegee merchants. Xenophobic populism was as much part of the Blair mix as Jesus-y canned emotion. In his post-premiership self-justifications, he officially regrets “immigration”, as if there were no immigrants in Britain in 1997.

So does Stephens, here. The piece is worth reading as an example of utterly dull establishment guff, and especially because it defines “populism” as evil, defines its causes as the economic policies he espouses, and implicitly defines anyone who wants to change them as a monstrous “populist”.

Wage stagnation and structural unemployment, themselves born of even deeper trends to do with global competition and automation, have cultivated a sizeable class of people who feel frozen out by mainstream politics and its economic orthodoxies.

The problem here is that, for Stephens, Blair was what the future was meant to be – impeccably globalisey with stage presence. He is still grieving for it, somewhere between denial and depression in the Kübler-Ross process. Those of us who started earlier have finished.

11 Comments on "A bit of retro Tony Blair blogging"

  1. There’s quite a lot of people distancing themselves from Blair at the moment. Perhaps last week’s speech was the last straw. Even Dan Hodges is saying that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They all want to draw a line under something and move on.

    Of course before they move on they want to dump the Blair baggage that has become too cumbersome but continue with the bits of Blair that they like. Blair used spin to create a consensus about the future. The contradictions between what different groups wanted for the future were covered over with the smoke-screen of spin. Blair’s use of spin about Iraq was so obvious that it couldn’t be ignored. But there was just as much spin obscuring what he meant by globalisation or reform of public services.


  2. I’ve always sort of assumed there was a quid pro quo [literal quids] for Blair with the Iraq thing, too. That his quest for personal enrichment began really rather earlier than leaving office.


    1. That’s how corruption works in Britain, you do favours when in office in expectation of being rewarded after you leave. That way, no embarassing brown envelopes of cash; you get some nice cushy speaking gigs and a directorate or three, pay a bit of tax, live happily ever after. Shame about the people that are dead/ bankrupt/ homeless because of what you did.


  3. Tony Blair, of course, was only too happy to kill the inquiry into BAE in order to please the Saudis and not spoil the intimate, yadda yadda.

    Tony Blair (or rather Director SFO) killed the BAE inquiry because the Saudis threatened to turn a blind eye to Saudi-based terrorist attacks on the UK if he didn’t – at least, that’s what the Law Lords found on appeal.


  4. Yes, the problem of the UK’s relations with Saudi Arabia is much deeper than what Tony did. I read somewhere that Prince Charles has made 10 official visits to Saudi Arabia and that he has visited more times than he’s been to Old Commonwealth countries like Australia. To keep the oil and the money and the arms circulating the UK has to send Charles to eat sheep’s eyes and do daft dances.

    Maybe we should praise Tony for very tentatively pointing to the UK’s dependence on a Kingdom that spreads an ideology Tony doesn’t like. Or maybe we should point out that this tentative pointing isn’t good enough.


    1. I love the tone and anger from Taylor Parkes, but it’s a bit, well, wrong to blame Britpop. The 90s were pre-Internet but music was already having a post-modern crisis in it’s relationship with “youth” and “rebellion.” And it wasn’t the music that enabled the ongoing neoliberal victory, it was their 30 years of propaganda and 10 years in power that solidified the position of the nascent 1%…


      1. Perhaps “wrong” is over-egging it – but I do think it’s misguided – looking in the wrong places for the roots of something.


        1. Parkes was a twat back then and I’ll bet quids he’s still one now. To be honest I really don’t understand how I used to put up with music journalism; indeed, suck down enormous quantities of it at every opportunity.


  5. I think in the days when the internet was a lad (or lass), and before digital radio, one of the few ways of finding out about new bands and music was by reading NME and such like, though it might have been better to skip the childishness and pretentiousness of a lot of the journalism. Some of the monthly magazines were better though. I think I doomed ‘Select’ by starting to buy it regularly a matter of months before it disappeared.


    1. True; it really was a festival of wankerism though. And the Maker, which I used to literally hurry to the newsagent to buy, was worse than the NME.


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