Friday, 8 July 2016

Is There Just One To Blame?

Dear Reader,

It is inevitable that there is a cry to bring an individual "to justice" for this or that, but even for the most basic malfeasance there is often some other factor that influenced the act to be perpetrated. In Tony Blair's case there were - I believe - several influencing factors,  but perhaps the most important factor was how the 9/11 phenomenon gained the sympathy to swing the matter to support the US. But I have to say that I believe that a further major factor was in the rise of 'New' Labour, and its apparent attempt to be all things to all people.

Not long after Tony Blair took over as leader of the Labour Party, one of his acts was to remove the famed "Clause 4" from the Party rulebook, and though I can understand why he thought it was "old hat", the principle in the clause was to link the importance of the ordinary worker to the wealth of the country - that the worker was just as much an important cog in the economic process as any other person, even the chairman of a large business.

The removal of this important principle - which could simply have been re-worded into modern language rather than be rejected - thereby let the Labour Party free from certain intrinsic values. As a Labour Party member of the time and one of those who voted out Clause 4, I take equal responsibility for that error. Of course, like many others, I was more concerned about Labour regaining government at the time over the principle on which we were voting within the Party. I did not spend enough time to think of the consequences - what has proved to be a terrible mia culpa on my part, I believe.

Thereby Blair led the break away of an important link between Labour and the working people that was then thought of not to be a big issue: that progress and fairness for all was possible without all that heavyweight principles stuff. In fairness, we were trying to get out of the idea of a class-based society, and that was one of Blair's mechanisms to take us out of that mentality. But since that time the number of mega-rich people has exponentially grown, while at the lower level of the scale there is more hardship and more people subject to control by a few so-called elite. It came to be that people at the bottom of the pile no longer felt they had a political party that spoke for them: at least until Jeremy Corbyn arrived.

The breaking of working class links didn't stop there. Although Blair was significantly successful in achieving unity in Northern Ireland, his instincts became robustly in favour of imperial endeavour when the Iraq question came around.

Up until Blair's time, the Labour Party's basic principle was anti-war. That principle was deeply respected by Labour's Harold Wilson in the 1960s, so the UK did not side with the USA in the war in Vietnam. Thank goodness; but the wisdom of that precedent appears to have been lost by 2002.

Blair's "I will be with you, whatever" message to George Bush jnr. in September, 2002, seems to sum up Blair's general attitude, and was uttered in a presidential tone, no doubt influenced heavily by his sympathy to the US on the matter of 9/11. But by that stage the principle of collective responsibility in cabinet had been diminished, and, post-Chilcot, we have retrospectively found out that the cabinet did not question the process towards the Iraq War anywhere near as closely as they might have. The then cabinet appears to have been in awe of the power of The Man, Tony Blair.

Parliament was warned, however, by the very respected Robin Cook, who resigned from the cabinet in 2003: click here to see him present his resignation speech.

Significantly, we now know for certain that the evidence for going to war on Hussein was scanty. So scanty it seems that a spy was passing intelligence to MI6 which appears to have been lifted from the film The Rock, starring Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery. And Hans Blix (the chief weapons inspector) argued strongly that there was nothing to be found but asked for a further period to ensure that was the case. That request was denied and the outcome was that the US (and the UK as the strongest supporting ally) went in to finish Saddam Hussein, but without any form of plan of how to follow up a (presumed) successful invasion. Winning hearts and minds was said to be the intention of the whole project, but any hope of that was given up on long, long, ago. 

Some say one million Iraqis have died. More realistically perhaps the true figure is half that number. Officially it's half again. But few people seem to think of the affect on the Iraqis themselves, and that they continue to go though a continued hell as a result of the Daesh/ISIS phenomenon, which itself was mostly caused by the so-called Bush-Blair War.

In conclusion I would say that Tony Blair has been a victim of his own hubris. Following a very successful first 5 years in office he so convinced himself of the righteousness of his actions, and all those around him, that much-required close scrutiny and evaluation of the true state of affairs seems to have gone astray. Many people in government (not just Blair) seemed to forget certain principles of government and failed to stand up for them. And not only they but also Army commanders who did not highlight the poor quality of the soldiers' equipment.

There is not just one culprit, therefore, in this very regrettable business.

Have we learnt? I would hope so, but memories rarely last more than a lifetime. And it didn't stop Cameron from following a similar Blair-type line into Libya. 

I only see a return to long-term sense based on strong and well-upholstered government principles, themselves based on sound values which include real honesty and clarity towards the public. We did not see much of that in the recent Brexit campaign, so it does seem we have a long way to go yet to achieve anywhere near the ideal state.

Thank you for reading this.