Friday, January 29, 2010

Missing Tony

Could anyone disagree with me if I say that the Chilcott Committee hasn't laid a glove on Tony Blair so far? I'm not sure that I ever expected them to, but I certainly didn't expect it to be this easy for Mr Blair.

Whatever one's view of the Iraq war, I don't think many people could allege that Blair didn't believe what he was doing was right. His evidence so far demonstrates an absolute certainty of aim and objective. There is clearly little self doubt in his persona. Sometimes in life that can be a dangerous thing. In government and politics it is an asset. Compare Blair - a man willing and able to make decisions - to Gordon Brown, a man permanently struck by dithering and indecision.

A Prime Minister needs to take a broad, big picture view and not be burdened by intricate detail. Brown is a bad Prime Minister in part because he is pathologically incapable of making decisions when they need to be made. By the time he makes a decision the moment has often passed.

I would far rather have a Prime Minister who had the courage to make decisions, even if, on occasion, he gets them wrong.

Yes, I admit it. I miss Tony.

56 comments:

The Lakelander said...

Actually, I miss Cherie more.

She was a gift to those of us who like using Photoshop.

David said...

the man is a phenomenon, and frankly he is as impressive as you would expect. I have to say that its good to hear some one finally defend/advocate the war. It makes a change to all the slope shouldered not me gov weasels that have run in the opposite direction. Do i miss him though? no i don't as wish death and destruction on the Labour Party...anyone on the right is better than the best on the left

Boo said...

He does seem to have more talent in his little finger than Brown can must in a good day.

It is nice to be reminded on how a prime minister should be

Little Black Sambo said...

"It is nice to be reminded of how a prime minister should be."
How what?

Lord Snooty said...

All Labour supporters must be wondering why on earth they got rid of an election-winning political genius...

Personally, I was against the Iraq War, and still believe it was a terrible mistake, but at least Blair has the balls to come out and defend it. And pretty convincingly at that, I have to admit.

Tachybaptus said...

A clear case of the Stockholm effect.

Boo said...

Decisive and willing to advocate his position when under fire.

I may not always agree with him, but at least he is willing to stand and be counted for his decision.
Unlike the man who dithers then runs and hides when things gets bad

Nigel said...

>>Whatever one's view of the Iraq war, I don't think many people could allege that Blair didn't believe what he was doing was right. His evidence so far demonstrates an absolute certainty of aim and objective.<<

Absolute certainty is similar to absolute power in its tendency to corrode judgement and restraint.

Blair is an object lesson.

Anonymous said...

I don't think many people could allege that Blair didn't believe what he was doing was right.

An incredibly naive view because you are presuming that Blair based his actions on a moral view of the world. If you actually take the time to read what the American pro-war movement said, what people like Perle and Cheney and Wolfowitz said, you will see that "right" and "wrong" were totally absent from the discussion.

The invasion of Iraq was premised on many things but moral worries about the nature of rightness was not amongst them. Blair may have thought his course was the most advantageous for Britain (and, in that, he was massively wrong) but I'm afraid that "strategically advantageous" is not the same as "right".

I would far rather have a Prime Minister who had the courage to make decisions, even if, on occasion, he gets them wrong.

On occasion? Mr. Dale, were you been asleep during the Blair premiership? Blair has never made a decision that hasn't had short-term advantage for himself and his party and long-term damage for the country as a whole.

Unlike you, I would rather have a prime minister who only acted when there were cogent reasons to act and who, in acting, was motivated by considerations other than personal vanity, partisan advantage and post-prime ministerial speaking fees.

opinion prole said...

What would the anti-Blair mob have said now if WMD and missiles ready in 45 mins had actually have been found in Iraq? Would that have made the war ok in their sanctimonious little books? How would it have made the outcome any different for the Iraqis?

Anonymous said...

When it comes down to it, I defy anyone to listen to Blair's rationalisations and maintain that the man is mentally stable.

He's clearly a narcissist and, like most narcissists, he is both a socipiopath and a coward. His narcissism has manifested in a Messiah complex and a compelling need to "save" the world from itself. In his sick, sick mind, Blair is the only noble and honourable man left, assailed by pygmies now but surely to be vindicated by the judgment of history.

The blood of thousands of people, Iraqi and British alike, really does not concern him one bit, except insofar as he can fix his face into the expression of a constipated owl and piously whine about how hard it was for him (the poor dear!) to order so many deaths.

When you think about it, the British soldiers and Iraqi civilians aren't the victims. Nor are the British victims of the terrorism that Blair created. No, the real victim here is Tony.

wapping boy said...

The fact that Blair thought Brown was "psychologically flawed" (which we now know to be true) yet allowed Brown to remain in high office and then succeed him tells you all you need to know about the man. Typical Labour politician - party first, country last.

Lord Snooty said...

I disagree with Blair on Iraq but admire the fact that he has the guts to defend his decision without trying to back away from it. And he's doing it pretty persuasively, I must say.

Quite what Labour were thinking of when they got rid of him, I really cannot imagine.

Anonymous said...

"I would far rather have a Prime Minister who had the courage to make decisions, even if, on occasion, he gets them wrong.''

And even if his decision constitutes the greatest geopolitical strategic error since Suez?

golden_balls said...

I doubt iain would be saying this if Blair had still been PM

But Tony is a class act he'd blow DC outa the water if you take iraq out of the equation.

Staffordshire man said...

the greatest geopolitical strategic error since Suez

Far to soon to tell dear boy.

Albert said...

I don't miss Bliar, I hate him too much for that.

Anonymous said...

It would be better if all Conservatives acknowledged the actions of Mr Blair who was our country's elected leader three times regardless of how any individual voted.

Would IDS or Howard or even Hague not have had to do exaxctly the same thing at the time. Our position on this worries me as we seem so disingenuous at times.

We supported the war, we stood shoulder to shoulder with the US, we support our troops. On this we should still be supporting Mr Blair who did the right thing.

Some things are simply more important than party politics.

OldSlaughter said...

This is as aggravating as anything you have ever written on here.

How about a Prime Minister that knows what he wants and is willing to use the system properly to achieve it. I want a Prime Minister that has the slightest idea of our forces and how they work before committing them to war. I want a Prime Minister that tells me the real reason why we are going to war. I want a Prime Minister that has more than contempt for his own public.

I want Tony Blair strung up. If being a media whore and getting what you want are your criteria for a good PM Iain then that is up to you, I struggle to see the relationship between your views and what it means to be a Tory however.

"Would IDS or Howard or even Hague not have had to do exactly the same thing at the time...

Some things are simply more important than party politics."

Yes they are more important. Like honesty for example. Would Howard or Hague have put so much power in the hands of an ex-hack from the Mirror? No.

Would they have lied that the ability to drop a shell with chemicals in on Cyprus was the reason for war? No.

Any Tory ever would have done a better job.

moorlandhunter said...

I am afraid Chilcot has allowed Blair to walk away un-bloodied and un-pressed on the means, arguments and decision of Blair taking us to war. As far as I am concerned Blair did take us to war on lies. If Blair was concerned about a tyrant (Saddam) then why did he not press for war in Zimbabwe, North Korea, Chad, Sudan and Iran? I wish the enquiry was headed by someone with courage to press home arguments. Chilcot is just another expensive enquiry failure which will find out nothing and will allow Blair to slip away to make millions of pounds out of the blood of UK soldiers and innocent Iraqis

Mr. Musicology said...

Ian, you have to accept that much of what you maybe want to hear is tabloid sensationalism.

After 2 inquiries, this may actually be all there is on the subject.

You know, he did it for the good of the country, as he was fearful of the instability of the middle east, after 9/11

And the legality was questionable, but ultimately, probably sound.

That's basically all it is.

Again, tabloids cry consipracy and whitewash. That's just because they want the inquiry to back their own version.

You know. Sadly, inquiries don't deal in conspiracy or headline making

Mirtha Tidville said...

Miss Him???...are you serious...He thought more of Bush than he did the British people and our way of life. He is a vain liar and bullshitter.No more no less. He has the blood of many good people on his hands and that can never ever be changed.

I didnt expect much from Chilcot, but I did hope against hope that this charlatan would end up in the dock at the Hague preferably stood next to Crawford`s village idiot. Still hope is what keeps us all going doesnt it...

moorlandhunter said...

Just to add, if this was an ex Tory PM answering questions in this enquiry then the papers and media would shred him/her as would the Trades Unions and Labour MP’s, but so far the media is tame on this issue, the Unions silent and Labour MP’s as silent as a fart on an airplane.
Remember the Tam Dyell (?) and his repeated attempts to bring the Tories down over the murder of Hilda Murrell who Labour activists thought was murdered by MI5 over the Falklands, or the lefties attempts to tarnish the Captain of HMS Conqueror and Maggie Thatcher over the just sinking of The Belgrano which the Captain admitted, was about to turn back and try to sink and bombard the Falkland Task Force?
It was sustained attacks which in the end proved that the Belgrano was sunk in a legal war and Hilda Murrel was murderer by a passing labourer.
The double standards on this in the press and HoC are astounding.

PS. Labour has thought this whitewashing day as a good day to bury bad news over NHS waiting time and MP’s expenses!

Paul C said...

You are well off mark here, Iain. He's marginally better than Brown (the worst PM ever) but I don't want a PM who cannot admit that he did things wrong, and misrepresents evidence to us just because he thinks it's right.

Being decisive but wrong and able to squirm away from difficult questions is not what this country needs from a PM.

He deserves a war crimes trial, not praise.

Anonymous said...

I agree Iain. He has clearly demonstrated to me what a PM thinks when faced with a new form of terrorism. After all, we discharge the duty of protecting us to the elected government of the day. I am now much more aware of his strategy in coping with this.

I agree with David too about all those who now seek to run in the opposite direction. How pathetic all of those who do so are. Unlike David, I miss him and the Labour Party will miss him in the coming months. He has all the qualities I want from a PM.

I also agree with the anonymous comment regarding the likely action at that time if IDS or William Hague were PM. It is important that political parties do not seek to try and score petty political points from a conflict which resulted in the loss of so many people from Iraq and the coalition forces. They may dress their concerns up in other ways tbut that is what many are now tring to do.

The testimony today has made me more aware of the dangers that we all face from extremism. The comment on Iran was very relevant. So in addition to Tony Blair's evidence of what occurred leading up to the war and the aftermath, we have also had a lesson of the difficulties we face if we do not deal with rogue states. All of these point up the very difficult decisions that governments have to make.

Anonymous said...

I can never forgive him.

trevorsden said...

I believe in the war. I do not believe in the way we went to war.

But the way we went to war was principally because we had a prime minister leading a pacifist party. On top of which the UN was essentially corrupt and a number of its members self serving. But the way Blair handled that was still wrong.

The issue about war of course is it in not a certain exercise and even though the war itself went broadly as planned, the aftermath which was equally as important was without doubt badly planned.

One point Blair made though is undoubtedly true. Most of the killing afterwards was done by terrorists not the allies.

However the broader and continuing criticism of Blair and Brown is that they have continually placed a heavy burden on our troops without giving them the numbers and equipment they needed to do their bidding.

Anonymous said...

For Christs sake, Hitler probably thought he was doing the right thing too. And the Yorkshire Ripper. Blair is the man who, on hearing the best estimates of death inflicted on Iraqi civilians, quibbled over reliability of the figures.

Simon Gardner said...

I agree no glove laid - nor any expected despite the meeja puffery.

Blair once again straight LIED about Chirac’s clear published position on a second UN resolution just exactly as he lied to the Commons. No excuse since Blair is fluent in French and must inevitably have known he was lying and still is.

Chirac of course never (as Blair claimed) said he would never allow a 2nd force-authorizing UN resolution; just not "at this time". Chirac clearly said Weapons Inspectors should be given more time. Not the same thing as a permanent veto at all.

OTOH, what a disaster is Brown when you compare the two.

Unsworth said...

Where do integrity, or humility, or plain old decency come into your assessment, Iain?

Weygand said...

Yet we now know that what made it so easy for him to be so sure that he was right was that it gave him the chance to be a player on the world stage (even if on the coat tails of the US) and to gain his place in History (which ironically is exactly what it has done).

But nothing gave him the right to stifle the process of checks and balances set up to guard against him being wrong and then to manipulate the government, Parliament and the British people, as we now know that he did.

Neither he nor Campbell will ever stand before a Court, but the destiny they have forged for themselves is far more cruel than any that the law could have devised for them.

For a rather more persuasive investigation of Blairs' self belief than Iain's here see Max Hastings.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1246928/Dont-expect-contrition-man-deceit-cost-lives-crippled-standing-world-generation.html

Anonymous said...

Good graphic.

Pity Tone's been too busy lining his pockets to attend any funerals, isn't it?

DeeDee99 said...

I don't miss the sanctimonious creep. He can't go or stay far enough away for me to ever miss his egotistical and nauseatingly hypocritical play-acting.

From the minute he entered the political spotlight I thought he was an untrustworthy spiv - and how right I was. First impressions usually are.

albertmbankment said...

I couldn't be bothered to follow it/him in detail today. Nevertheless, at one point I saw him emoting about how - in their lamentably inadequate planning - they had expected to inherit a fully-functioning Iraqi civil service, in order to maintain the infrastructure and allow an orderly transition to a new régime.

This left the goal wide open for one or other of Chilcot's Chums to ease the ball into the net. But they funked it.

If that was the case, Mr Blair, why did the coalition forces (sorry, to be more accurate, the US) target and destroy every important ministry building in Baghdad - to say nothing of the water and sewage systems) with the notable exception of the oil and gas ministry, which was left miraculously intact? Or was that just a remarkable and regrettable coincidence?

Anonymous said...

I would like to congratulate Conservative supporters who can put their party preference to one side and say that, on this, Tony Blair was right.
It's obvious that many journalists are simply insane on this subject; 2003 was the point where something snapped and the media just lost it. Vietnam 1960s leftwingers, like the BBC, saw an aggressive American Republican war to be against, and the Tories saw something that they could, finally after so many years, have against Blair that stuck.
There has not been the slightest effort to put both sides of the discussion, or indeed anything that does not lead to the Bliar type opinion. Even the word "terrorist" is expunged from the news.
Some of us rely on Conservatives to be Pro-American, pro-liberty and pro-the defeating of evil when necessary, even when it's a Labour Prime Minister who is doing it.

By the way, I think the Blair haters on this blog, and on all the others, tell us nothing but about themselves.

Chris said...

I can see what you mean Iain. We can admire Blair as one admires the criminal who is smart enough to get away it over the one who is inept enough to get caught. While admitting that Blair is a smooth operator - the fact is he has done untold damage to Britain with his failed crypto-fascist New Labour project. Knowing that the sh*t was about to hit the fan he bailed and left us with a psychopath at the wheel. Perhaps that was his revenge for the way we all turned on him. Blair's undoubted talent does not make him a good Prime Minister. His legacy is catastrophic.

Patrick said...

For gawds sake.... get Fern Britton to ask the questions!

Anonymous said...

Yes, but just look at the gaps in the questioning (as with almost every session to date). To take just three items:

1. Blair kept stressing his conviction that Saddam was a menace, but he emphasised a history of threat rather than the intelligence (which was full of qualifications) he received on the position at the time. Why was he not pressed on the evidence base?

2. Nor was he asked about his knowledge of/sanction for the attempts made by Downing Street staff to encourage the JIC to be less equivocal. Similarly, he was not pressed on his reaffirmation of "established beyond doubt"

3. Ditto re Goldsmith's advice. Blair was not questioned about any role he may have played in encouraging the discussions between Goldsmith and the US lawyers.

Blair was unconvincing in explaining the transition from equivocation to confidence in Goldsmith's opinion on legality. If Blair was still at the Bar, would he really give advice requiring certainty on 'material breach' solely on the basis of his client's assurance? He's want to see the evidence. Goldsmith and Blair should have been asked about this.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, he is charismatic - it would be churlish to suggest otherwise.

However, many complete lunatics throughout history have been charismatic - things have sunk pretty low (i.e. Brown) for people to miss Blair's stardust.

As others have pointed out, going to war because you fancy yourself as a Messianic figure is no excuse - remember him in Basra in his whiter than white shirt in 2003? Pictures were in the papers again over the weekend - the symbolism is obvious (and no, not a coincidence - these people agonise for hours over which tie to wear).

Neither does the 'links to terrorism/post 9-11 risk aversion' argument stack up, not for one second.

Don't get me wrong, I don't buy 'war for oil' either - at least not as the main reason ('course, the oil companies weren't unhappy about it, since it allowed them to ramp prices in the short term and grab contracts in Iraq in the long term). Nah, far from being a fearless decision maker, he went to Washington and got punked by W.

What was W's motivation? Not sure he had one himself - but the gang of out-and-out rent-a-nutters around him (many ex-Trots - that's all you need to know) wanted to see if they could smash stuff up and put it back together again, and I don't think, in the end, that it's a lot more complex than that (and of course they were very bad at it, since not one of them had ever been to war or even had a job outside of wonkland).

Dimoto said...

Good post, Anonomous at 2.09.

Thing is, Blair lies and lies with aplomb, he even has the grace to blush on a few rare occasions, and he looks vaguely human.

The Brownobot is just programmed to lie then endlessly repeat the lie with a churlish snarl.
He also looks and behaves like a sub-species.

Piers said...

Briefly: yes decisive on matters of war and the lives of others. On nearly every other measure of political activity as insubstantial and cowardly as his successor.

I do recall he stood up to the fuel protestors though. Now that's courage for you (insert sarc mark).

Dimoto said...

Anonymous at 6.04.
By what feat of contorted logic would you interpret supporting the Cheney / Wolfowitz clique in their global adventurism, as "pro-American".
Go talk to a few Americans (of both blue and red persuasion).

Hasan said...

I completely agree with every word you've wrote Iain. Tony Blair's responses reminded me of his exchanges in PMQ's. Chilcot might as well had reading Blair's talking points.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Compare and contrast indeed.

Horrible to admit, but Blair coped well today. Bet Harman and Johnson loved it. ;-)

Anonymous said...

6:04 anonymous again (not got a google account or any of others, sorry)

Pro-American means being pro-American. When the liberal consensus has it that America is the root cause of terrorism rather than the victim of it and America is seen as THE problem rather than the terrorists, Tony Blair did choose to support America in its anti-terrorism endeavours. He supported the American president of the day in this against strong opposition.

To say this support is not supporting America but just Neocons is wrong. You either support America after the worst terrorist outrage it has faced or you don't, and he did. What the BBC and others refer to as "The Iraq War" is just part of America's (and the free world's) War on Terror.

To misquote Mr.Bennet, nothing can cure Tony Blair of the iniquitous crime of being a Labour Prime Minister, but we must give credit where it's due.

Don't hate Tony Blair. It's stupid. Particularly not for this; something for which every anti-American, group-thinking pinko in the world hates his guts.

When (some in) Labour stopped seeing Margaret Thatcher as completely evil/wrong, they were cured of paralysis and won 3 elections. Conservatives should do the same with Tony Blair.

Stop hating. Take deep breaths. Count to ten. He's right on this.

Andy JS said...

Tony's performance today reminded me why I voted Labour in 2005 despite hating the Labour party.

The Lakelander said...

Well here's one interpretation of Tony Blair's performance today:

Question: What is the definition of "sociopath"?

Answer:

People with Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopath, psychopath) try to get their way without being considerate of others. They show spontaneous behaviour, which humiliates or harms other people. They lack any feeling for or understanding of norms, nor have they any feeling of guilt. They do not seem to be able to plan actions or to act with foresight. Antisocial PD occurs more often in men than in women.

James Clarke said...

Even when you dont agree with TB and you stand completely opposed to his position you cant match him in his self belief. I almost believed what he said. That man can tell you the sky is red and most peolpe will fall into line because hes just so convincing!

Paddy Briggs said...

A generous post, Iain, which does you credit. Seeing Blair yesterday made me realise just how good a politician he was – surely the best communicator of modern times and intellectually robust as well. But, and it’s a massive but, his driving force was (and is) utterly wrong. It wasn’t socialism, or Europeanism, or Anglo-Americanism or any other “ism” – it was religious fervour of the most dangerous kind. If you seek to find why Blair bowed to Bush’s bidding hubris was only part of it. It really was, though, utterly absurd for Britain to go it alone with the US on Iraq and shameful the way that Blair gave two fingers to our European partners (and most of the rest of the world). But the real reason for this has to be Blair’s religious convictions.

Regime change for Bush was an ideological and quasi-religious imperative and Blair bought it hook, line and sinker. Praying together in the Oval Office was only part of it. “Evil” is a difficult concept to define – unless, that is, you have a religious context to refer to to help you define it. Saddam was a monster but what drove Bush and Blair on to launch and unprovoked attack against him was their view that he was part of the “Axis of Evil” and that concept can only really be understood if it is placed in a Judeo–Christian context. Blair wittered on about Iran yesterday so it is clear that in his mind the “Axis” is alive and well. How dangerous is that?

Anonymous said...

Tony Blair was not a decisive Prime Minister. His evidence to e Chilcot does however show a decisive shift in his thinking to the neo con agenda. He was wrong to distract people by references to current foreign policy issues (eg Iran). The doctrine of pre emption could be very dangerous indeed in the wrong hands. I think most thinking people will reject his latest views as being shallow.

Anonymous said...

I would lay odds that those who praise Blair, do not have sons/ dauhters in the Forces, nor were they on the tube trains that day.

I understand what you mean, but feel your praise is misguided on this subject.

Besides, the only guidance he sought was God's. Not Cabinet and certainly not Parliament. Give me a decisive Thatcher, not an egotistical Faith Head.

Twig said...

I'd rather Blair than Brown anyday, let us remember after all who it was that starved our military of the funds they so badly needed.

The Chinook helicopter scandal
is a classic example, eight helicopters sat idle in hangers through the conflict for the want of a software update which was considered too expensive, but then Brown manages to rustle up billions of pounds to bail out his banking buddies and for car and boiler scrappage schemes.

Meanwhile our troops are ferrying supplies around by road in unprotected landrovers risking death by IEDs.

I wonder how Brown can sleep nights.

Alex said...

A Prime Minister needs to take a broad, big picture view and not be burdened by intricate detail.

I would far rather have a Prime Minister who had the courage to make decisions, even if, on occasion, he gets them wrong.


In which, case, mush as I think your political views are close to my own, I really hope you never get into parliament.

Accepted, Brown is bad, but that doesn't make Blair a good PM. The most important quality in a decision maker is that he/she makes the right decisions most of the time.

Blair's failure here was to think he could manipulate the facts to justify his case for going to war and to think that it would stand up to scrutiny. In the harsh light of day his arguments are non-sensical and the only person he is fooling is himself, although that doesn't mean he will still get the support of the hawks who think it is perfectly OK to kill a few hundred thousand people in the pursuit of non-existent WMD.

Iain Dale said...

Alex, you are over interpreting my point. of course a PM needs to get things more right than wrong. And I am not saying Blair did, but he recognised that a PM can't make every single decision in government, whereas Brown seeks to involve himself in everything government does.

Malcolm said...

How sad that you feel like this. It seems that few serious political commentators agree with you and I'm very glad about that.
Blair could take a good game but he did more to debase Britaish than any modern day PM.

bigrab said...

I'm gobsmacked by this piece.
"Whatever one's view of the Iraq war, I don't think many people could allege that Blair didn't believe what he was doing was right."
Yikes! Surely you're not seeking to excuse him on the grounds? Hitler/Pol Pot/London Bombers anyone?
"A Prime Minister needs to take a broad, big picture view and not be burdened by intricate detail."
Whether one looks at the illegal invasion and bombing of Iraq in macro or micro, it was plain WRONG.

Surely indecision and procrastination is better than a blunder on the sheer scale of the Iraq invasion and war?