John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
This week the British public is being invited to yearn for the ‘glory days’ of Tony Blair’s New Labour project on the 20th anniversary of his landmark election victory in 1997, which saw him enter Downing Street as Britain’s prime minister for the first time. They are being regaled with articles looking back on the occasion with unfettered nostalgia, heralding his election as a time of hope, prosperity and optimism after the preceding 18 years of Tory rule.
Laying the nostalgia on thick over that ‘momentous’ day in 1997, we have Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland: “They all remember the sunshine. Talk to those who were there on 1 May 1997, and everyone mentions the way the whole country seemed to glow under bright blue skies and a warm sun. It had been that way for much of the campaign, but those at the center had barely had a chance to enjoy it. Now, on polling day, time at last seemed to slow down. For those few hours, there was nothing more that the small, tight group at the heart of New Labour could do, except wait.”
Meanwhile in a recent interview with the left of center British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, Blair said, “I am going to be taking an active part in trying to shape the policy debate [on Brexit] and that means getting out into the country and reconnecting.”
All in all, since departing the political landscape in Britain in 2007, Blair has never been more prominent, presented by the country’s liberal establishment as the man who will save Britain from a Brexit process that, unless stopped, will lead the British people off the edge of a political and economic cliff without a parachute. Though many may agree with the second part of the preceding sentence (myself included), the prospect of Blair returning to mainstream political life is an insult to the indescribable suffering his messianic and fanatical belief in the virtues of regime change produced in the former Yugoslavia and, of course, Iraq, the consequences of which the world is still dealing with today.
Blair’s role in helping to facilitate Washington’s disrespect and disregard for the UN and international law must never be forgotten either, helping set a precedent that remains entrenched within a toxic US political culture; with Obama and most recently Trump demonstrating a brutal and callous willingness to resort to aggression and brute imperialism whenever the mood takes. In fact, Blair’s slavish embrace of US hegemony reminds us that it is not the relationship with Brussels from which the British people need to be liberated, but its relationship with Washington.
On the issue of the EU specifically, who will gainsay the fact that Blair is the very embodiment of the free market neoliberal status quo, premised on globalization, which has fueled support not only for Brexit, but also the emergence and rise of anti-EU parties and politicians throughout Europe. The abandonment of the working class and their communities in service to the super-rich, to global corporations and the banks, allowing them free rein, led directly to the global economic crash of 2008, which plunged millions of people into poverty and despair.
And yet despite this we are expected to believe that Blair and his ilk hold the solution to the very problems they created? Are they mad?
The former British prime minister’s rehabilitation has also involved him denying the longstanding belief that, since leaving office in 2007, he has demonstrated an insatiable greed for money normally associated with a corrupt potentate more than a former world leader committed to public service. Moreover Blair’s gargantuan income, funneled through a labyrinthine network of companies, foundations, and charities, has been derived from some decidedly unsavory relationships with dictators, tyrants, and global corporations over the years. Yet here he is maintaining his innocence with characteristic insouciance: “I’ve actually spent the vast bulk of my time since leaving office on pro bono charitable work in Africa and elsewhere and all I can say about my so-called wealth is the reports of it are greatly exaggerated.”
Earlier in the same interview, carried in the pages of that bastion of British liberal values, the Observer, chief political columnist Andrew Rawnsley gushingly opines, “Blair has always deployed a charming line in self-deprecation, but today it is allied with a passionate desire to remind people of the many advances made possible only by his unique feat of winning three back-to-back terms for his party.”
Reading this you cannot help an overwhelming compulsion to let loose a scream of anger, followed by a cry for justice for the people of Iraq – a country destroyed and devastated on the back of the pack of lies fashioned and presented by Blair and his acolytes in 2002-03 over WMD. Instead of freedom the Iraqi people were delivered terrorism and sectarian civil war; instead of liberty they received Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS); and rather than prosperity Bush and Blair’s war brought them societal collapse, corruption, and poverty. And this is without factoring in the 1 million dead or millions more maimed and/or displaced. This is Tony Blair’s real blood-soaked legacy, one that while may undoubtedly follow him to his grave should also, in the interests of justice, follow him into the dock at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
The attempt by the British liberal establishment to parade Blair as the returning prodigal son, 14 years on from Iraq, relieves us of any lingering doubt when it comes to the abiding indecency and lack of ethics allows these people to exist in a bubble of smug complacency. This being said, however, no one should be surprised. For in the last analysis Tony Blair represents a political culture dripping not only in blood, but also hypocrisy.