Why Blair Unites Us In Contempt
No contrarian takes this week...if anything, the British "left" is far too soft on Tony Blair's war crimes
If the question of justice asks how society distributes rewards and punishments, what does Tony Blair’s knighthood say about Britain? Our governing class has conferred Britain’s highest honour on a man that Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others, would have indicted in the Hague for the most heinous crime imaginable – plotting a war of aggression. And it is not just some cabal of do-gooders who want Blair to face international law’s harshest punishments. Britain’s establishment knighted Blair knowing very well that the decision had no wider public legitimacy.
Blair might divide elite opinion, but, in wider society, to call him a “polarising” figure would be a charitable euphemism. Public attitudes are as close to unanimous as polling gets. Almost two-thirds believe the knighthood is undeserved; just 14 percent find it justified. Outside of FBPE diehards, the Labour leadership and the Windsors, Blair-fancying is a fringe eccentricity. The 14 percent who would have “Sir Tony” is not far off the 13 percent of Britain who approve of Prince Andrew. A much larger fraction considers him the modern incarnation of political evil and would have Blair in the Hague for war crimes.
What sets Blair apart is not just Iraq, or his post-leadership career servicing dictators, or his cavorting with the worst elements of the social elite, symbolised by an appearance in Jeffrey Epstein’s “little black book”. It is not just the scale of atrocities (although some estimates put the Iraqi death toll at a million), or the precedents set by plotting a war of aggression. What is truly appalling is that he did it while representing “our” side: Britain invaded Iraq not just in the name of soldiers and citizens, but in the name of a party built to represent working-class political aspirations.
Many fail to recognise the significance of this. Indeed, much of the liberal commentariat would treat Blair with greater leniency precisely because he represents “our” side. This strand of the left hold “their” leaders to higher standards than “ours”: the outrage would be double or triple in size if Boris Johnson got the knighthood, even though Johnson has done far less than Blair to deserve the invective.
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