» tony blair ¦ What You Can Get Away With

The disciples of Tony Blair exist in a strange situation, uncommon to previous followers of former British Prime Ministers. Unlike his predecessors, Blair left office while he was still relatively young and has hovered around the edges of British politics, with his followers still clearly hoping for his glorious return. For all the fervent belief of the Thatcherites, they never seriously expected her to make a comeback, but Blair’s still younger than several 20th century Prime Ministers were when they began the job. One can envisage him and the remaining true Blairite believers awaiting that time when a nation turns its eyes back to him and begs him to return at our hour of need.

Part of this process is the occasional hagiography of the Blair era from political commentators you’d expect to know better. Andrew Rawnsley’s today’s example, yet somehow managing to omit the word ‘moral’ before ‘vacuum’ in a description of Blair’s legacy to British politics. However, it’s the usual contention that Blair had a unique ability to get people’s support that no one currently has, and was thus solely responsible for Labour’s post-97 successes.

846_bigThere’s a myth put about by the Blairites that without him, Labour would never have won the 1997 election. While he may have had some influence on the size of the majority they won, to claim Labour couldn’t have won without him is, to use the technical term, utter bollocks. Claims like this forget just how toxic the Tories had become before Blair became leader and the general sense of national mourning that followed the death of John Smith. The Private Eye cover here is just an example of that – a sense that the country had lost the inevitable next Prime Minister. The job of any Labour leader post-92 was to hold their nerve, avoid any big errors and walk into Downing Street at the end of the process. Those that claim Blair delivered this victory need to explain how any other potential Labour leader wouldn’t have managed it, rather than pointing to his good fortune at being in the right place at the right time to benefit from it.

In a historical context, his victories weren’t as impressive as the encomiums like to portray them as either. It’s always worth remembering that the largest number of votes received by a party in a UK general election was by John Major’s Conservatives in 1992 and that Blair’s landslides were symptoms of a flawed electoral system that couldn’t cope with multi-party politics rather than any ringing endorsement of him. (For example, Labour received fewer votes in 2001 than they did in 1992) His supposedly great triumphs were the result of Labour being able to take best advantage of having a plurality of an electorate whose old allegiances were breaking down, not the ringing endorsement of the masses some would have you believe.

At his peak, Blair and New Labour were more popular than any leaders and parties are now, but that’s not exactly a difficult achievement. The trend in British general elections since the 70s has been a slow decline in the vote going to the big two parties, masked by an electoral system that protects them. Tony Blair’s just another point of data on that long downhill trend, where Labour’s decline was hidden by the absolute collapse of the Conservatives. To act as those resurrecting him would bring those times back is to ignore longer-term trends in favour of some Great Man theory of history, ignoring the luck of good timing and claiming it was skill instead.

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And today, we’re 80% Egyptian-related:

WorldNetDaily: The Rise of the Muslim Anti-Christ Explains Egypt Unrest – No, I’m not linking to WorldNutDaily, just to Richard Bartholomew’s analysis of another one of their bizarre conspiracy theories
Arseholes, considered as a strategic resource – Daniel Davies on how dictatorships keep themselves in power.
Why Egypt 2011 is not Iran 1979 – a very good explanation of all the differences by Juan Cole
da brother’s gonna work it out – The Yorkshire Ranter on Tony Blair’s support for Hosni Mubarak
A True Story of Daily Mail Lies – And finally, something that’s not about Egypt, but is the sad truth about how some of our media operate (via)

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Want to stop Tony Blair becoming President of the Council of the European Union? Well, if you’re not one of the 27 leaders in the Council who’ll make the decision (and if you are, please leave a comment) you don’t get a say in the process, so tough.

However, you can sign a petition here that already has over 30,000 people from across the EU opposing his appointment. There’s also one here on the Number 10 website, asking Gordon Brown to stop him though expecting that to happen seems an exercise in futility, though it might get some press interest if it could rise up the list of popular petitions.

And if you’re on Twitter, it looks like the hashtag of choice for this is either #stopblair, #no2blair or my suggestion of #noblair.

And for the record, I think there are good points to the creation of a permanent President and Foreign Minister, though there are flaws in the process by which they’re appointed. However, given the attitude Blair showed to international co-operation over Iraq, I think he’s spectacularly unsuited to the role and appointing him would cause great damage to the EU.

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I suppose I should be glad that my gym gives out free copies of the Daily Mail, because if they hadn’t, I’d never have known that they were posing the question of ‘Should Britain invade Zimbabwe?

For those of you wondering what might happen if Britain was to invade Zimbabwe, you’ll be glad to hear that everything goes wonderfully well and the whole thing’s over within a couple of hours, as soon as the Paras have arrested Mugabe and Trevor Phillips has been brought in to run the country instead. No, that last bit is seriously in there, which perhaps indicates that Richard Littlejohn is trying to earn himself a few extra pennies by working as a sub-editor on Friday nights.

Of course, the Mail knows this invasion would be easy because it has an expert source advising it on the feasibility of an invasion of Zimbabwe. Yes, occupying a similar place in the rankings of global military experts as Trevor Phillips does in the list of ‘people likely to be placed in charge of an African country’, the Mail has found ‘Graham’, a former Rhodesian SAS officer who wins this week’s Ahmed Chalabi Flowers and Cheering Crowds Award for telling us that invading Zimbabwe would be ‘a piece of piss’.

Of course, the reason for this piece of bizarre Daily Mail war-gaming – and, perhaps, why they’re not as ridiculously gung-ho about the idea of sending Our Boys off to tackle Mugabe as you might have expected them to be – is Tony Blair telling the world that retirement hasn’t dulled his desire for invading small and seemingly easily-defeatable countries. (As long as it’s not him doing any of the actual invading, of course). Showing that his talent for encapsulating the banality of evil in a simple soundbite hasn’t left him either, he tells us:

My idea of foreign policy is that if you can do something, you should do it.

So let us hope that Kim Jong-Il never decides to take a crash course in the Blair Method of Foreign Relations, where it seems possessing an ability requires it use regardless of other considerations. But, I’m sure that when the historians of the future look back on the last decade or so, that will be yet another utterance from Tony that will generate year upon year of heated debate as they wonder just how a man who could utter such statements was ever taken seriously.

But, we can hope for one thing – if Blair truly believes that those who can should, then he surely can’t complain when a country that can arrest him and put him on trial does so. Indeed, given his words, he’ll likely be disappointed with them if they choose not to do so.

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