success was limited to winning three general elections in a row.
A second-rate actor, he turned out to be a crafty and avaricious
politician, but without much substance; bereft of ideas he eagerly
grasped and tried to improve upon the legacy of Margaret Thatcher.
But though in many ways Blair's programme has been a euphemistic,
if bloodier, version of Thatcher's, the style of their departures
is very different. Thatcher's overthrow by her fellow-Conservatives
was a matter of high drama: an announcement outside the Louvre's
glass pyramid during the Paris Congress brokering the end of the
Cold War; tears; a crowded House of Commons.
Blair makes his unwilling exit against a backdrop of car-bombs
and mass carnage in Iraq, with hundreds of thousands left dead
or maimed from his policies, and London a prime target for terrorist
attack. Thatcher's supporters described themselves afterwards
as horror-struck by what they had done. Even Blair's greatest
sycophants in the British media: Martin Kettle and Michael White
(The Guardian), Andrew Rawnsley (Observer), Philip Stephens (FT)
confess to a sense of relief as he finally quits.
A true creature
of the Washington Consensus, Blair was always loyal to the various
occupants of the White House. In Europe, he preferred Aznar to
Zapatero, Merckel to Schroeder, was seriously impressed by Berlusconi
and, most recently, made no secret of his desire that Sarkozy
was his candidate in France. He understood that privatisation/deregulation
at home were part of the same mechanism as the wars abroad. If
this judgement seems unduly harsh let me quote Sir Rodric Braithwaite,
a former senior adviser to Blair, writing in the Financial Times
on 2, August, 2006:
is stalking British television, a frayed and waxy zombie straight
from Madame Tussaud's. This one, unusually, seems to live and
breathe. Perhaps it comes from the Central Intelligence Agency's
box of technical tricks, programmed to spout the language of the
White House in an artificial English accent...
Blair has done more damage to British interests in the Middle
East than Anthony Eden, who led the UK to disaster in Suez 50
years ago. In the past 100 years - to take the highlights - we
have bombed and occupied Egypt and Iraq, put down an Arab uprising
in Palestine and overthrown governments in Iran, Iraq and the
Gulf. We can no longer do these things on our own, so we do them
with the Americans. Mr Blair's total identification with the White
House has destroyed his influence in Washington, Europe and the
Middle East itself: who bothers with the monkey if he can go straight
to the organ-grinder?..."
makes his unwilling exit
against a backdrop of car-bombs
and mass carnage in Iraq,
with hundreds of thousands left dead
or maimed from his policies,
and London a prime target
for terrorist attack... In the end
he decided to go himself.
The disaster in Iraq had made him
a much hated politician and
slowly support began to ebb.
is mild compared to what is said about Blair in the British Foreign
Office and the Ministry of Defence. Senior diplomats have told
me on more than one occasion that it would not upset them too
much if Blair were to be tried as a war criminal. More cultured
critics sometimes compare him to the Cavaliere Cipolia, the vile
hypnotist of fascist Italy, so brilliantly portrayed in Thomas
Mann's 1929 novel 'Mario and the Magician'. Blair is certainly
not Mussolini, but like the Duce he enjoyed to simultaneously
lead and humiliate his supporters.
of this reveals is anger and impotence. There is no mechanism
to get rid of a sitting Prime Minister unless his or her party
loses confidence. The Conservative leadership decided that Thatcher
simply had to go because of her negative attitude to Europe. Labour
tends to be more sentimental towards its leaders and, in this
case, they owed so much to Blair that nobody close to him wants
to be cast in the role of Brutus. In the end he decided to go
himself. The disaster in Iraq had made him a much hated politician
and slowly support began to ebb. One reason for the slowness was
that the country is without a serious opposition. In Parliament,
the Conservatives simply followed Blair. The Liberal-Democrats
were ineffective. Blair had summed up Britain's attitude to Europe
at Nice in 2000:
"It is possible,
in our judgement, to fight Britain's corner, get the best out
of Europe for Britain and exercise real authority and influence
in Europe. That is as it should be. Britain is a world power."
self-serving fantasy that 'Britain is a world power' is to justify
that it will always be EU/UK. The real union is with Washington.
France and Germany are seen as rivals for Washington's affections,
not potential allies in an independent EU. The French decision
to re-integrate themselves into NATO and pose as the most vigorous
US ally was a serious structural shift which weakened Europe.
Britain responded by encouraging a fragmented political order
in Europe through expansion and insisted on a permanent US presence
on the continent.
half-hated successor, Gordon Brown, is far more intelligent (he
reads books) but politically no different. There might be a change
of tone, but little else. It is a grim prospect with or without
Blair and an alternative politics (anti-war, anti-Trident, defence
of public services) is confined to the nationalist parties in
Scotland and Wales. Its absence nationally fuels the anger felt
by substantial sections of the population, reflected in voting
(or not) against those in power.
Tariq Ali's new book, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Axis Of Hope,
is published by Verso. He also wrote Rough Music: Blair,
Bombs, Baghdad, Terror, London (Verso); Street Fighting
Years (new edition) and, with David Barsamian,Speaking of
Empires & Resistance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
here to order Tariq Ali books.
Other articles by Tariq Ali:
The Khyber Impasse
The War Is Already Lost
Venezuela And The Bolivarian Dream
A Bavarian Provocation
A Protracted Colonial War
On The Death Of Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Iraq's Destiny Still Rests Between God, Blood And Oil
A Despised Leader Suffers His First Loss
Pakistan Will Never Forget This Horror
The Logic Of Colonial Rule
A Viler Barbarism
The Price Of Occupation
The New Ultra-Imperialism Of The World
"They Think God Runs The IMF"
Imperial Delusions: "Domocracy Promotion" And Resistance
The New Model Of Imperialism: Saddam On Parade
The Importance Of Hugo Chavez: Why He Crushed The Oligarchs
Getting Away With Murder
The War Is Not Going Well For Bush