Few people have been more critical than I of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In 1997-98 I wrote and in 1999 I had published possibly the first book, Blair’s Britain, highly critical of the whole New Labour enterprise and its associated culture-war, and have published many articles arguing in effect that he has headed the most destructive and dysfunctional British Government since that of Ethelred the Unready.
Drift and weakness on substantial policy matters, coupled with high-handed and Draconian bullying and harassing of individuals in areas that should be none of its business, bumbling, ludicrous and often cruel enforcement of political correctness, endless futile gimmicks and slogans, government by spin and deception, have been the hallmarks of Blair’s New Labour government. I believe that under it many institutions vital to the continuance of Britain’s identity have been wrecked to the point that it is easy to despair of their recovery.
Almost every area of Government activity seems a shambles. In 2003, Blair had to decline an offer from the U.S. of a free trade agreement because Europe would not permit it — a terrible admission that Britain could or would no longer exercise sovereignty in its own interests. According to a very recent BBC poll, nearly half the population believes life is worse than it was 20 years ago. A competent opposition that knew what it wanted and where it was going would T-bone the government.
Muslim extremism and terrorism has bred in Britain because of the Government’s incredibly conciliatory and purblind attitude towards it since 9/11 and for years before that. Warnings by moderate Muslim leaders — for example that radical Imams had a monopoly of proselytizing and distributing literature to Muslim prisoners in British jails and other extremist proselytizing was going on at university campuses and youth clubs — were ignored. Multiculturalism has been a total failure. More than 80% of British Muslims now consider themselves Muslim rather than British and the proportion is higher with the younger, British-born, generations than with their immigrant parents. Forty-five per cent of British Muslims believe the Jews were responsible for 9/11.
In March the Terrorism Act 2006 finally made it an offense — with prison of up to five years — to glorify or promote terrorism. By September there had not been one prosecution, despite what appear prima facie to be many breaches of the legislation, like British-born Muslim preacher Abu Adullah praising the 7/7 London bombers and saying he would “love” to kill British soldiers in Afghanistan. Labour Member of Parliament Louise Ellman has commented: “We have very strong legislation yet nothing seems to happen.”
One senior retired Conservative politician has said the Blair Government simply does not know how to engage the levers of power. In many areas this may be a good thing (the consequences of some New Labour policies actually working are terrible to contemplate), but where a strong state in needed this dysfunctionalism is potentially disastrous.
How long ago it seems that radiantly grinning Tony Blair, elected by a landslide and hailed as “Prime Minister for the foreseeable future” claimed: “Today at the frontier of the new Millennium I set out for you how…we make it a century of progressive politics after one dominated by conservatives.”! On when he actually cried before a meeting of European socialist leaders: “New! New! New! Everything is new!”
WHAT, THEN, ARE WE TO MAKE of the one huge exception to the saga of government incoherence, lies, dysfunction, vacillation, myopia, self-indulgence, class-vindictiveness and corruption: Blair’s unflinching support of Israel, George Bush and the U.S.?
It is a stand he has taken virtually alone and maintained against all manner of pressures both from the left in his own party (which means almost everyone else in it) and a Tory Party apparently determined to prove its old nickname of “the stupid party” to an unprecedented degree and to add the epithet “the cowardly party” as well. Indeed, at least when set on the world stage beside the weirdly boneless Tory leader David Cameron, Blair so far looks like a second Churchill.
Yes, the British Armed forces have been cut to the bone — spending on the Army has been reduced in real terms by about 3.5 billion pounds (about $7 billion) since New Labour came to power in 1997, the quality of much defense force equipment and training is questionable. Blair’s leftist ministers have mocked and sneered at defense personnel and at their traditions and ethos. But Blair, alone of Western European leaders, has committed those armed forces in significant numbers to Iraq and Afghanistan and is keeping them there.
Attacked from almost every part of the British political spectrum Blair has shown what looks not unlike high and lonely valor.
William Shawcross has put it well: “We have a prime minister who in my view has committed many, many errors at home; but abroad Tony Blair has a clear vision, both moral and pragmatic, of the threat we face.”
Blair has recently been unequivocal in portraying Islamic extremism as the enemy. Speaking in the U.S. recently he said of the values that are to govern the future of the world: “Are they those of tolerance, freedom, respect for difference and diversity; or those of reaction, division, hatred. This is war.”
These words are not only clear, strong and true. For someone in Blair’s embattled and isolated position in his own country and among Western European leaders, and someone whose previous career has been spin and populism, they are brave.
The abuse of Blair — not for the failures of his government but for his support of America — has reached an astounding level. A former British Ambassador to Moscow and ex-chairman of the joint intelligence committee, Sir Roderick Braithwaite, writing in the Financial Times, described Blair as a “frayed and waxy zombie straight from Madame Tussaud’s,” programmed by the CIA to “spout the language of the White House with an artificial English accent…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?”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?