Sunday, October 22, 2006


How Has Blair Survived Iraq?

Henry Porter in a very good piece in the Observer today raises one of the most abiding mysteries of modern politics: why is Blair still in office given his record over Iraq? Porter focuses on the memo written by Mathew Rycroft, now our ambassador to Sarajevo but in the summer of 2002, aged 34, was an aide to Blair on foreign affairs. In his memo(published in Sunday Times 1st May 2005)of a high level meeting involving Blair, Straw, Hoon, Goldsmith, Richard Dearlove(head of MI6) and John Scarlett(chair of Joint Intelligence Committee) plus Campbell, Sally Morgan and Jonathan Powell, he recorded that Dearlove had reported back after a visit that: Washington now saw military action as 'inevitable'; intelligence and facts were being 'fixed around the policy; 'no patience' existed regarding the UN; and that here was 'very little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action'. Throughout this period Blair was insisting in public that no decision had been taken on an invasion and that it could be prevented.

To this smoking gun I would have added:
i)Bob Woodward's 2004 book Plan of Attack which quotes Bush first hand discussing removal of Saddam only five days after 9-11 and suggests Blair knew about the war plans in January 2002.
ii) The evidence, clear to everyone except Lord Hutton, that Number 10 had massaged and exaggerated raw intelligence in order to buttress the bogus case for an illegal war.

Porter wonders how Blair has been able to avoid being bundled out of office after such a catalogue of misjudgements and porky pies. He suggests 'Any large company would by now have got rid of a managing director guilty of a mistake on that scale.' Correct. At least Eden went pretty quickly after his debacle over Suez and it was fairly clear at the time that if the Falklands had gone pearshaped Thatcher would have been forced to resign. So why not Tony?

The reasons lie partly in our parliamentary political system. As long as the governing party is prepared to support their leader a PM is virtually fireproof. And the PLP, while it rebelled substantially over the Iraq vote, did not do so with sufficient numbers to bring their leader down. He was, the cynics would say, saved by the time servers and careerists. The same would go for the Cabinet too with only one member, Robin Cook, of blessed memory, having the courage to go, though junior minister, John Denham, to his credit, did so shortly afterwards. The other explanation lies, quite frankly, in Blair's political genius. His ability to charm, persuade, rationalize, mystify, magically transform a losing case into a winning one, is on a plane of its own. We were conned, but like all great conmen, he made us want to be conned.

His political genius includes a rare ability to retain information about every topic under the sun, analyse it, pick out the wheat from the chaff and, usually, make a sound judgement (to say nothing of a sound bite!). It's such a shame that his time in office coincided with ‘good old boy’ Bush's.

But even so he still led the party to an unprecedented third term victory with what an old timer like me, who remembers the Wilson ones, regards as a massive majority...
I read that piece too and it's a bit of an eye opener.When you think that Thatcher apparently said "I may no longer be Prime Minster this afternoon" before answering questions on the sinking of the Belgrano it makes you realise how ineffectual parliament has become.I think Iraq did finish Blair, it's just been a long, lingering political death rather than the quick,clean one...
Third term !
Same old ailment. A government of "Leaders" rather than representation.
So taken up with the mechanics of their blundering, they do not even consider the views of the silent (for now) majority.
The difference between Thatcher and Blair........
She would have bowed out under this kind of criticism.
Blair feels untouchable, and apparently, he is!
Yanto(not quite the Welsh spelling I note)
Your faith in Maggie's probity might just be a teensy bit misplaced. She growled her way into retirement, still convinced the poll tax was sound and pretty lacking in remorse on most other things.
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