25th August 2010
David Aaronovitch’s article on The Madness of the Anti-Blair Mob’s blind bias
I suppose we’re not supposed to use the below. It was published in The Australian, and I’ve used it in its entirety from there. The Times can try suing The Australian as my “source” and then me, if they must. I promise I’ll send them every penny I get for writing this blog. Empty envelope on its way.
I have added numbered referenced links to the article so that you can see what Mr Aaronovitch is referring to. But I’m sure you know already. Collective fundamentalist insanity of the mob. And we all know where that can lead.
FORMER British prime minister Tony Blair is to give the entire earnings from his imminent memoirs to a servicemen’s charity.
According to even the highest assessments of his richesse, the donation would amount to a quarter of his wealth. And this almost unprecedented act of top-person philanthropy is, in Britain circa 2010, to receive (as The Washington Post observed, bemused) “a withering response”, in which the most common phrases have been “blood money” and “guilty conscience”.
It is like living in a madhouse.
The donation could have been reported fairly straight, with some commentary, including the views of critics. But that didn’t happen. If you go for reaction to the small group of Blair-blamers among families of fallen service personnel, you get your “blood money” headline. Cue an outbreak of Blair-hatred; of the Tonophobia that seems to dominate public discourse on both Right and Left.
Let me explore two effusions of this pathology. The first, an open letter to the British chain bookseller Waterstone’s, carrying the names of several leading novelists, a good composer and a bad artist, calling on the company to call off a planned book signing by Blair.
The authors (as such people do) appropriated some 30 million-plus unasked citizens to their view when they argued that the signing would be “deeply offensive to most people in Britain” before adding that “we believe Waterstone’s will seriously harm its own reputation as a respectable bookseller by helping him to promote his book”. Ah yes, the scandal of the bookseller selling books. Deplorable.
This ludicrous epistle was also signed by Andrew Murray, a pro-Soviet supporter of people-starving, dissident-murdering, boat-sinking “People’s Korea”, the journalist John Pilger who, in 2004, backed the Iraqis killing British servicemen, saying that anti-war activists “could not afford to be choosy” about their friends, and Moazzam Begg, the Islamist who thought Taliban-ruled Afghanistan such a paradise that he took his daughters to live there.
But these people – ridiculous almost beyond parody – nevertheless were close to the tone of other reactions to Blair’s gift. Nearly everyone making a comment felt entitled to sit inside the former PM‘s head and second-guess his real motives for a donation. It was his conscience, maybe his priest suggested it, it was spin, it was an attempt to retrieve his reputation (doomed, naturally), it was anything but what he said it was.
Ah, opined many, if he were genuine he would have kept the donation private. Think about it. Would he be asked where the pound stg. 4.6 million ($8m) went? Yes. If he said he’d given it away but refused to say where, the result would have been a firestorm of speculation that he’d kept it or donated it to his own foundation. In fact, when in office, Blair made unpublicised visits to military hospitals and was – predictably – criticised for not going.
So to my second effusion. It really doesn’t matter who it was, but a right-of-centre newspaper carried an editorial – the considered opinion of the editor and his staff – that said this about the gift: “Whatever may have driven (Blair) to it, however, one truth is inescapable: for once in his lying, war-mongering, money-grubbing career, the former prime minister has done something decent.”
This goes well beyond invective. It is the expression of a collective craziness. Shall we mention the Northern Ireland peace process?  Was that not “decent”? Or British intervention in Sierra Leone,  which stopped the arm and leg choppers from continuing their literal butchery. Why are so many Kosovan kids named “Tonibler”? Was it war-mongering to go into Afghanistan in 2001? Was it immoral and grubby to start up the Commission for Africa and commit Britain to substantial help for that continent? And I have made no attempt to list the various ways people’s lives improved in Britain during the Blair premiership. None of this whatsoever, is to be allowed to the credit of the former prime minister. It is madness.
In some ways Blair-hatred echoes the often irrational loathing that many felt for Margaret Thatcher. It wasn’t enough that she destroyed industry, cut back “vital services” – she had to be responsible for the breakdown of family, community and any other social trend that one disliked. She even had her own David Kelly-type conspiracy theory, being accused – in effect – of presiding over the murder of an elderly anti-nuclear activist, Hilda Murrell, in 1984. I know people whose loathing of Mrs Thatcher defined the public part of their lives.
But this thing with Blair is worse. The Iron Lady was far from friendless and maintained her influential Amen Corner on the Right; there would always be someone vociferous who loved her. Although 500 military personnel were killed on service under Mrs T in Northern Ireland and the Falklands, no one worried about her conscience and whether she gave money to the Royal British Legion. Blair, uniquely, attracts the intense hostility of both Right and Left.
Yet hold on there. Earlier, “most people in Britain” were lazily invoked by a bunch of ideological alien abductees, so what do “most people” think about Blair? A friend at the market research company Ipsos/MORI reminded me of what the British people, when polled in 2006 and 2007, said about TB. Between 1998 and 2006 those who thought Britain had become “a better place to live” went up from 40 per cent to 60 per cent.
On Mr Blair’s departure, 43 per cent believed that the country was worse because of Blair, 46 per cent thought it was better. In their own lives, 35 per cent thought things were worse, 46 per cent that they were better.
Where in God’s name is that balance reflected in public discourse? Criticism – vehement criticism even – is one thing. The obliteration of any reasonable discussion of Tony Blair is another. Bewildering.
DISSING BLAIR DISSERS ONE AT A TIME
1. Good article from Martin Robbins at the Guardian – David Kelly conspiracy theorists should put up or shut up
2. From Iain Dale’s blog. Interview with the perfectly “hinged” and certainly not villainous journo Matthew Parris. Excerpt:
Peter Wildblood. The journalist convicted in the Montagu, trials who wrote the first book about being gay that has ever been written in the English language.
(laughs) Tony Blair.
I thought you may say that.
Parris might also have thanked Tony Blair as he did in his even better hinged and less villainous days. Parris said way back then that BLAIR’S government WAS TO THANK FOR THE RIGHTS NOW TAKEN FOR GRANTED BY HOMOSEXUALS (LIKE PARRIS HIMSELF.)
He might have mentioned this, but he hasn’t. Instead it’s a man few of us have heard of who is the Parris hero!
Some time ago I was looking for an article he wrote on this, Times, I think. It is nowhere to be found online these days – “Why I Love Blair’s Britain.” Done a bunk. As if by magic. Like Parris’s pre-equality for gays days. (If you have a copy, please let me know. ) I suppose Mr Parris has seen the light since then. The light at the end of the Political World Without the “bit unhinged” Tony Blair.
At last! A winning Tory World.
Excerpt, on the armed forces:
‘Do they, along with their comrades inured in Afghanistan and Iraq, not deserve rehabilitation?
The debate surrounding Blair’s donation now threatens to overshadow the vital work being carried out by British Armed Forces abroad. In his last appearance in the House of Commons before stepping down as Prime Minister, Tony Blair told the House:
“I believe that they [the British Armed Forces] are fighting for the security of this country and the wider world against people who would destroy our way of life. But whatever view people take of my decisions, I think that there is only one view to take of them: they are the bravest and the best”.
Blair was right; and whatever the debate surrounding his decisions, we should not lose sight of that.’
4. John Rentoul too has been on exercise asking WHY the Blair Rage. Not that the haters cast all that much light on the reasons for their hatred. A lot of hot air. Not a lot of light.
A new friend of KTBFPM, Peter Reynolds will be on your BBC1 screen on Sunday morning.
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Two recent comments: “Getting really bored with the persistence with which people pursue their anti-Blair propaganda, steadfastly refusing to see any good in the man.” – AND – “Tony Blair was the greatest Prime Minister since Winston Churchill and the only regret I have he didn’t get my vote as I live in Canada.”
- The media’s part in the death of David Kelly | Nick Cohen (guardian.co.uk)
- Blair’s Philanthropy Fiasco (thedailybeast.com)
Tags: Afghanistan, AIG, Andrew Murray, Blair hatred, Blair uniquely attracts intense hostility, Blair's legacy, blood money, Commission for Africa, David Aaronovitch, David Kelly, Iain Dale, Iraq, irrational loathing, John Pilger, John Rentoul, Kosovo, living in a madhouse, Margaret Thatcher, matthew parris, memoirs, Moazzam Begg, Northern Ireland, oliteration of reasonable discussion, Right and Left, Sierra Leone, The Australian, The Journey, The Times, Tonibler, Tonophobia, Tony Blair, Washington Post, Waterstone, Waterstone's