Blair’s point, in a nutshell: it’s all about the “the question of electability.” The practical-minded centrist in him believes that a truly leftist candidate isn’t electable. His comment to The Guardian about the appeal of Bernie Sanders:
“It’s very similar to the pitch of Jeremy Corbyn… Free tuition fees: well, that’s great, but someone’s going to have pay for it. An end to war, but there are wars.”
“There are wars,” yes. That’s a remarkably tone-deaf statement by a fellow who was once considered the savviest politician in Britain before he helped launch the disastrous Iraq War in 2003. But more remarkable than Blair’s comments is the steady stream of vitriol directed at him in The Guardian’s comments section. Sure, The Guardian is a proudly old-school liberal paper, but the comments are still quite stunning:
His old Labour friends have also had it in for him with protests stretching back to 2010:
Whether Blair is lying to himself or the most practical thinker on the block is an open question. Certainly it’s a strange election year, and anyone who saw Ralph Nader inadvertently hand the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000 knows that there’s something to be said for practicality.
That said, I must say I, too, find myself bitterly disappointed in Tony Blair. It’s hard for me to cut him any slack at all over the Iraq invasion — and he only made things worse with his mealy-mouthed “apology” last year:
“I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong. I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”
Is there anyone left who really believes that Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all the rest were really confused by bad intelligence? The record pretty clearly shows that all involved knew that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 and also knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
An honest apology would be, “We thought we could change the Middle East to benefit our own countries and also to establish democracy there. We were naive and wrongheaded, we lied to the public, it was all a terrible idea, and then we also bungled the execution of that terrible idea badly as well. For that, for the loss of tens of thousands of lives in Iraq, for the deaths and maiming of tens of thousands of our own soldiers, I am truly sorry.” That would be an apology.
The best you can say for Blair is that perhaps he put the historic “special relationship” of the US and the UK above everything else. We’d helped them out in a somewhat dodgy Falklands War; they’d help us out in a somewhat dodgy Iraq War.
Perhaps he just bet on the wrong horse in George W. Bush. Perhaps, however improbably, he was genuinely fooled by bad intelligence. Either way, he doesn’t have much standing now to comment on why people might prefer voting for a more idealistic liberal to a practical centrist. Whatever may be baffling about Election 2016, the “practical” approach didn’t turn out so well on his watch.