Thursday, September 30, 2004

30 September 2004: Blair

Just a quick note on Tony Blair's conference speech and the follow-up interviews he gave to all and sundry in its wake.

Of particular interest was the Radio 4 'Today' programme interview with John Humphrys. The interview can be heard in full on the Radio 4 website (RealPlayer required), and on two points Humphrys made the Prime Minister feel particularly uncomfortable. Blair stated in his conference speech that although the intelligence was wrong, the decision to go to war was still right. Which is to say, even if he had correct intelligence that Saddam had no WMDs and was no imminent threat, let alone had any links to Al-Qaeda (remember Colin Powell's speech to the UN?), it was still right, in Blair's opinion, to go to war. I thought we went to war because of the imminent threat from WMDs, and we couldn't wait another 6 months for the inspectors to finish their work and the French and Russians to get on board with the idea of another UN resolution? Apparantly not. Humphrys pressed on this point, and Blair wasn't too forthcoming, except to say that well, isn't it better to have got rid of Saddam than to still have him there?

Humphrys made a very good second point though. What if, he said, we had to go to war again, and Blair had to present a dossier of intelligence to the House of Commons as part of the debate? He'd get laughed out, wouldn't he? All hypothetical, said Blair, and anyway it would depend on the intelligence, not on the person presenting it.

But would it?

Even if a much more sound dossier of intelligence was produced, the very fact of Blair presenting it makes it much more likely to be doubted by the House of Commons and the general public than if it was presented, say, by Gordon Brown, Charles Kennedy or even Sonic the Hedgehog. (Not Michael Howard, of course: he and Rupert Lowe are the only two people less likely to be believed than Blair.) If we needed to go to war again in even vaguely similar circumstances (for instance, if North Korea began targetting missles at London) we simply couldn't if Blair was in charge. We simply couldn't, because nobody would believe a word he said. Blair has been, as far as I can see, a decent PM on domestic issues, and his foreign policies outside of US collaborations have been generally fair and upright (mainly thanks to the likes of Robin Cook and Clair Short). But Blair's reputation is now tarnished in the area of trust, and for him to remain at the top for much longer is not just ungentlemanly, it's downright dangerous.

In other matters, a fair replacement for Tony Blair perhaps would be Bobby Cox, long-standing manager of the Atlanta Braves who took a worst-place team in 1990 to a first-placed team in 1991, and goodness me, they've won their division 13 (thirteen) times in a row since then. The Braves victory over the Mets last night gave Cox his 2000th win, only the ninth manager to accomplish such a feat. The joy will last approximately nine days. By the end of next week the Braves will have lost in the first round of the playoffs as usual, and the winter ahead will be one of depressing budget-cuts and start player departures. This year was a miracle - Cox should get manager of the year for making this scraped-together bunch of players a big-win team - next year it could be nigh-on impossible. Still, it's only a game.

Isn't that right, Tony?

No comments: