Don’t waste your respect on Tony Blair

I’ve written before about the Tony Blair conundrum, but I’d like to take the opportunity Kevin has offered to tell my progressive friends back home in the States that their strange belief that Blair is a good and principled statesman who just happened to get pushed into joining Bush’s war is at best wishful thinking.

My friends think Blair is some kind of a statesman because he can talk better than Bush, but he’s more Ralph Reed than Al Gore. He exploits his alleged belief in God, knows how to get the support of the powerful, and keeps trying to “modernize” things that already worked just fine.

Leaving aside Blair’s background as an admirer of oligarchy and an agent of corruption, there is the small fact that he has been a nightmare for civil liberties.

It’s unclear whether his attempts to impose a costly and unworkable plan for biometric ID cards and a national identity register is part of another kick-back scheme, but it is certainly consistent with his continual assault on freedom. His recent push to legitimize long detentions without due process was so appalling that his own party rebelled (although not as much as they should have).

Many people mistakenly believe that all of this is just part of an overreaction to the War on Terrorism or even some sort of deal-making with George Bush, but the truth is that Blair’s authoritarianism has always been a part of his program.

The only thing that is protecting what is left of Britain’s civil liberties at the moment is the fact that the Tories are performing as an opposition party, despite the fact that much of this repressive legislation is also consistent with the policies that previous Conservative governments tried to push through themselves – but failed because they were so unpopular and the opposition parties in those days acted as something like an opposition. Recently, the Tories have been smart enough to seize on the unpopularity of these same policies to attack the Labour leadership.

Not a surprise, then, that he’s already set to join the Carlyle Group….

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