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When reality outstripped satire at the Tony Blair mad-hatters banquet

The Iraq war will follow Blair wherever he goes. He lied, bullied, manoeuvred and deceived in order to get his way. But some now say that's in the long past and we should "get over it".

By Lindsey German
Stop the War Coalition
12 July 2012

Tony Blair joins the protest outside his comeback banquet at Arsenal football stadium. Picture by Matthew Aslett. See more pictures here...

The Blairs and the Milibands in their finery for the Arsenal banquet.

LITTLE did I think while watching the BBC’s TwentyTwelve about the London Olympics on Tuesday night that just 24 hours later reality would outstrip satire. Yet Ed Miliband’s announcement that his new policy review adviser is to be none other than Tony Blair, giving advice on the Olympic legacy, does just that.

Even at this late stage, Blair could perhaps secure a place in the comedy about the Olympics preparations, giving advice on security to the harassed character played by Hugh Bonneville, who in this week's episode was shot in the leg with a starting pistol.

Blair’s new position was announced at a Labour Party jamboree at the Arsenal Emirates stadium last night. The great and the good paid up to £500 a ticket to hear the good news.

The Emirates was an apt venue, and one in which Blair will surely have felt at home, given his forays into war in the Middle East, backed all the while by the Gulf States, who are a by word for reaction in the region.

I was one of those demonstrating outside the giant stadium to remind the guests that their main speaker was a war criminal. The organiser of the event, his henchman Alistair Campbell, helped to ‘sex up’ the September 2002 dossier that dishonestly claimed that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could hit British interests ‘in 45 minutes.’

Campbell repeatedly used his journalistic talents to spin his and Blair’s way to war, regardless of the consequences.

Whoever told Miliband that rehabilitating Blair was a good idea has obviously forgotten the deep and lasting hatred and contempt that millions of people in Britain feel for him.

They are trying to soften Blair’s image, to portray him as someone only concerned with issues like the Olympic sporting and economic legacy. But Blair’s real aim is not a few more football or cricket pitches in east London -- or even making life easier for businesses and property developers there, though this is closer to his heart.

He wants to return to the centre of British politics – claiming credit if Miliband wins the next election, and helping to turf him out a replace him with a Blairite, probably Miliband's brother David, if not.

Blair has never accepted that he was driven out of office because he was so unpopular -- above all, because of his involvement in the war on terror. Anti-war opinion in Britain remains high, but Blair has consistently landed up in the most rightwing neocon and hawkish camp.

He is already calling for more wars, against Iran and Syria, and refuses to acknowledge his role in the devastation of Iraq.

This makes him a serial offender and one who cannot be trusted to change if he is given a second chance.

The war will follow Blair wherever he goes -- and it should. He lied, bullied, manoeuvred and deceived in order to get his way. He is not the one now paying the price. It is grotesque that Ed Miliband is allowing him to come back onto the political scene again.

The main defence of the Blairites seems to be "say what you want about Tony Blair but he won three elections". But his predecessor John Smith was on course to win the 1997 election, and would probably have won others, given the toxic nature of the Tories for so many years. There was no possibility of the Tories winning in 1997 -- but it was Blair who repeatedly underestimated public opposition to them.

And from the moment he took office, his votes went down, Labour losing millions of votes in the next two elections. 

The other Blairite argument is "get over it". Sorry that just isn’t going to happen. There is too much at stake with future wars.

Meanwhile, can it be coincidence that the same day Blair’s appointment was announced, we heard that 3,500 more soldiers are being drafted into Olympic security because of the failings of the G4S private security firm? More soldiers at the Olympics than in Afghanistan?

The BBC’s TwentyTwelve scriptwriters are probably rewriting as you read this.

Guess who came to the banquet for a war criminal

By Mike Higgs, Stop the War Coalition

The latest phase of Tony Blair's political rehab campaign was to be found at the Emirates stadium last night at a £500-a-head schmooze-fest featuring a host of Labour MPs and minor celebrities.

For weeks Blair has been laying the basis for his comeback. First he appeared for a sycophantic interview on The Andrew Marr show.

Then he guest-edited the Evening Standard, saying he would like to be Prime Minster again though acknowledging that it is "not likely to happen".

Now he is really stepping up his game. On Monday Blair was due to speak in Lambeth, south London at a Labour Party fundraiser for Tessa Jowell – the only MP (and possibly living soul) to have said they would "jump under a bus" for dear Tony.

The local Labour Party went to significant lengths to insulate the event from outsiders: Stop the War Coalition members were struck off the guest list and local Labour activists known to oppose the Iraq war had their invites mysteriously disappear in the post.

Unfortunately Tessa Jowell and her cohort failed to appreciate the strength of anti-war sentiment in the area as details of the event were inevitably leaked.

Local anti-war activists launched a campaign to kick Blair out of Lambeth. Hundreds of people lobbied Dame Jowell to register disgust with her decision to invite Blair to attend anything but a war crimes trial, and after the threat of protests and further citizen's arrests she was forced to abandon the event.

Fleeing Lambeth for north London and the Arsenal Emirates stadium last night, Blair spent the evening with Labour aficionados willing to shell out £500 to listen to a warmonger use the evening to further his already lucrative career.

But there too, he could not escape the pursuit of anti-war activists. Stop the War were there to welcome Blair and his supporters into the stadium. The man himself was presumably scurried away through a back entrance and was not to be seen.

But those Labour MPs and others who felt it acceptable to wine and dine with a man responsible for countless deaths were reminded of the folly of associating with warmongers, with the incessant cry of "shame on you" as they walked the gauntlet of our protest.

The war crimes of Tony Blair can neither be forgiven nor forgotten.

In case you were wondering if your MP, favourite stand-up comedian, sports personality, or dated pop group, likes to eat nibbles with war criminals, here's a list of those spotted and known to have attended Wednesday's event to hear speeches by Tony Blair, fellow war criminal Alistair Campbell and Ed Miliband:

Hilary Benn MP, David Blunkett MP, David Miliband MP, Ed Miliband MP, Hazel Blears MP, Margaret Hodge MP, Harriet Harman MP, Chuka Umunna MP, Tessa Jowell MP, Ben Bradshaw MP, Douglas Alexander MP, Sadiq Khan MP, Andy Burnham MP, Stephen Twigg MP, Angela Eagle MP, Tom Watson MP, Geoffrey Robinson MP, Eddie Izzard, Jo Brand, Paul Gambaccini, Beverley Knight, Garth Crooks, David Platt, Atomic Kitten, Brendan Foster.

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