Blair: Wrong About Egypt

John Rentoul

egyptians 027 300x200 Blair: Wrong About EgyptMost of what Tony Blair says about Egypt in his article in today’s Observer is sensible and insightful. I did not know, for example, that President Morsi had appointed as governor of Luxor “someone who was affiliated to the group responsible for Egypt’s worst-ever terror attack, in Luxor, which killed more than 60 tourists in 1997″.

And his account of meeting a group of young Egyptians after the fall of Mubarak is acute:

They believed that, with democracy, problems would be solved. When I probed on the right economic policy for Egypt, they simply said that it would all be fine because now they had democracy; and, in so far as they had an economic idea, it was well to the old left of anything that had a chance of working.

But I am baffled by two points. One, Blair says:

Seventeen million people on the street is not the same as an election. But it is an awesome manifestation of people power.

He says this is the equivalent of 13 million on the streets in the UK, and that our government wouldn’t survive that either. We know what he means, which is that no government can survive such overwhelming revulsion against it, but it carries the peculiar implication that, had the anti-war demonstrations before the invasion of Iraq mobilised more people, it would have been right to overrule the vote of the House of Commons.

That implication is not helped when he says:

Democracy is a way of deciding the decision-makers, but it is not a substitute for making the decision.

Perhaps this is just carelessly phrased, but it sounds as if he is saying that sometimes democracy has to be subordinated to getting things done.

It is one thing to say that, in a new democracy, the army may be the least worst way of correcting a constitutional malfunction; quite something else to imply that democracy is a subordinate principle.

I prefer the analysis of this 12-year-old boy.

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