The Ghost of Tony Blair
The ghost of Blair haunted a lot of the contributions to the House of Commons debate on Syria on Thursday, and a lot of the commentary on that debate.
Much of the commentary was to the effect that, as Ken Livingstone and David Mellor put it on LBC this morning, the vote might have gone the other way if it had not been for common – and, as I said, mistaken – view that Blair manipulated the case for military action in Iraq 10 years ago.
This is related to the common observation that Blair’s article for The Times on Tuesday greatly helped those, such as the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen on Newsnight on Wednesday night, who are opposed to military action in Syria.
I agree with Peter Goldsmith, the former Attorney General, who said on the programme that Bridgen’s was a silly political remark.
And the point I made to Livingstone and Mellor is that, although MPs’ views must have been coloured by the experiences of Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, I thought the opposition to military action in Syria – although it was not tested explicitly in the votes – was decided on its merits.
I think that most of those who opposed air strikes did so because they could not be sure that they would improve things for the Syrian people, and not because they had ceased to trust assurances from government politicians.
I disagree with them, but only just, because I think not doing anything is a green light to Assad to carry on using chemical weapons.
While the debate gave everyone the chance to repeat what they already thought about Blair, mostly in a simplified and bilious form, I think he had nothing to do with the reluctance of the Commons to support military action.
Photo: SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty
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