Though I consider the man and his legacy thoroughly bad, Tony Blair’s political career and accomplishments (such as winning three General Elections) are nothing if not remarkable. During his ten years as Prime Minister he was a dangerous, destructive figure both at home and abroad, and he remains so to this day. It’s seven years since Blair left office, but he’s never really gone away. The PM who was central to and instrumental in destabilising and devastating the entire Middle East became, on leaving office, in an irony beyond satire, a UN/EU ‘peace envoy’ to the Middle East. It would be laughable if it were not so sad, since Blair is responsible for the suffering and deaths of countless people. But of course Teflon Tony has got away with it once again (in this life at least), as the possibility of justice effectively died, just a few days ago, when it emerged that the Chilcot Inquiry has become the Chilcot Whitewash.
I will always keep an interview with Blair by the Financial Times Editor Lionel Barber (FT Weekend Magazine, 1st July 2012). It’s a worthy article, and though it’s two years old by now, many of the insights offered into Blair remain valid, such as, “There is an urgency, even a frustration about Blair. … Blair still wants to be at the centre of attention.” Well, Blair’s lust for attention has been temporarily satisfied with a glut of media coverage today, including The Times front page, headlined, “Blair tells Europe to wake up” (which is what prompted me to blog this). The pro-EU Blair is clearly very worried about the ongoing growth of popular political opposition to Britain’s continued EU membership, particularly in the wake of UKIP’s recent electoral triumph. For Blair, a British withdrawal from the EU is an untenable and illegitimate political aspiration for anybody to hold, and I’ve no doubt he’s as keen as David Cameron to encourage the ‘far right’ fallacy with which Tory CCHQ spin doctors and the mainstream media’s propagandists attempt in desperation to smear UKIP. Indeed it could be that an attempt to kill UKIP and sustain the Conservative Party becomes Tony Blair’s next big crusade. After all, UKIP has become a major threat to David Cameron, and Cameron really is the ‘Heir to Blair’. I’d be very surprised if Tony Blair actually wants Ed Miliband to beat David Cameron in the 2015 General Election. If Cameron is ousted next year and the Conservatives annihilated, it will be a setback for Blairism.
The scale of the challenge facing Blair and fellow pro-EU, social/economic liberals wishing to save the Tories is huge. The Tories are dying, as they have been dying for many years, and perhaps only a vote for Scottish independence in the referendum later this year can give the Tories any hope of obtaining an outright majority in Westminster ever again. The Conservative Party long ago ceased to be conservative – in either social or economic terms. (At best it might be said, relatively speaking, that the Conservative Party’s current leadership remains, tangibly, though only slightly, more favourable to economically conservative policy than the Labour Party.) There is abundant evidence of the long-term decline of the Conservative Party and, by extension, of the increasing likelihood of its future demise as a major party. The Conservative Party is manifestly no longer a conservative party and the Tories have treated their own members and conservative voters with contempt and hostility for years. Now the worm is turning. It’s small wonder that the party’s membership numbers are in freefall. It’s not even possible to be genuinely and openly conservative in the contemporary Conservative Party; indeed, to hold and express orthodox conservative views leads quickly to marginalisation within or expulsion from the party.
The best example of the truth that the Tories do not represent socially conservative opinion was David Cameron’s forcing the redefinition of marriage into law last year. And as to economic conservatism, if the protection of the UK’s economy and financial interests (by the exercise of sovereign power yet to be regained from the EU, to which the Conservative Party is not committed) is not the defining economic-conservative issue of our time, I don’t know what is. Peter Hitchens hit the nail on the head in his Mail on Sunday column yesterday: “Ukip has grown from nothing in a few short years because thousands of Tories have had enough of being taken for granted by a party that despises them and their concerns. Many of them are never coming back. Tory membership and local organisation, which were in deep trouble anyway, have come close to collapse, especially since David Cameron forced same-sex marriage into law. But above all things, Tory voters have realised that the mass immigration which is transforming the country before their eyes cannot be stopped as long as we stay in the EU. And they have grasped that the Tories are apologists for the EU and will never try to leave it.”