It is a depressing truth, one that been too evident throughout history, that there will always be those who join a group which advocates an admirable idea, subsequently damaging the said group from within. One can ponder whether they saw membership as a way of furthering their own ambitions, whether they were corrupted by their newly discovered authority or, whether they were tempted into selling out their ideals in exchange for personal gain. Undoubtedly, villains have a variety of personas.
Regrettably, it is not only a movement’s ideals that fall into disrepute on account of the treachery of a few, but the hopes of millions of honourable men and women are also dashed.
One only has to look as far as the New Labour cabinet to find classic examples. Here are individuals who preached true labour values in their youth, or when they were in opposition, and went on to betray these values once their party came to power. One man stands out in particular. The man who wanted to be President of Europe.
In 1995, whilst leader of the opposition Labour Party, Tony Blair declared:
‘ I didn’t come into politics to change the Labour Party. I came into politics to change the country.’ No one can argue that Blair kept his word on that one account, at least. Blair has certainly changed both this country and the British people’s way of life.
New phrases such as ‘detention without trial’, ‘ID cards’, ‘war on terror’ and a ‘special relationship’ with the US became hallmarks of the Blair government.
The Habeas Corpus Act, dating back to 1679, which prohibited detention without trial by jury was waived when a number of foreign nationals were detained without charge under the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001. These individuals were not permitted to be shown the evidence against them. Britain too gained the longest period of detention without charge in the Western world. The Terrorism Act of 2006 allowed for individuals to be held without trial for up to 28 days. Blair originally wanted to extend this period of imprisonment to 90 days.
Blair went further than his pre-election statement promise about changing the country. He changed the Labour Party too, making it antagonistic to that of the interests of its traditional supporters: working class individuals and the unions, from whom much of the Labour Party’s funding originated. In essence, Tony Blair instigated a system where the Labour Party bit the hand that fed it.
Sadly, it may take decades for both the country and the Labour Party to recover from Tony’s ‘radical’ changes. In May 1997, less than a month after becoming Prime Minister, the still youthful looking Tony Blair gave a speech in Paris at a joint NATO-Russia summit declaring ‘Mine is the first generation able to contemplate the possibility that we may live our entire lives without going to war or sending our children to war.’ The truth of this statement extends only perhaps to Tony’s children and those of his fellow New Labour Ministers. A little later on in his career, in reference to the Labour Party, Tony was reported to have stated ‘This party will, ultimately, be judged on its ability to deliver on its promise’.
Sadly, it appears that in 2009 a judgement has been made in the minds of many British people. 200,000 members of the Labour Party have done away with their membership since 1997 and unfortunately a Conservative victory at the next general election, together with a further hatchet job of public services, seems to be on the cards. Moreover as a fall out of the Blair years, the good name of a ‘Labour Government’ has been tarnished, electoral apathy has increased (coupled together with the electoral rise of the far right) and, a mood of no alternative to a capitalist style economy has begun to pervade amongst sections of the populace, egged on by the mainstream media.
Perhaps the greatest shame needs to be reserved for those New Labour parliamentarians who supported Blair whilst he tarnished the name of his party during his 10 years in office. Some of these individuals even gave Tony Blair a standing ovation when he stood down as leader of the country and the Labour Party. Such an act says much about the calibre of those acting as representatives of the people. To further turn his back on the principles of the Labour Party once he had left office, Blair accepted a £500,000 a year job as an advisor at Wall Street based financial services firm JP Morgan and, even had the unabashed arrogance mount a campaign to become President of Europe.
Blair’s presidential ambitions were dashed last week; let’s hope this marks an end to his political aspirations. However, he remains a free and affluent man, in a position very different to that of the many victims of his domestic and foreign policies. Blair’s place should not be in Brussels but rather at the Hague, facing a war-crimes tribunal on account of his role in the deaths of hundreds of British soldiers and thousands of civilians in the illegal and ill-thought out wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As for Blair’s supporters in government, one feels like quoting the fifth verse of the former anthem of the Labour Party, ‘The Red Flag’:
‘It suits today the weak and base,
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place
To cringe before the rich man’s frown,
And haul the sacred emblem down.’
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This post was written by Tomasz Pierscionek