Since Tony Blair wandered into the Brexit arena yesterday morning I’ve had non-stop posts in various feeds popping up telling me how awful he is.
The Blair years may be tainted by Iraq, but on the other hand, we also took a huge step forward in terms of making issues like homophobia and racism socially unacceptable. We benefited from sustained strong economic growth, sustained wage growth and sustained low unemployment, while we simultaneously had a strong welfare safety net. Oh, and he brought in the minimum wage. People have this weird image of Blair being a terrible warmonger that everyone hated, whereas the reality is that he won three elections because he stands out from John Major, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and, will, I suspect, Theresa May, in that he’s remembered with actual achievements next to his name alongside all the negatives. Plus, in a purely pragmatic sense, Blair wasn’t the driving force behind Iraq – George Bush was – and it would have happened regardless.
But that’s all irrelevant, because when people attack Blair’s stance on brexit for his record in Iraq, it’s quite clear they’re playing the man and not the ball. And the reason they’re doing this is because either they don’t recognise it as being an obvious fallacy which renders their entire text meaningless, or because they know they can’t effectively attack the substance of what he’s saying.
I welcome Blair taking a more active role in modern politics, because the presence of a man who knows what he’s doing might shake up some of the endemic incompetence prevalent in the current crop of politicians. It is ironic that the loudest voice in denouncing Blair yesterday was Iain Duncan Smith. IDS was leader of the Tory party against Blair for a short period of time (and, ironically, one of the first MPs to call for an invasion of Iraq), until his own party no-confidenced him before he managed to get to an election. Blair saw off four Tory leaders, and IDS was objectively the biggest failure. And yet, succinctly demonstrating that the government has a talent void, IDS is the one who gets wheeled out to criticise him.