Saturday, 26 July 2014

From symbol of hope to incarnation of sleaze, lies and greed: This week marks 20 years since Tony Blair became Labour leader. Now Dominic Sandbrook asks - has any former PM sunk so low?

Daily Mail
Two decades on, Mr Blair’s star could hardly have plunged to lower depths. His story has become perhaps the ultimate political morality tale, and far from being remembered as a symbol of youthful innocence, he now seems the incarnation of spin, sleaze and naked self-interest.
Of course, the journey from saviour to scapegoat is one of the most familiar political trajectories of all. However, the extraordinary thing about Tony Blair’s 20-year odyssey is that it has been so drastic and so complete. Thanks to the endless corruption scandals, the cash for peerages row, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the shameless pursuit of post-premiership wealth, his image is now so tarnished that it takes real effort to recall the atmosphere in July 1994, when he was elected to succeed the late John Smith as leader of the Labour Party.      .........
Of course, talk is cheap. But when he became Prime Minister three years later, Tony Blair had probably the best inheritance of any new government in the 20th century. Not only was the economy buoyant, but the Thatcher governments of the Eighties had taken most of the difficult decisions for him. There was no need to confront the unions, the IRA or the Soviet Union — all had effectively been beaten.  .......Right from the start, he and his henchmen, notably the bullying Alastair Campbell, encouraged a culture of shameless mendacity and obsessive control-freakery. In power, these tendencies became exaggerated. Cabinet government gave way to sofa government and television showmanship took precedence over parliamentary democracy.   .........
Instead, in an apparent bid to prove that he lacks an iota of shame, irony or self-knowledge, Mr Blair decided that it was his mission to bring peace to the Middle East. Well, given that Israel and the Palestinians have spent the past week firing rockets at each other, we all know how that worked out.
On top of that, Mr Blair has spent the past seven years whoring himself around the world. He is now worth an estimated £30 million — although he insisted this week the figure was nearer £20 million — having been said to have taken £125,000 from the Chinese for a  single speech on philanthropy, as well as a reported $13 million from Kazakhstan’s autocratic president Nursultan Nazarbayev in return for unspecified ‘advice’. Blair denied making any personal profit."

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