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Tony Blair’s war and peace
10/05/07
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov) –

Titans of European policy are leaving the political scene one after another – Gerhard Schroeder, Silvio Berlusconi, Jacques Chirac and now Tony Blair.
The British Prime Minister has told his Cabinet what it expected from him for a long time – after ten years in power, three victories at general elections in 1997, 2001 and 2005, the “Teflon” Tony Blair with his famous white-teeth smile is leaving his post of the Labour Party leader, and, hence, his position of the Prime Minister. His deputy in the party and government John Prescott will follow suit. The Tory opposition is hinting that the threat is looming over Blair’s entire Cabinet – the foreign, home, justice and health secretaries…
The idea of the Labour Party strategists is transparent. Two years later, at the next elections the Brits should see a new party leadership, and, hence, a new, attractive government. It would get rid of the burden of the past mistakes, and the Tory will no longer be able to accuse it of a paralysis as they are doing now. In a word, the government will consist of the new Labour elite for which the Brits would like to vote for the fourth time running.
Blair is leaving as a vague ghost wondering between the light and the shadow, between the good and the evil. We will learn what the balance was from British history text books.
He has achieved the most in the economy. During the past decade, his compatriots have become convinced that their daily life has become better, and importantly, more just. The post-2001 Labour reforms have redistributed state benefits between social strata. The lowest-income British families now receive 11% more benefits and the wealthy are getting much less than they used to. Therefore, the nation believed the prime minister when he reminded it on the ruling party’s behalf that his Cabinet protected the interests of everyone, not only the high-paid top class.
Success of Labour rule was promoted by Tony Blair’s charisma and lack of complexes that was so refreshing in Britain. The prime minister boldly wore a suit of ripe aubergine color at his 50th birthday. During years at 10 Downing Street he got a fourth child – a unique accomplishment for British prime ministers – from Churchill to Thatcher. Blair lived a life that sent a strong message to the public – I’m not averse to the joys of life, I’m the same as you are. It came home to the Queen’s subjects and they cast their votes for him – until the war broke in Iraq.
As George Bush’s poodle (a British media nickname for Blair), Blair supported the U.S. invasion of a foreign country and sent a lavish military continent to Iraq. Moreover, looking at his TV audience with honest eyes, Blair explained his step by the Saddam Hussein regime’s readiness to use weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes. Up to this day, the Brits do not know whether he lied or was misled by the Americans or MI6. In the tough world of politics, lack of evidence is interpreted against the defendant.
Britain was swept by anti-war marches. The Labour rating fell into a nose dive like a British helicopter downed in Iraq, killing the popularity of the nation’s chief pilot. For the first time, the prime minister pondered over the question: shouldn’t he sacrifice his career to the Labour reputation? Today’s resignation merely confirms his long-time decision.
The most recent negative consequence of Blair’s Iraqi blunder was his party’s setback at regional elections in Wells and Scotland. But at the end of his career, Blair made a political trick against which Harry Houdini’s talents pale into insignificance. Quite suddenly, as a true magician, Blair reached peace in Northern Ireland. The local government resumed work in Belfast on May 8.
The first minister is the leader of the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party Ian Paisley, and his deputy is Martin McGuinness, the second-in-command in the Catholic Sinn Fein. The latter party is considered the political front of the terrorist Irish Republican Army (IRA).
This is the same if the devil were appointed the Lord’s deputy or vice versa. The history of the much-suffering province has seen everything – the British army occupation, horrible acts of terror stages by Protestants against Catholics and by Catholics against Protestants and English. As a London-based reporter in the early 1980s, I covered a sinister prolonged hunger strike in the Maze Prison in Belfast where IRA militants were dying one after another.
Has Tony Blair put an end to the decades of bloody history? If Northern Ireland lives in peace, the prime minister will probably be forgiven for Iraq one day. But right now he is retiring as a politician responsible both for the unjust Iraqi war and the wonderful Ulster peace.
But Tony Blair will stay in power for another seven weeks – until the new Labour leader is elected. It has been practically decided that he will be succeeded by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Some analysts believe that this may bring the Labour party back to its old left-wing policies when it seemed to be a twin of the trade unions. The Tory portray Brown as a bigger autocrat than Blair. Making allusions to a popular puppet show, they predict that Punch will replace Judy on the political scene.
This is not very important for Russia. Moscow is interested in what potential changes may take place in the rules of the political game in the London-Washington-Moscow triangle.
Vladimir Putin has unequivocal relations with the retiring British prime minister. After the raptures of the first meetings – the two age-mates under the charm of novelty – wore off, Russian-British relations have become anemic, if not chilly. Not long ago, Russian Ambassador Yury Fedotov informed in writing British Home Secretary John Reid that Moscow was very serious about what seemed to be London’s patronage of Boris Berezovsky, a Russian billionaire who lives in Britain as a political refugee.
The British authorities issued him a new passport in the name of Platon Elenin although he does not simply live in Britain. He regularly urges President Putin’s overthrow in public. Most recently, he did this in an interview with The Guardian when he willingly explained to a reporter that he was going to finance a coup in Russia. The Russian Prosecutor’s Office signed an order to arrest the instigator.
On seven occasions, British courts turned down Russia’s request to extradite Chechen terrorist Akhmed Zakayev and are hiding about two dozen other refugees from Russian justice. Some British officials hastened to use Alexander Litvinenko’s death for outrageous accusations of the Kremlin, although Scotland Yard has not yet published the results of its investigation.
Moscow believes that this is not befitting Russian-British old-time partnership and would like to know what Blair’s political successor thinks on this score.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. -0-