The verdict on Tony Blair

September 1st, 2010

Andrew Marr, one of the BBC’s star interviewers, faced his biggest challenge tonight, when given a full hour of peak television time on BBC2, to interview former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on the day of the publication of his book, which is published at a critical time in British politics, when the Labour Party is in the middle of an election for a new leader.

The result, if I report this as a television critic, was a draw.

Marr confronted Blair with all the difficult questions. How could he jusitfy his alliance with George W Bush to oust Sadam Hussein, when there was no proof of weapons of mass destruction? What was the truth of his alliance with Gordon Brown, who had agreed to support Blair in his bid for the Labour Party leadership in the early 1990′s?

Blair, both feet planted wide apart, took everything thrown against him, with modest charm. Yes, he had made mistakes. But he was acting honestly for what was the only sensible option, for a modern prime minister, operating under the media spotlight.

Of course, you could not have full freedom of information. Otherwise, no member of cabinet would speak their mind, if their dissent was going to be published. He had to make choices when he was in power.

And he operated on what he thought was right at the time.

The Blair book is about his years in power. But the media hype is about the now. Who is Blair supporting in the current leadership battle. Of course, the great communicatior refused to say. Though, in an aside, he did say that he was fond of Diane Abott, the only contestant, who has herself said, she has no chance of winning.

All of the Westminster press corps, has been saying that Blair favours David Miliband, whose policies are pretty much in line with the New Labour, which won Blair power in 1997, after Labour’s many years in the wilderness.

Blair refused to confirm this tonight to Marr.

Marr failed to penetrate his defences.

He failed at a vital moment to ask the right follow up question.

Marr pushed him hard about whether he was a conservative in Labour clothing. How the rated himself compared with other long-lived British ?prime ministers, Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher.

Predictably, Blair did not answer this one.

He said he was a progressive!!!

And he went on to trumpet again, that he was devoting all the profits of the book to the British Legion.

That is when Marr fouled up, what was otherwise a fine interview.

He let it go by.

No real Labour person, would choose as their faviourd charity, the British Legion.

The British Legion is not ‘political’. It is for British servicemen and women.

But it is a right wing charity. In favour of the status quo. It is middle England.

It is not the Rowntree Foundation. Or Green Peace.

This simple donation is the final proof, that Blair was, what Marr felt in his gut, a conservative in Labour clothing.

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