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In Defence of Tony Blair

06/06/2013 17:38 BST | Updated 06/08/2013 10:12 BST

Tony Blair is a persona non grata in the UK these days. His former electoral success is forgotten, and it is assumed that everyone has always hated him (and, of course, if others didn't at the time: how could they have been so blind?). This trend has been welcomed by the gnarled old socialists who despised him since his sensible abolition of Clause IV, and from the opportunist Right, who will do anything to bash the current Labour leadership for the supposed sins of their predecessor.

It is a sign of political degradation when a former national leader cannot write a piece in a Sunday newspaper, about an issue with which he is intimately involved, without attracting a huge amount of venom, by people who have either not even read the article in question, and just attack Blair for being Blair - or those who did read it, but clearly cannot quite fathom the meaning of simple English words.

The latter camp, who say that he has insulted Islam (by referring to 'problems within' the faith) clearly did not read the long, obsequious babble printed above - in which he rather snivellingly said that it was still a 'religion of peace'. He has obviously prefaced the remarks which could possibly cause offence with a standard political expression of support for Islam and Muslims. He also persisted in the claim that it's only a handful of bad apples within the faith which cause all the trouble - and that is nowhere near the level of insult to which the illiterates allude.

The first camp is a broader, and less hard to define, group. Some of its members are often found venting disproportionate fury on Daily Mail message boards, and are seemingly content to fall back on a rather mediocre re-arrangement of the man's surname, to give us the lexicographically uninspired 'Bliar'. So far, so obvious. These people thrive on pent up rage for an era now passed, and endlessly resort to their feeble pun, as if the only way to hurt the man was to be ever so slightly rude about him on the Internet. They don't represent all of his detractors, but are the most vocal.

They hate him, alright, and are forthright about it in no uncertain terms. He has 'destroyed the country' and 'taken the "Great" out of Great Britain'. But has he? Where is the physical evidence for these empty banalities? The country still exists, and (as far as I am aware) has not undergone a change of name. The entity of our nation still limps on, so all of this posturing is just an excuse for these bores to wheel out the same set of idle buzzwords and make sweeping political gestures without troubling to excessively strain their typing fingers.

What I assume they mean, then, is that he has altered the soul of the country, and changed all these people formerly loved about the UK. This is hardly a tangible phenomenon, and means a lot of different things to various people. National change is (of course) not the only thing that people have in for Blair, and opinion is still divided on his legacy. But the thing upon which all newsy people can agree is the inherent evil and malice of the 'dodgy dossier' - and the alleged falsehoods therein.

But that was put together by others, and while Iraq and Afghanistan are still the major obstacles to Blair's rehabilitation into UK politics, he is not entirely to blame for the perceived evil done. But his opinion on the current resurgence in Islamic terror is important, because of his prominent position as Middle East Peace Envoy, on behalf of the Quartet. Love him or hate him, his opinions deserve a little more than the collective cold shoulder they have received. It is pure intellectual laziness to dismiss the messenger rather than the message, and I would have hoped that we could do better.

If we resist the media gag-reflex at the very mention of the former Prime Minister's name, then perhaps we can deal with the points he makes, and their implications. I'll admit, the style of his piece is rather clunky, and the old spin-machine hasn't been out of business long enough to forego the messianic cadences, but the words - awkward as they are - make very interesting reading.

He acknowledges the turmoil in the Arabic world with the eye of in insider, synthesising the disparate strands of transnational events into a coherent whole, with an engaging, if rather broad-brush, analysis. He correctly identifies the threat which Assad's last stand mentality presents, with chemical weapons apparently near the urban centres over which the two sides tussle in Syria.

But uniting all of this is an apparent need for vindication. Blair still needs to justify his interventions in the previous decade. While I, personally, agree with him on the necessity of these actions, the desire for approval seems to grate on the commenters of the site. And why not, they are 'sick of hearing' about 'him and his wars' - see what I mean?

Blair needs to be listened to on these matters more than he currently is; as this country's demi-elder statesman in the epilogue to Lady Thatcher, he is a vital resource for information on governance, but the same crowd of fervent haters would stop at nothing to derail even this rather petty attempt to impart an opinion. The hatred can be analysed, but remains a visceral and rather un-definable mix of the isolationist Right, and the now-resurgent 'Old' Labour figures.

The furious response to this piece may have surprised Blair, or it may have not (he's had six years to get used to it by now), but the fact remains that the article, whilst hardly inspired, was a decent effort by an international thinker to reach the right conclusion, and at least we cannot begrudge him an attempt at the target a second time.