Last Friday, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Pacific Radio’s Democracy Now! program, interviewed historian and author Tariq Ali on British prime minister Tony Blair’s announcement that he will step down next month after more than a decade in power.
Following are excerpts from Democracy Now!’s interview with Tariq Ali:
Amy Goodman: It’s good to have you with us. Talk about Blair resigning.
Tariq Ali: Well, it was classic New Labour spin: well-orchestrated, designed for the global media networks, a self-serving speech, a carefully hand-picked audience so that there would be no trouble at all, and, actually, for him, a very bad speech. I mean, and I’ve always regarded Blair as a second-rate politician with a third-rate mind, but he’s had better speech writers than this, and I wondered whether he had written it himself. I mean, it’s sort of full of contradictions and half-truths. If he was going to see the so-called war against terror through, why quit?
We had no real accounting of why he’s leaving as prime minister. And the fact is he’s leaving because he’s hated. And the reason he’s hated is because he joined the neo-cons in Washington and went to war against Iraq, which now 78% of the population in [Britain] oppose. And when people are being asked what will Blair’s legacy be, a large majority is saying Iraq. And I think that’s what he will be remembered for, as a prime minister who took a reluctant and skeptical country into a war designed by Washington and its neo-conservative strategists, all of whom are in crisis. . .
Juan Gonzalez: And, Tariq, he did try in his speech to point to the continued prosperity, economic prosperity, of the British under his tenure. Your response to that?
Tariq Ali: Well, I mean, you know, it is prosperous for some people and some regions of the country. But if you look, for instance, at various regions in the north and northeast, you have a tiny proportion of the population which is relatively well-off, and you have people who are not so well-off, people who are dependent on social welfare, which is constantly under attack. You have a two-tier health system now, which you never used to, where if you have money, you can go in a hospital and get treatment any minute, but if you don’t, you have to stand in queues. You have lots of hospitals who he sold to private finance initiatives, which are now saying they can’t fund their hospitals anymore. The failures, the domestic failures, are not being talked about.
And you have large-scale corruption. I mean, recently a mega-scandal with a British arms company, which had paid massive bribes to leading Saudis, including probably members of the royal family. This came up. Blair put a stop to it. His attorney general, not unlike [U.S. Attorney General] Gonzales, said we can’t sue, because the country’s future interests are at stake, so corruption is fine. It’s a total mess.
Something is rotten in this kingdom. And a very sycophantic media rarely talks about it. It’s left to small indie media outlets or satirical magazines like Private Eye, basically, to carry on regular reporting of what is going on.
I don’t think his legacy is anything new. He tried to carry on what Margaret Thatcher did, and the results have not been too dissimilar. He’s had a bloodier reign than Thatcher. He has taken Britain into more wars and actually antagonized, as I point out in a number of recent articles, large swathes of the British establishment, who feel very ashamed that they are being led by a leader who is so totally and completely and a sort of favored attack dog in the imperial kennel.
Amy Goodman: Tariq Ali, President Bush in Washington, D.C., said he’ll miss Tony Blair. . .
Tariq Ali: Well, I think Bush is right. He will miss Blair. I mean, you can’t have a more loyal politician in Europe than Blair. . . He’s done virtually everything the United States has asked for, and not just after 9/11. Even prior to that, he was extremely pro-Washington in everything. He never raised any questions. So I think Washington will miss him. Mercifully, very few people in [Britain] will. . .
To read Democracy Now!’s interview with Tariq Ali in its entirety, click here.
Recommended Off-site Link:
“Blair’s Legacy: Militarism Abroad, Social Devastation at Home” – A Statement by the Socialist Equality Party (Britain)
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Tariq Ali Discusses Rudyard Kipling
Praying for George W. Bush