I shouldn’t like Tony Blair –after all he is a Labour Prime Minister, and instinctively I prefer the party that was of Thatcher - the Conservatives, which is meant to believe in smaller less intrusive government, which stood steadfastly with the USA during the Cold War, and confronted the post-war malaise of British socialism head on.
However, I must confess, that I do like him. It is not because the Tories are a dissembled bunch of rudderless opponents of Labour – the Tories have never been socially liberal, and struggle to maintain economic liberalism consistently. It is because Blair shows two qualities that place him in the league of Thatcher, and place him light years above Clark, Brash and indeed any New Zealand Prime Minister in my lifetime.
1. Blair is principled;
2. Blair is unashamedly willing to confront those who oppose him and argue out of principle.
Yesterday I watched Blair’s speech at the British Labour Party Conference on TV (the BBC still covers political party conferences for nuts like me), and I came away inspired.
Now there is an enormous rider in all of this – I don’t approve of the social engineering, the growth in the state, the willingness to limit civil liberties and the many of facets of what are “old labour” that the Blair administration has been a part of. I would not have voted Labour in the last UK election – largely because I could not have brought myself to do so, and because the Tories need new blood to succeed Labour in due course. On top of that the emphasis on “spin” and controlling the language used by the (until recently) Blair friendly British electronic media, is at best hiding from debate and at worst deceitful.
So what did Blair say and what has he done?
I could go on about his confrontation of the barely shrouded Marxists in the British trade union movement, in pushing for private sector provision of health care, something National feels very brave to campaign on in New Zealand. He also stated that the future for energy was technology, and nuclear power – something that the luddite Green movement would be aghast at. Both are worthy of praise.
However, nothing matches his willingness to defend the UK presence in Iraq, and the war on terror. He declared, in no uncertain terms, that the so called “grievances” of the terrorists have to be exposed for what they are – the use of 21st century technology to fight the religious wars of the dark ages – their attack on 9/11 was an attack on our way of life, on the values of modernism – it is NOT about Afghanistan or Palestine.
He cited how awful Afghanistan was under the Taliban, and how the terrorists and their supporters used Afghanistan and now use Iraq as excuses for waging their war of hatred on modern civilisation. He stated how the UK presence in Iraq is welcomed by the democratically elected Iraqi government, and the UN, and the UK could NOT sit back and let other countries carry the burden. He is unashamedly proud of the British role in overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and providing Iraq with a freer democratic government – and it is time to finish the job, confront those who want Iraq to become a terrorist run state and spread liberal democracy to Iraq.
This is light years ahead of the mealy mouthed pragmatism of Clark and Brash on this issue, Clark happily lets NZ free ride off of Australia and the US for defence – Brash knows better, but panders to the mindless anti-Americanism that braindead journalists and the Michael Moore sycophants adore.
You see, Blair does not give one inch of credit to Al Qaeda or any other terrorists for their behaviour. He does not surrender the fundamental morality of Western liberalism –a liberalism that protects individual rights (albeit inconsistently), that guarantees plurality of speech, guards against extreme abuses of power and welcomes reason, science and diversity as being the beauty of what humanity is. Blair is a staunch defender of those fundamental freedoms, the ones that the apologists for the West use blatantly to attack it, the ones that Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and yes the Mullahs in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and elsewhere exploit to wage war on civilians. Nothing is more unspeakably loathsome than the apologists for deliberate murder of people and of civilisation, reason and the belief that all human beings are created equal and because they are human have inalienable rights. Have no question about it, the Islamic fundamentalists would not for a moment tolerate any of the women protesting for THEIR rights, doing anything short of being virtual slaves to their husbands – and if humanity had followed their path then the dark ages would be upon us – remember these are people who ban music!! Think about it – Nazi Germany, North Korea, the Khmer Rouge – three of the most despicable regimes in human history, were not so utterly without a shred of any joy to ban music.
This is not a war against Islam – individuals in a free society have a right to peacefully practice their own religion, and market it – Islam does need to go through its own enlightenment, and perhaps Turkey shows one path for it to go down. It is a war against those who seek to turn government and society back to premodernity, to the caves, to the savages of mysticism.
Back to Blair – his other statement was shorter and more pithy. He talked of those wanting to oppose globalisation as being as pointless as wanting to oppose autumn following summer. He talked of Britain embracing globalisation, and competing using knowledge, skills and being better and smarter at producing goods and services. He reflected on how India and China were embracing globalisation, and it was lifting many in those countries out of poverty, and how Asia and Latin America were better off with trade. Africa would have to be next. While talking about debt relief and fighting poverty in developing countries, he did point out clearly that one of the most important steps was for Europe and the USA to reform trade in agriculture. This meant explicitly abolishing export subsidies and curtailing the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU. Such steps, which the leftie Green socialist luddites will probably resist, will make it easier for poorer countries to compete fairly in world markets, and reduce the price of food in the richest countries. He pointed directly at the economic failures of France and Germany, for having too much angst to undertake serious reforms – and rightfully so.
Blair sees clearly the future agenda in foreign affairs on two fronts: the war on terror and trade. The war on terror is just, and remaining in Iraq is just. Yes foreign affairs is about realpolitik. The opportunity to overthrow Saddam Hussein was taken, when he was flagrantly ignoring UN Security Council resolutions time and time again, he was militarily weak, and there was every good reason to believe he had weapons of mass destruction (as he clearly had before and was prepared to use them on civilians to suppress dissent). He ran a brutal illegitimate regime than nobody in their right mind could possibly excuse – except his mate George Galloway of course – and the chance was there to remove a defence risk, a brutal regime and to institute a peaceful liberal democratic government – you know the sort that allows protest marches, a free press and women to have the same rights as men.
His advocacy of eliminating agricultural export subsidies and cutting back the Common Agricultural Policy is also moral – the average cow in the EU gets more in subsidies than the average person earns in developing countries for income per annum.
Most importantly, he does not shirk from his principles, and he knows what matters first and foremost – survival and freedom. He will not sell out the defence of the UK because of self imposed guilt about what others think about western civilisation, and he believes that markets work (most of the time he does anyway). Don Brash could learn a lot from Tony Blair, and the idea that Helen Clark shares with Blair anything besides his obsession with spin - is ludicrous!