Thursday, February 20, 2003

What’s Good About Blair? He’s Persuasive, He’s Smart, and He’s Over There

Despite my better judgment, I’ve liked Tony Blair ever since he started showing up on CSPAN during Prime Minister’s questions, almost 10 years ago. Back then he was the glibly incredulous leader of the Labour party, at that time in minority status in Parliament. Time after time he’d rise up from the front bench and artfully savage the policies and very credibility of the governing Conservative Party. Blair would deride, insult, and ridicule but all with remarkable articulation, a smile, and a twinkle in his eye. It was great TV. His rhetorical style in skewering his political opponents would yield thunderous shouts of “here! here!” and genuinely gleeful laughter from his colleagues in the back benches. It was a reaction based in triumphalism, even though the Labourites were out of power at the time. But that status didn’t last long, Labour took power in 1997 and won another resounding victory in 2001. I suspect the Labour party’s recent electoral dominance in the UK is at least in part a function of the vigor and vibrant charm presented by Blair, in contrast to the hapless, pale shades of gray presented by his Conservative counterparts, John Major and William Hague.

So why was my admiration for Blair against my better judgment? Because he was (and I assume still is) a confirmed socialist. If you got beyond his flash and flare and listened to the man, the substance of his arguments were entirely based on unrestrained government intervention in all matters at the expense of individual liberty. His solution to everything seemed to be the redistribution of wealth to his favored groups and socioeconomic class. I suppose if he were an American politician, with the ability to personally put the hurt on me with his policies, I’d quite rightly dismiss him and probably condemn him at every opportunity. Maybe I’d sound something like former Englishman John Derbyshire, who describes Blair and his party’s politics from a Conservative’s perspective:

My dislike of Blair has many sources. For one thing, he is the leader of the Labour Party, and I dislike them en masse. Labour is a party of social engineers, of system-builders and "planners" (in the Hayekian sense). It is a party of pacifists and socialists, of love-the-world useful idiots, of Castro-fawners and Arafat-admirers. It is a party of tax-eaters and commerce-haters, of labor union officials and government pen pushers and Community Relations Liaison Officers. It is a party of God-hating hedonists, of sour-faced feminists and proselytizing homosexuals, of cop-haters and criminal-coddlers.

The great truth enunciated by the late Philip Larkin remains unaltered, though: the Right in Britain, as everywhere else, is the party of "thrift, hard work, reverence, desire to preserve," while the Left stands for "idleness, greed and treason."

Saying all of this, I think we’re all lucky Tony Blair is the Prime Minister at this particular time. Not only has he provided the US with a consistent and reliable ally to refute the accusations of American unilateralism. More importantly, time after time, he’s articulately detailed the arguments for going to war to a reluctant and often hostile world community. This hasn’t yielded unanimous support, but it’s done a lot to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the US position. I can’t imagine any of the recent Conservative Party leaders (Major, Hauge, or Iain Duncan Smith) being nearly as persuasive and therefore valuable to our cause. So for the first time in my life I’m saying, thank God there’s a socialist in office. (But thank God he’s in England).

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