My view on Tony Blair's domestic record is, as those who know me will testify, that on the whole it has been a collosal missed opportunity, a massive waste of time, and in many ways deeply regressive. Simon Heffer's column the other day summed up many of my views (though for the record, I did not agree with absolutely everything he said, and he also missed out important failings of Blair's time in government, particularly regarding EU-related matters).
But my view on Blair's foreign policy record is more mixed. At least in the beginning I was a strong advocate of British intervention in Iraq to depose Saddam. I'm not so sure that I would support it again if we now found ourselves back in early 2003, but that's a discussion for another day.
However, I do take exception to Rachel's assesment of Blair's Today programme interview with Humphreys the other morning.
Here's what I posted on her blog in reply to her comments on Blair's "denial" of responsibility for what is currently happening in Iraq:
"So, if an Iraqi or Iranian terrorist plants a roadside bomb in Iraq that kills a passing family in a car, opens fire on people queuing up for a job interview, or commits some other random act of murder, they are NOT to blame? Is that what you are saying?
Human beings are not hornets; we are (or at least ought to be) aware of what is right and wrong, and we are aware that it is wrong to commit murder. If you make anyone other than the person who in cold blood deliberately explodes the bomb or pulls the trigger that is aimed directly at ordinary and innocent citizens with the express intention of killing them, then that is a despicable moral position for a "liberal" person to take.
And as for that imagined Home Office conference - yes - it IS the people who are shooting other people who are morally responsible. And if it wasn't for them doing the killing, there wouldn't be any need for that imagined conference.
Responsibility for doing something lies with the police and home office officials by virtue of their paid employment - but that is a very different kind of responsibility from that of those actually doing the killing.
I didn't understand Blair to be disclaiming responsibility in the sense of disclaiming responsibility for trying to do something to try to improve matters: clearly, instructing the British army to train up and support the Iraqi army is "taking responsibility" for trying to improve the situation. But you can't hold Blair sitting in a studio in London "responsible" for drive-by shootings in a Baghdad cafe as if it was his finger on the trigger. Even the person whose finger was on the trigger would not accept that...and would probably laugh at you for suggesting it…"
"Once back here I got to thinking - 'how do I get out of this?' Perhaps the really haunting spectre is that I would have to turn my back on the lake, and the prospect of the sword." Alan Clark, Diaries - 19th May 1999