Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Take a cue from amazing Grace and slap the cuffs on Tony Blair

What a joy it is in these dour times to be able to exalt the name of Grace McCann. No relation, unfortunately.

Grace is the woman who stepped forward last Friday outside the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster and tried to collar Tony Blair. OK, he got away. But Grace’s attempt will surely motivate others to nab the miscreant some time soon.

It is said every day that there’s no justice, that even when the perpetrators of violent crime are identified and the case against them established, they are allowed to walk away, without a worry in the world apart from wondering where to find the next target for their malevolent ire. In contrast, so it’s said, there’s never a care for the victims.

Well, have-a-go heroine Grace didn’t just moan about the injustice of it all, but tried to tackle the delinquent herself.

Grace had taken her cue from the eccentric and occasionally brilliant environmentalist George Monbiot who, in the Guardian three days earlier, had raised the cry: “Arrest Blair!”

“Without legal justification, the war with Iraq was an act of mass murder: those who died were unlawfully killed by the people who commissioned it. So today I am launching a website — www.arrestblair.org — whose purpose is to raise money as a reward for people attempting a peaceful citizen's arrest of the former prime minister.

“I have put up the first £100 and I encourage you to match it. Anyone meeting the rules I've laid down will be entitled to one quarter of the total pot: the bounties will remain available until Blair faces a court of law. The higher the reward, the greater the number of people who are likely to try.”

There was around £9,000 in the pot when Grace made her bid last Friday. In accordance with the rules, she has been allocated a quarter of this amount — which she has already donated to relevant charities. The fund will remain open until Blair is officially charged.

The Monbiot initiative is a last resort. Were there even a glimmer of hope that justice might be attained by more conventional means, there would be no need for conscientious citizens like Grace to put life and limb on line.

But Blair’s appearance before Chilcot has crushed any expectation of victims obtaining redress through normal channels. The sheer brazenness of the Inquiry’s determination to protect the former Prime Minister sparked outrage even in commentators normally solicitous for the interests of the elite.

A trawl through the broadsheets suggested near-enough a consensus that the inquiry had shown itself as useful as a child-care manual at a synod of Catholic bishops.

And not just the broadsheets. The Mail on Sunday front-paged a poll suggesting that eight out of 10 British people continue to believe that Blair lied in order to take the country to war: “As he gave his evidence inside the Westminster Conference Centre, demonstrators outside waved placards calling him ‘Bliar' and a ‘war criminal'. The poll makes clear that — despite his polished performance at the hearing — similarly trenchant views are shared by the country at large.” But even some of the commentators splattering the inquiry with scorn appeared to believe that the old duffers just hadn’t been up to it, that they resembled a squabble of arthritic geriatrics in boxing gloves trying to grab hold of a particularly slithery eel. This seems to me both too kind and not kind enough. I think they were simply doing, and doing as well as they could, the job they had been appointed to do.

Some might balk at my own suggested opening gambit: “Could you provide us, Mr Blair, with a single reason we should believe a word that comes out of your mouth?” Too direct, perhaps. But our dog could have done better that Sir John Chilcot and the dozy satraps alongside him — and our dog is dead.

In the absence for the moment of any more constructive alternative, Monbiot’s plan may be the best on offer.

It would be appropriate, perhaps, if Blair were to have his collar felt on his next visit here, where, even as the invasion was being primed for launch in March 2003, he was swanning around Hillsborough Castle putting the finishing (!) touches to the peace process while nipping out every now and again to check that the plan for mass-murder was on track.

One word of caution: if you do try to cuff him, don’t descend to his level. No rough stuff, eh?

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