Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Blair's reputation is not enhanced

Remarkably for someone who has been out of office for a significant period of time, Tony Blair continues to attract criticism from a wide range of people to the point where he is regarded by many as something of a hate figure.

It is partly due to his policies, especially his decision to go to war in Iraq and then broaden the conflict to Afghanistan, but also due to his personality. He has a Messianic zeal about him which grates with many people.

Anyone who watched his interview on television last night following publication of his memoirs will have seen a man unwaveringly certain that everything he did was correct, even if the evidence on the Middle Eastern war and the economy would suggest differently.

Indeed, he came dangerously close to implying that the west has a natural enemy in some forms of Islam, the sort of simplistic jingoism trumpeted after the horrific events of 9/11. Quite how he will square those sentiments with his desire to be seen now as an international diplomat will be interesting to watch.

There is no doubt that Blair was a supreme politician with all the strengths - and weaknesses - that that entails. He made Labour electable by adopting policies far from its socialist past and, as he admitted in his memoirs, he used all his artful guile to seal the peace deal in Northern Ireland. Essentially he told the parties what they wanted to hear even if it was not strictly true. Perhaps it took that sort of subterfuge to bring diametrically opposed parties together and restore devolved government, but it doesn't exactly cement faith in the principles of the man.

Politics is a dirty business - describing it as the art of the possible is euphemistic in the extreme - and those, like Blair, who hold the highest offices are bound to bend the rules on occasion for the greater good. But in his case, it often seemed that Blair would do whatever it took to achieve his own aims and visions. Those who regard him even yet with suspicion will have learned nothing yesterday to make them change their mind.

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