Still No Apologies as Mr Blair Rewrites History (Again) and Denies Any Blame for Britain's Social Ills

Daily Mail (London), August 22, 2011 | Go to article overview

Still No Apologies as Mr Blair Rewrites History (Again) and Denies Any Blame for Britain's Social Ills


Byline: by Stephen Glover

HOW MUCH better it would have been if Tony Blair had agreed to give an interview to yesterday's Observer rather than write a myopic, self-serving piece about the recent riots. But then he would have never consented to have been put on the spot.

Any interviewer worth his salt would have asked him whether New Labour should not accept a large part of the blame for what happened two weeks ago. It ruled this country for 13 years -- much of the time with huge parliamentary majorities and little opposition in the Press -- and Mr Blair was Prime Minister for almost exactly a decade.

At the very least, so any competent interviewer would have suggested, Tony Blair and New Labour failed to address the social ills that lay behind the unprecedentedly extensive civil unrest. In fact, I would go further, and argue that they did not merely allow problems to fester but, as a result of several short-sighted political decisions, contrived to make them worse.

Childish

Needless to say, there was not a shred of awareness of any shortcomings, let alone admission of failure, on Mr Blair's part in his article yesterday. Of course, by no means all of his analysis was wrong-headed. Nor, to his credit, did he repeat the childish accusations of some current members of the Shadow Cabinet, who blame specific cuts for the unrest even though they have not yet been applied.

The former Prime Minister was surely correct in writing that 'many of the people are from families that are profoundly dysfunctional, operating on completely different terms from the rest of society, either middle-class or poor'. He says at the end of his time in government he had come to realise that the solution was intervention, family by family, though he appears to have a dig at Gordon Brown for resisting proposed reforms.

But wasn't it a bit late in the day, after ten long years in government, for Mr Blair to have woken up to the nature of the problem, as well as the right solution? A more self-aware man would have apologised for leaving reform so late, and then not achieving it. But there are no apologies from Mr Blair, and if there is any blame it is directed at 'a constant backdrop of opposition' which prevented him from belatedly tackling the problem.

In any case, there is a danger in locating the root cause of the violence, as Mr Blair does, in a small number of families. There has been enough evidence coming out of the courts over the past week to suggest that at least some of the rioters and looters came from backgrounds which in economic terms are relatively privileged. Moreover, there were many from deprived families who chose to stay at home, and took no part in the riots.

That implies to me that there was a wider 'moral failure' which David Cameron has rightly identified, but whose very existence Mr Blair questions in his article. It suits him, of course, to deny that there is some sort of general moral decline or a 'broken society' because New Labour so manifestly failed to address these problems during its 13 years in office. Far better, from Mr Blair's point of view, to pretend they don't exist.

If he had been honest, he would have examined the consequences of his failure to live up to the priorities he set himself before taking office when he said that what mattered was 'education, education, education'. Yet although spending on education more than doubled in real terms during the Labour years, standards rose much less dramatically, and in some cases went down. …

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Still No Apologies as Mr Blair Rewrites History (Again) and Denies Any Blame for Britain's Social Ills
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