Tony Blair is going to see if he can export his image internationally. In 1997, he was able to sell the Labour Party to the UK largely on spin, and John Major and the Conservatives handed over a strong economy as they lost the General Election.
Blair understands that image works, that few will inquire into the true substance. Major discovered that despite being the nice guy of politics and, in person, particularly passionate. A pity, then, that it never translated on to the screen as he was portrayed as the grey man. While there are questions over peerages with the Blair years, his best refuge is international politics. Regardless of the result, he has several things in his favour and he may continue to appear squeaky clean. Never mind that he has been the ﬁrst PM to be questioned by the police in a criminal investigation—few but the diehard anti-Labour types seem to be passionate about that fact.
While most elder statesmen, including a relatively young Bill Clinton when he left ofﬁce, go on speaking tours and inspire people to do the things they did not do while leading their countries, Blair can hold his head up high and adopt a “man of action” image as a peace envoy.
For image’s sake, he probably doesn’t need full support from all sides in Palestine. It’s enough in the west that he has some support, namely from President Abbas.
The fact he does not have voters or an Opposition to appease means that he can probably say things that are on his mind with less regard to political correctness.
But, most of all, Blair understands that he is in a unique position as a former PM with expertise on spin. The man is portrayed as likeable by most western media. If he is not successful, then it may not be a grave matter to his overall image: the media and the public are likely to put any failures down to Hamas and Fatah (or just the region in general, with no regard to its many cultures), not to Mr Blair.
And then he might consider going on his speaking tours. Although I hope not. Too many leaders have gone down that route and Mr Blair has a genuine chance to show that he can implement his ideas after he leaves ofﬁce, rather than merely talk about them. He also has a chance to prove that he is more than a master of spin, and that he genuinely cares about world peace. This is a more lasting legacy than anything he could muster in his 10 years at Number 10. His ﬁnal year in ofﬁce may have been driven largely by his ideals—the Blairites will say that it was a genuine expression from a man who wishes to leave a true legacy; his critics will say that it was yet another exercise in image. History, one hopes, will judge him fairly and that he will encounter success as an agent for peace in Palestine. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:47
While I like Tony Blair, I don't think he is going to have any success in the Middle East. There is far too much hatred on the Arab side. Plus, the peace the Palestinians want i.e. the end of Israel will never be accepted by the Israelis who have as much right to live there as the Palestinians.
Thanks, Ron. It is going to be a tough task, to be sure. (I needed to straighten my thoughts as this post was a prelude to my Listening Post clip for al-Jazeera.)
Hi Jack - I think you're spot on with your 'image' point, and Major is as good an example as any... but I would question your assertion of Blairs squeaky-clean image. The cash for honours scandal aside, he's also pretty much thrown up his hands and admitted he knew about BAE bribing Saudi Princes to grease arms deals. And of course, there's that pesky little war in Iraq, the dodgy dossiers, manipulation of intelligence and blatant partisan white-washings thereof. And then the failure to call for a ceasefire when Israel decimated Lebenon. However pragmatic (or apathetic) we may be about these issues in the west, they will have forever tarnished his diplomatic credentials in the Middle East. Maybe not with Abbas, but with the people who matter - the people. All the best to him though - I liked him until he sold his soul. Bill Clinton did hit the lecture circuit after his highly successful presidency, but he has done more to raise money and profile for the issues around AIDS and medication for Africa than anyone else. Clinton for Africa, Gore for the environment, Blair for the Middle East -I'd rather Blair and Clinton switched roles, but on the surface, we could have a world-saving dream team here!
You never know, Steve. I hope they will make positive impact, too. I also agree that Bill Clinton could be a very good candidate for the Middle East, especially having followed some of his speeches after he left ofﬁce.Post a Comment
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