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Old 05-03-2003, 05:04 PM   #1
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Interesting article about Tony Blair.

I thought this article from today's Times was quite interesting. I'm especially amused at the idea of Blair dismissing his staffers as "a most ungodly lot."

(The article it refers to can be found online at:,00.html but it's too long to post here),00.html

'I'm ready to meet my Maker and answer for those who have died as a result of my decisions'
By Philip Webster, Political Editor

TONY BLAIR believes that he will be called to account for the Iraq War before God, and can justify to his “Maker” decisions which led to hundreds of deaths.
The Prime Minister lays bare the secrets of his soul in a behind-the-scenes account of the Iraq crisis that is published in The Times Magazine today.

The magazine charts Mr Blair’s actions from the inside over 30 days of war. His declaration of faith came on April 2, the day after seven Iraqi women and children were shot dead at a checkpoint.

Asked how he responded to deaths caused as a result of his own actions, Mr Blair admitted to feeling the strain, saying “it really gets to you".

He then cast aside his usual caution about discussing how his religious faith guides his political actions to tell the former Times Editor Peter Stothard that he was ready to meet his Maker and answer before God for “those who have died or have been horribly maimed as a result of my decisions”. Mr Blair nevertheless also accepted that many others who believe in “the same God” may assess that the final judgment will be against him.

The Times account of Mr Blair’s Thirty Days of War reveals the inside story of how the Downing Street machine coped with public hostility to the war, Robin Cook’s resignation, Labour revolts, the demands of diplomacy with President Bush and the pressures of the Middle East peace process.

The Prime Minister gives the most intimate glimpse yet into the strains of leadership, revealing how music and family help him to cope. But it is the role religion plays that will command the greatest attention. The Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman was rebuked for asking the Prime Minister if he and Mr Bush prayed together before meetings, but the centrality of Mr Blair’s faith to his actons is apparent from the Magazine account.

His confidence in the Christian virtue of prosecuting a controversial war is likely to inflame Muslim opinion, which is already firmly against the Gulf conflict.

Mr Blair had to be persuaded to drop the phrase “God Bless You” from his broadcast to the nation at the start of the war. One adviser told him that invoking God’s name would be a mistake because “you are talking to lots of people who don’t want chaplains pushing stuff down their throats”. Mr Blair responded by telling his aides that they were a “most ungodly lot” — but he was finally persuaded and closed his address with the words “thank you”.

Mr Blair has shied away from discussion of his religion after an interview in 1996 when he implied that radical Tory views were inconsistent with Christianity. Even so, his faith has caused controversy. Roman Catholic authorities have objected to his attending Mass with his family.

The account of Mr Blair’s war leadership also reveals the depth of his exasperation with those allies who failed to back him at crunch moments — for example, his fury when he learnt that President Chirac would veto any second resolution permitting an automatic attack on Iraq.

On being told he said: “This is such a foolish thing to do at this moment in the world’s history. The very people who should be strengthening the international institutions are undermining and playing around.” A few days later the two met at a summit in Brussels. The account reveals how M Chirac approaches Mr Blair, detaches him from Alistair Campbell, takes him along an empty corridor and makes his points to Mr Blair. Aides are waved away, but watching from the sidelines is Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor.

The Times account suggests that Mr Bush will take far longer to forgive Herr Schröder than M Chirac over their opposition to the war, a stance that may have far-reaching implications. It suggests that Mr Bush’s team accepts M Chirac never gave anyone his word. He is French and takes a different view. But for Herr Schröder, the mood was not so forgiving. The view at Camp David was that his anti-American language during the German elections was beyond the pale.

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Old 05-03-2003, 05:55 PM   #2
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I read a similar article about Chirac and his diplomats in Le Monde about a month ago. When you read that, you just realize how much the president or the leader of a country relies on his aides and personal assistants. They also talked about the infamous EU summit in Brussels on March 20 - I remember our PM saying the atmosphere was "as cold as ice" and the EU leaders were at each other's throats all the time - and the one who brought Blair and Chirac together at the summit was Catherine Collona, Chirac's secretary - always leave it to the women to solve conflicts.

Anyway, I could write an essay about how Europe should or should not have acted in this conflict, but I'm just going to say it's not only Chirac's or Schröder's fault this got so out of hand: Blair, Aznar and Berlusconi have an equal responsibility.

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Old 05-03-2003, 07:08 PM   #3
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Just for the record, my family in Italy can't stand Berlusconi. They go to demonstrations against his government.
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Old 05-05-2003, 09:03 AM   #4
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Here's a sort of follow-up to that article from yesterday's Observer.,00.html

Unease as Blair lays soul bare

Kamal Ahmed assesses the political fallout of Blair's declaration of faith in 'his Maker'

Sunday May 4, 2003
The Observer

He has been described as messianic, a man who believes himself driven by a higher calling. And yesterday it was revealed that Tony Blair really does put God at the heart of his politics when he admitted in an interview that he will be judged on the Iraq war not only by the electorate and the pages of history but by 'my Maker'.
In a country where church and state are viewed as separate entities, his admission brought both praise and criticism. Matthew Parris, the political commentator and former Tory MP, said Blair was in danger of looking 'somewhat unhinged'. Graham Dale, head of the Christian Socialist Movement of which Blair is a member, said that revealing his genuine beliefs was a positive move for the PM.

But the laying bare of Blair's religious soul will cause consternation among his inner circle. Alastair Campbell, the PM's communications director and one of his closest confidantes, is known to be uncomfortable when Blair speaks about his religious beliefs. Other key officials also believe it 'plays badly' with the public.

Blair has always been cautious about speaking about his faith. He side-stepped questions from Sir David Frost last year and Jeremy Paxman earlier this year who both asked if he prayed with the American President when they met at war summits.

Katie Kay, who lived next door to Blair in Hackney in the 1980s and now works for him in Downing Street, revealed in The Observer last week that he regularly reads the Bible on holiday. He is also known to take an intense interest in other faiths, particularly Islam.

'There has always been an anxiousness,' Dale said when asked about Blair's public declarations on religion, 'particularly when you have had a lot of criticism of the fundamentalist tendencies of the Bush administration. The Prime Minister was anxious at the time of the war that this was not seen as a Christian crusade against Islam.'

Blair made his latest comments in an interview with the Times published yesterday. The death of anyone in war 'really gets to you', Blair told Sir Peter Stothard, the paper's former editor who spent 30 days travelling with the Prime Minister during the Iraq war. Blair said he was ready to 'meet my Maker' and answer for 'those who have died or have been horribly maimed as a result of my decisions'.

The Prime Minister said that those who believed in 'the same God' would understand that there was a final judgment for all Christians.

Stothard said: 'His faith, his deep sense that what he was doing was right and that he was prepared to justify it to anybody was what made him do it. I was completely convinced of the sincerity of it.'

Blair's religious beliefs have regularly put him in the firing line. He was criticised at the launch of Labour's election campaign in 2001 when he was pictured at a school before a stained glass window with a hymn book. Party officials insisted the launch was to promote education. Others were not convinced. 'The appearance of the Prime Minister standing shirt-sleeved with a hymn book in front of a cross and a stained-glass window made him look more like an American television evangelist than an educator,' Alexander Chancellor wrote in the Guardian.

He was also attacked when it was revealed he was taking Catholic communion despite being a member of the Church of England. Blair's wife, Cherie, is a committed Catholic and was instrumental in arranging the couple's private audience with the Pope shortly before the war.

Parris said in an interview with Radio 4's Today programme yesterday: 'He has an unhinged belief, firstly in the purity of his own intention, secondly in the fact that his own good intentions can only lead to good results, and thirdly that he's going to win people over, that he's going to persuade people.

'Prime Ministers ought to take a cool view on the balance of calculations. There is this slightly unhinged optimism that comes from a belief in his own intentions.

'Gladstone used to do this kind of thing. He called it rescue work. He went out into the streets of London and picked up loose women and brought them back and read them the New Testament and then whipped himself afterwards.

'In one of Blair's long time past speeches at a conference, and I think with unconscious mimicry, he actually said that Labour activists who supported him should expect to be reviled in public and he went on in the language of "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and speak all manner of evil against you".

'I think there is a belief that just by demonstrating his own goodness, just by demonstrating the purity of his intentions he will win or, even if he doesn't, he will have won in the eyes of his Maker.'

David Runciman, political scientist at Cambridge University, said it was always difficult when Prime Ministers were pushed to wear their religious beliefs on their sleeves.

'The obvious contrast between Tony Blair and William Gladstone, the Prime Minister to whom he is often compared, is that Blair does like to torture himself in public - Gladstone did this in private,' Runciman said.
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