UK Politics

Blair on the US vote

Blair gives his first reaction to Bush’s re-election in an interview with The Times:

“President Bush is there for four years. In a way some people are in a sort of state of denial,” he said. “The election has happened, America has spoken, the rest of the world should listen.” He did, however, add: “It is important that America listens to the rest of the world too.”

He described as quite unbelievable some of the coverage: “The suggestion almost that how can America go and vote for President Bush?” Instead, “It is a good idea to listen to what they are saying and to try and analyse and understand it.”

The American view of the threat that the US faced after September 11 is “not some instinctive trigger-happy reaction, it is a reflective and considered view”, Mr Blair said. “Now, they may be right or wrong. I happen to think it is right, but it is a view that is worthy of serious debate, rather than condemning people who take that view as either liars, warmongers or idiots. I hope one thing that happens in the aftermath of the election is that we start to get a sensible debate about why people in America feel as they do.”

…..In his view, neo-conservatives are not a world away from the progressive Left. “That is part of the argument we should be able to agree with,” he said. “When the Americans say we want to extend democracy to these countries, or extend democracy and human rights throughout the Middle East in the Greater Middle East Initiative, people say, well, that is part of the neo-conservative agenda. Actually, if you put it in different language, it is a progressive agenda.”

He acknowledged a difference with the US over the treatment of British prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. “If we cannot get the guarantees on the process, and we don’t believe the process is satisfactory at the moment, then they will have to come back.” His concerns extend to all prisoners there. “I have always said it (Guantanamo) is an anomaly and at some point it has to be resolved. It is important that we make sure that there are proper legal norms that are obeyed.”

Britain plays only a small role in trying to contain the North Korean nuclear threat, where Mr Blair’s views were sharp. He called the human rights issues massive, and said: “I find that one of the most — I was going to say offensive — I certainly find it one of the strangest phenomena that in all the protests I get outside the gates of Downing Street, and there is a new one every day, I don’t think there are any about North Korea, despite the fact that the people there live in a form of semi-slavery.”

I know I’ve said it so often but I never really admired Blair until September 11, I certainly never felt proud that he was leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister and I still have disagreements with parts of his domestic policy.

But when it comes to, well I don’t like the phrase ‘single issue’ because the struggles interationally are much more than that and that dull diplomatic title ‘foreign policy’ is also insufficient, so when it comes to the most important global issues of our day, all I can say is – four more years.

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