Time the ‘Bliar’ stalkers got a life
The weird clique of radical protesters following the former PM around are not only sad, but hypocrites to boot.
It is now over five years since Tony Blair resigned as UK prime minister. To many, myself included, it seems a lot longer. But for one sad gang of individuals, it’s as if he never left. At almost every public event to which Blair turns up, there is often a handful of radical protesters determined to shame and shout at him, or, better still, conduct a citizen’s arrest.
One of this coterie of Blair obsessives is 49-year-old filmmaker David Lawley-Wakelin, who in May disrupted Blair’s appearance at the Leveson Inquiry by politely raising his voice, to say: ‘Excuse me, this man should be arrested for war crimes!’ Last week, in front of a gallery full of supporters, Lawley-Wakelin was fined £100 by Haringey Magistrates’ Court for ‘causing alarm or distress’ to Leveson and Blair.
Lawley-Wakelin is the latest in a long line of Blair stalkers. Indeed, there are websites that now encourage the harassment of Blair, most notably www.arrestblair.org, which offers a financial incentive to those who attempt a citizen’s arrest. Four people have been awarded prize money so far. Earlier this year, for example, Tom Grundy attempted to arrest Blair in Hong Kong while he was delivering a lecture on faith. In 2010, a protester made a failed attempt to arrest him during his appearance at the Chilcot Inquiry. The Guardian has recently interviewed a protester who attempted an arrest during the launch of Blair’s autobiography (she was duly ignored). In preparation, the would-be arrester told the Guardian that ‘she watched footage of the first night of Baghdad’s bombardment, when “shock and awe” lit the night sky, and her heart was set’.
What a bizarre image. Protesters watching historical footage of a war that took place almost 10 years ago to get themselves into the right frame of mind. Such an exercise brings home the anti-political nature of the anti-Blair protesters, and their seeming obliviousness to contemporary events. Did it, for example, even cross Lawley-Wakelin’s mind that he could have made a political statement about the censorious nature of the Leveson Inquiry and its implications for a free press? Probably not. Instead, Lawley-Wakelin chose to ignore all context and play the role of a ghost haunting Blair for historical crimes committed when he decided to invade Iraq in 2003.
These protesters are not just anti-political, however; they are also anti-democratic. Many of those who attempt to arrest Blair recite a tired mantra about him having broken the rules of the Geneva conventions and needing to be put on trial at The Hague – a sentiment recently echoed by anti-Apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu.
In calling for Blair to be tried for ‘crimes against peace’, protesters reveal their contempt for much of the UK populace. Their approach, in essence, says that all the people who voted for Blair in 2005, even after the Iraq War, are irrelevant. Now groups like the Blair War Crimes Foundation are trying to win signatories to a petition calling for ‘the United Nations General Assembly and the UK Attorney General to uphold the UN Charter, the Geneva and Hague Conventions, and international law, and to indict Tony Blair for war crimes’.
When asked which sins ‘Bliar’ should atone for, the same response plays like a broken record: for lying about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, which was used as dodgy, illegal grounds to go to war. (Ironically, as John Rentoul has traced in the Independent, it was the Tories who first obsessively used the ‘Bliar’ tag, before tiring of it and seemingly handing it over to radical protesters, who still use it as if it’s in some way witty.)
It is telling that you don’t hear a peep from these protesters about Blair’s earlier intervention in Kosovo, the conflict where he first moralised warfare and developed his sense of missionary zeal. Instead of a proper critique of the development of British ‘humanitarian’ war and ethical foreign policy, the anti-Blair crew is content with petty posturing against an individual, one who is now a now hated – but largely irrelevant – figure on the world stage. Blair has become, for them, a kind of voodoo doll to stick pins into.
Hence, when asked why they persist in attempting to engage in Blair-stalking at every opportunity, the protesters’ answers seem tired. One ‘retired paintings conservator’ told the Guardian that one reason why he follows Blair around is that ‘you build up relationships with the people you are working with’. A founder of the Blair War Crimes Foundation admits that he has used up a lot of his energy bugging Blair, and that his dwindling number of supporters gets him down. But he still clings to the occasional message of support from the likes of Tutu, in the deluded hope that a ‘turning point’ in their campaign will come.
It seems that chasing Blair provides the lonely Bliar obsessives with a point to their lives. Yet, as hard as it may be for them to acknowledge, they need to let go. For their anti-political haranguing of Blair is about as pointless as it gets.
Patrick Hayes is a columnist for spiked.
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