Tony Blair decries "conspiracy theories" about Iraq

Where? On Fox News.

In a recent feature that I wrote for the New Statesman, on Tony Blair and the Chilcot inquiry, I quoted Sir Rodric Braithwaite, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), describing how our former PM "has lost all political credibility": "He sticks to the American right and media."

So imagine my (lack of) surprise to see ol' Tone running to his neocon friends at Fox News (Fox News!) to cry and complain about how horrid the beastly British people have been to him over Iraq:

Asked on US television why the UK had held a succession of such probes into the invasion, Mr Blair said: "I think it's partly because we have this curious habit -- I don't think this is confined to Britain actually -- where people find it hard to come to the point where they say: we disagree; you're a reasonable person, I'm a reasonable person, but we disagree.

"There's always got to be a scandal as to why you hold your view. There's got to be some conspiracy behind it, some great deceit that's gone on, and people just find it hard to understand that it's possible for people to have different points of view and hold them . . . for genuine reasons. There's a continual desire to sort of uncover some great conspiracy when actually there's a decision at the heart of it, but there it is," he told the Huckabee show on Fox News.

First, "deceit" has gone on. It doesn't matter if Alastair Campbell sheds tears on Marr, or Blair bleats on Huckabee; the evidence is overwhelming.

Second, conspiracy theories feed on secrecy -- Blair presided over one of the most secretive administrations in recent times. Even now, the Chilcot inquiry is prevented from making public key documents related to the build-up to war in 2002 and 2003.

Third, it's a bit rich for Blair to go on Fox News and complain about conspiracy theories when that network is the home of conspiracy theories, especially about President Obama -- from the Birther nonsense, to the Islamophobic fear-mongering about him being a Muslim, to the health-care "death panels".

David Hughes's take on Blair and his latest ridiculous comments is spot-on:

What a terrible disappointment we must be to our former prime minister. All this pretty straight kind of guy ever wanted to do was what was right, or at least what he believed to be right, which is not necessarily the same thing. Yet in his selfless quest to make the world a better place, he just kept coming up against the innate suspicion of an unworthy British people.

. . . has it dawned on him that his conduct of government that so outraged the Butler inquiry -- decisions taken by a clique of cronies, sensitive items never minuted, the cabinet (let alone parliament) kept out of the loop -- actually feeds into the idea that something fishy was going on? Apparently not. Blair is beginning to cut a rather pathetic figure, less the world statesman, more the lounge-bar bore who just cannot resist telling you what a raw deal he's had.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Four times Owen Smith has made sexist comments

The Labour MP for Pontypridd and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership rival has been accused of misogynist remarks. Again.

2016

Wanting to “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”

During a speech at a campaign event, Owen Smith blithely deployed some aggressive imagery about attacking the new Prime Minister. In doing so, he included the tired sexist trope beloved of the right wing press about Theresa May’s shoes – her “kitten heels” have long been a fascination of certain tabloids:

“I’ll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When called out on his comments by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Smith doubled down:

“They love a bit of rhetoric, don’t they? We need a bit more robust rhetoric in our politics, I’m very much in favour of that. You’ll be getting that from me, and I absolutely stand by those comments. It’s rhetoric, of course. I don’t literally want to smash Theresa May back, just to be clear. I’m not advocating violence in any way, shape or form.”

Your mole dug around to see whether this is a common phrase, but all it could find was “set back on one’s heels”, which simply means to be shocked by something. Nothing to do with “smashing”, and anyway, Smith, or somebody on his team, should be aware that invoking May’s “heels” is lazy sexism at best, and calling on your party to “smash” a woman (particularly when you’ve been in trouble for comments about violence against women before – see below) is more than casual misogyny.

Arguing that misogyny in Labour didn’t exist before Jeremy Corbyn

Smith recently told BBC News that the party’s nastier side only appeared nine months ago:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Luckily for Smith, he had never experienced misogyny in his party until the moment it became politically useful to him… Or perhaps, not being the prime target, he simply wasn’t paying enough attention before then?

2015

Telling Leanne Wood she was only invited on TV because of her “gender”

Before a general election TV debate for ITV Wales last year, Smith was caught on camera telling the Plaid Cymru leader that she only appeared on Question Time because she is a woman:

Wood: “Have you ever done Question Time, Owen?”

Smith: “Nope, they keep putting you on instead.”

Wood: “I think with party balance there’d be other people they’d be putting on instead of you, wouldn’t they, rather than me?”

Smith: “I think it helps. I think your gender helps as well.”

Wood: “Yeah.”

2010

Comparing the Lib Dems’ experience of coalition to domestic violence

In a tasteless analogy, Smith wrote this for WalesHome in the first year of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition:

“The Lib Dem dowry of a maybe-referendum on AV [the alternative vote system] will seem neither adequate reward nor sufficient defence when the Tories confess their taste for domestic violence on our schools, hospitals and welfare provision.

“Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

But never fear! He did eventually issue a non-apology for his offensive comments, with the classic use of “if”:

“I apologise if anyone has been offended by the metaphorical reference in this article, which I will now be editing. The reference was in a phrase describing today's Tory and Liberal cuts to domestic spending on schools and welfare as metaphorical ‘domestic violence’.”

***

A one-off sexist gaffe is bad enough in a wannabe future Labour leader. But your mole sniffs a worrying pattern in this list that suggests Smith doesn’t have a huge amount of respect for women, when it comes to political rhetoric at least. And it won’t do him any electoral favours either – it makes his condemnation of Corbynite nastiness ring rather hollow.

I'm a mole, innit.