If Jeremy Corbyn is the people’s prince, then Tony Blair is the village troll.
For the politically minded members of my generation, these two public figures represent everything that should and shouldn’t be in politics. Corbyn must relish every word Blair says against him – comfortable in the knowledge that every syllable uttered is another voter in his pocket. When it comes to condemning the former three-term PM, the consensus is a broad one.
The Chilcot Inquiry began in 2009. It will examine the run-up to, execution of, and fallout from the Iraq invasion by the coalition of the willing – but what everyone wants to know is whether it provides evidence for the trial of Tony Blair. Last week it was announced that the concluding report would again be delayed. It certainly hasn’t rattled along with the pace of a Leverson train.
The complexity and scale of the affair is a major obstacle, but the most recent delays have been blamed on the ‘Maxwellisation’ process. This gives people the right and means to respond to criticism in what is actually just standard legal practice. Chilcot described it as “essential in the interests of natural justice and freedom.” However, this has failed to convince the media or the politicians, whose calls for the report to be released have become all the more urgent. It may well be that the Chilcot Inquiry mirrors the ineptitude of the invasion that it’s meant to examine.
Many of those born around the turn of the millennium are convinced of this natural fit. The passing of time only seems to build a growing sense of outrage, with many ready to discount the report entirely. Twitter regularly informs me that it is nothing more than a national scandal. The fact that the report definitely will criticise Blair and co. does nothing to sate the young retweeters of “#arrestblair”. The pressure for the report to deliver evidence is nothing compared to the demands of those who would send Blair straight to The Hague.
Why is this significant though? Most people think that Tony Blair is a war criminal – by the Daily Mail’s estimate every four in five people.
It is significant because while I grew up alongside the Chilcot Inquiry, I was only a single-digit infant when the Iraq War began. The same applies to friends of mine across the political spectrum – and whether Plaid Cymru activists or Tory supporters – the majority of my generation have already decided that Tony Blair is a war criminal. But why wouldn’t they? Remember that at the turn of the century, students like me where still playing tag in the playground. Crucially, we have none of the guilt and all of the outrage. Of course we would have been out protesting on the streets! Of course we would have been outraged at the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998! And of course we’d have also opposed the intervention in Kosovo and Sierra Leone… I hope this is a gross simplification on my part – I can only speak from experience. Overall, my generation has already decided that Tony Blair is a war criminal. The coverage of the Middle East does seen to make any other position untenable. We are fuelled by the opinions of those who lived through those times and naturally have very firm views. We were never exposed to the debate that preceded the invasion. Our minds have been made up for us. Maybe we do view Blair’s actions with the same nuance as the ‘Stop the War Coalition’, but the optimist in me hopes this is not the case, and the cynic in me thinks that Blair is merely an easy target.
Maybe the inquiry’s conclusions will reveal this piece to be naive. Irrespective of the minority I find myself in – I do not believe Blair is a war criminal – I will nevertheless wait until the report is published before making my final judgment. This is little solace for Blair, not only because I’m a nobody, but because his trial by media has already condemned him to infamy. The aftermath of the inquiry will see a noose filled; the only question is who’s legs will be left dangling – Blair’s or Chilcot’s?