27th May 2012
“His [Cohen’s] love of
money his own opinion has brought down the worst fate that could have befallen him. He now has the manners and morals of his opponents”
With a flourish of moral rectitude that would do Polly Toynbee or Richard Norton-Taylor proud, the inestimable Nick Cohen announced to a Leveson-awaiting world that “Tony Blair’s moral decline and fall is now complete”
“now complete”? Whereas before now it was incomplete? Semi-complete? Half-way there? Why hasn’t Mr Cohen mentioned this decline and fall state of lack of grace before? Why now? Straw that broke the camel’s back? Though the story broke weeks ago?
You might say that comment is unremarkable. True, if it had come from any one of a number of Guardian/Observer journalists. But from Nick Cohen!? Cohen who invariably defends Blair’s foreign policy stances? Cohen, who like Blair recognises there is a serious and long-term threat from fundamentalist Islamism? Cohen, who seems to rail against Old Labour-leftism as much as the average Blairite?
The very same Nick Cohen.
FINISHED AS A FORCE FOR GOOD IN POLITICAL JOURNALISM?
Until today I had a lot of time for Nick Cohen. He had slipped into the garb of the late, much-lamented Christopher Hitchens almost imperceptibly. Now he seems to have decided the skin of the other brother fits him to a “t”.
The sub-heading to his article is that ‘Tony Blair’s willingness to prop up the brutal Kazakhstan regime shames the one-time champion of democracy’
“…shames the one-time champion…” indeed? These few words raise two questions:
1. Why “shames”? Because there may well be some financial reward in it? I am forever reminded that democracy and the freedom to express opinions in a democracy do not come free. Yet we moan when we are asked to pay 50p per year for it. I am also frequently reminded that we underestimate the value of our democracies. Yet most non-democracies REALLY know how to keep their people in fear and poverty. And I am now reminded, thanks to Cohen, that unless democracy is seen as always free and forever free, democracy itself is seen to have no intrinsic value. In fact if money is attached in ANY way it is evidently valueless. Tell that to American presidential candidates. Each and every multi-millionaire of them.
2. Why “the one-time champion”? Tony Blair is working with several nascent democracies in African countries towards greater, better governance. And he is bringing together peoples of different religious faith in the high ambition of better understanding and developing more open (democratic) principles to how they live their religious lives and how they view and treat others.
Despite the mentions of the good stuff, Cohen’s traducement is clear and single-minded. As an experienced journalist he should know that –
TEN GOOD THOUGHTS DO NOT OUTWEIGH ONE BAD ONE
Although his article does remind us of the good that Tony Blair did in many lands the reader is left with only ONE impression: whatever good Blair ever did he is now only in the business of making dosh, and lots of it, from wherever and from whomsoever it is offered. Perhaps, some might say and some might even be right, it was always thus. Moral values, judgement and principles come poor also-rans in Blair’s priorities, we are led to believe. Heard this before? Yes, all the time from the extremes of left and right who have no time for Mr Blair and will do all in their power to castigate him.
Cohen has scribed nothing less than a total repudiation of all that one might describe as his previous admiration or even respect for the former prime minister. And he ends with another wordy flourish. Tony Blair’s –
“love of money has brought down the worst fate that could have befallen him. He now has the manners and morals of his opponents. He has become a George Galloway with a Learjet at his disposal.”
THE LEARJET-FLYING ‘GEORGE GALLOWAY’ RESPONDS
Tony Blair’s Office felt the need to respond to this outburst of Toynbeeism. To be fair to Mr Cohen I think the TB Office response grappled with the wrong end of the stick. They said –
“However, the analogy which the column makes between Kazakhstan and Iraq under Saddam or Serbia under Milosevic is totally unfair.”
I did not read Mr Cohen’s column as comparing Iraq or Serbia to Kazakhstan in any way which underrated Blair’s earlier actions. Nick Cohen’s point at that juncture in the article was not as criticism for comparison but simply that once upon a time (in his opinion) Blair behaved well and for good reasons, even if his critics did not think so:
“Historians trying to capture the hypocrisy of Britain in the first decade of the 21st century may note, as we [Blairites] did, that Blair’s opponents turned on him not for allowing the banks to run riot but for insisting that Britain should play its part in stopping the civil war in Sierra Leone, in ensuring that Slobodan Milosevic could not ethnically cleanse Kosovo, in helping throw the Taliban out of Kabul and in saying that after 24 years of occasionally genocidal rule, Saddam Hussein must be removed from power.”
Blair & Cohen do not disagree on the need to remove Milosevic or Saddam. The main issue of concern as far as Cohen is concerned is the financial reward that Tony Blair seems to attract wherever he goes and whatever he does. An easy target in these times of austerity for the rest of us.
Mr Cohen tweeted me earlier that I should go out and enjoy the sunset as I has already tweeted him on this issue “about 30 times”.
The sun also rises and tomorrow is a big day for Tony Blair at the Leveson Inquiry. Mr Cohen’s remarks have not gone unnoticed in Twitterchitterchatterland. In fact I may make a little list of those inspired by his over-important article. Well over 30, I’d guess. But I warn Nick Cohen, they will NOT make pleasant bed-mates for him as he leaps presumably already flea-bitten from the arms of his erstwhile Blairite chums.
Perhaps tomorrow, as he rises to watch Mr Blair at the Leveson Inquiry with the rest of the twitterchatterati, he will get out of the right side of his bed.
Sunday, May 27, 2012 in Office of Tony Blair
On 27th May 2012, The Observer ran a column by Nick Cohen under the headline, Tony Blair’s moral decline and fall is now complete. The Office of Tony Blair issued the following statement in response:
“As Tony Blair made clear in his speech in Astana this week, there are real issues to do with political, judicial and human rights reform.
“However, the analogy which the column makes between Kazakhstan and Iraq under Saddam or Serbia under Milosevic is totally unfair. Saddam took a country that in the late 60s was on a par with South Korea and made it an economic basket case despite oil, with a child mortality rate the same as the Congo; started two major wars with over 1m casualties; used chemical weapons to wipe out thousands of his own people in a single day. Milosevic was engaged in systematic ethnic cleansing against the Muslim population of Kosovo.
“Under President Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan has increased the income per head of its people 10 times or more; he renounced nuclear weapons and dismantled them, something for which he was recently praised by President Obama. Despite being sandwiched between the giants of Russia and China he has remained a good ally of the West, vital to the effort in Afghanistan.
“Therefore, the work we are doing is precisely to boost the reform programme which is already underway and is consistent with the demands made of President Nazarbayev by the international community.”
Earlier this week, Tony Blair delivered a speech to university students in Astana where he spoke about the challenge of political reform for Kazakhstan. Read it here.
Watch Tony Blair at the Leveson Inquiry from 10:00am – 4:30pm tomorrow, Monday 28th May.
I must admit this post by Nick Cohen on Thursday was one I did not feel the need to retweet ‘Don’t Trust the West‘
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