The government’s anti-extremism Prevent strategy has for the first time ever appointed an official to examine “young people’s involvement in the racist far-right.” (August 25, Leicester Mercury) This is a welcome change from the Prevent programmes unrelenting focus on Islamic extremism. However, extremists do not only hail from the far-right, but from the centre of politics too.
Tony Blair’s life provides many indicators for those keen to scrutinize the processes of radicalisation, and lessons can be learned from his shocking example that might help us prevent such tragedies being repeated in the future.
Blair’s ideological transformation began early with a severe case of separation anxiety after being forced to board at Fettes College, the Scottish equivalent of Eton.
At Fettes, Blair was groomed to believe he was part of an elite – a select few who were destined to rule. Later, in the Cloisters at Oxford University, Blair would associate with a foreign (Australian) priest who revived his interest in religion: the world now began to make sense to this easily influenced and impressionable student.
In 1976, Blair met his wife-to-be, Cherie Booth, a zealous human rights activist from a broken family, and together their lives were soon utterly changed by Blair’s obsession to right the world. Politics now consumed the committed duos every waking moment.
Soon Blair gained his first taste of power; and in seizing the Labour Party by the scruff of its neck, he forced through his own dogmatically non-socialist views against the wishes of many of its members. If you weren’t with Blair, he said you were against him and his faithful… in fact you were the enemy within.
Around this time Blair would establish a troubling relationship with a powerful foreign (Australian) media mogul known well for a personal love of all things authoritarian.
Just before assuming power in 1997, Blair revealed to his friends at Britain’s biggest arms company that he was “committed to creating the conditions in which the defence industries can thrive and prosper.”
Keeping his warmongers promise, he quickly sidled up to the fundamentalist despots running Saudi Arabia. Then, in late 1998, facing overwhelming evidence in the House of Commons that the sanctions he supported against Iraq were directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, Blair callously rejected any links between sanctions and suffering.
Where once Blair may have possessed a heart, a terrible reverse heart transplant evidently took place. But despite his deathly demeanour, Blair’s personal channel to the spiritual realm continued to give him the sustenance he needed to ignore any evidence (and world opinion) and launch illegal wars upon Afghanistan and Iraq — leaving over one million dead.
Blair’s tragic journey from innocence to extremism is perhaps best exemplified by his recent employment as an advisor to the dictatorship that rules Kazakhstan with a bloody fist.
Yet sadly it seems that the lessons that should have been learned from this woeful story of radicalisation are going ignored. This is all too apparent by the recent spate of Blairite politicians seeking to continue evangelising Blair’s doctrine of intolerance.
Preventing extremism may be a government priority, but if they are really serious about tackling terrorism maybe they should take a look in the mirror.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 26th August. Published on 4th September as “Extremism lurks in the political centre” (bold text shown above was edited out from the letter).