Why won’t Tony Blair leave us alone?
Since leaving office, Tony Blair has started to resemble one of those ambulance-chasing, no-win no-fee lawyers. Trouble in the Middle East? Brexit negotiations on the rocks? Struck down by the plague? Blair will be there in a flash.
It’s been a strange journey for him after he left No10. Just as dogs return to their vomit, as the Bible reliably informs us, Blair’s first mission was to revisit the mess he made in the Middle East. The instigator of numerous military misadventures went as a ‘peace envoy’, no less. He spent much of this time advising dictators for shedloads of cash.
But after the Brexit vote, it became clear that most of his unfinished business was in Britain. He became a prominent Brexit-wrecker. Not only was he never off the television – demanding a reversal of the largest democratic vote in British history – but he also tried to influence things behind the scenes.
At one point he was holding secret talks with French president Emmanuel Macron, telling him to stand his ground in the UK-EU negotiations in order to prevent a so-called Hard Brexit (aka actually leaving the EU in the spirit of the Leave vote). Perhaps it was the dictators who were really advising Mr Blair?
But while his contempt for democracy was what shone through in that populist period, it is his contempt for liberty that has come to the fore during the pandemic.
Blair’s latest wheeze is that he wants Britain to lead the global push for so-called vaccine passports. His think tank, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, has been invited to meetings with Michael Gove, the minister leading the government’s review into ‘Covid status certificates’.
These sound an awful lot like one of Blair’s earlier failed schemes – ID cards – but worse.
Gove himself was a fierce opponent of Blair’s ID-cards push. He presciently warned that: ‘Once powers are yielded to the state at moments of crisis or emergency, it’s very rarely the case that the state hands them back.’ Just a few months ago, Gove appeared to rule out the prospect of vaccine passports in unequivocal terms. Has a whisper in his ear from Blair changed his mind?
One thing we can be sure of is that if vaccine passports become a reality, Blair will claim credit. Blair was among the first public figures to call for vaccine passports. But he was also among the first to suggest a 12-week gap between the first and second Covid jab. In December, he won plaudits after he demanded a change in policy to maximise the number of people with at least partial immunity.
When it comes to vaccine passports, despite its frequent denials to the contrary, the government has been exploring the idea for some time – and had already handed out grants to potential developers before Gove’s meeting with the Tony Blair Institute.
But that more complicated story doesn’t fit with the ex-PM’s view of himself as a humanitarian superhero. Back in 2001, long before the coronavirus pandemic, Blair announced his mission on a Mirror front page. ‘I WILL CURE THE WORLD’, he declared. ‘From Afghanistan to Rwanda, Israel to Northern Ireland, the Congo to global warming, the starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, those living in want and squalor… WE CAN SORT IT ALL OUT.’ Despite achieving none of these things, and mainly leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, Blair is always on the hunt for a new humanitarian cause to place himself at the centre of. Now he wants to be seen as the man who conquered Covid.