The Trial of Tony Blair
Last night on More 4 (repeated on Channel 4 on Thursday I think) was the ‘Trial of Tony Blair’, a drama about an egotistical and spin consumed Tony Blair standing trial for the Iraq war in 2010. Gordon Brown is the British PM and Hillary Clinton is US President. Robert Lindsay put in another great performance as Tony Blair with the many comedy moments coming from well-known Blair mannerisms. Just about everyone of any political stripe (including Brown and Cameron – after last year’s negative spin Brown notably comes across as indecisive) gets sent up without going too over-the-top. Blair, a recent and slightly cynical convert to Catholicism, is haunted by the Iraq war. Throughout there is tension and ambiguity as to why he is haunted. There is the problem of the horrifically high numbers of deaths which plays on his mind but also Blair fequently worries about his legacy and how people remember him. In the same scene Blair is almost evoking sympathy through being guilty but then he starts talking about how people will remember him. Repeatedly he talks about Iraq being ‘the right thing to do’ (a very typical phrase).
Tony Blair’s memoirs sounded very entertaining. The publisher did not like them and thought people might think Blair was weird for saying that after a night on intense praying he knew it was right to build a fifth terminal at Heathrow. The Blair phrase ‘the hand of history’ returns too many times in his memoirs. The publisher claimed no one would buy them if they remained so weird. Somehow, I doubt that.
There was some very effective uses of music. For a start they used what is probably my favourite song, at least over many years I never get tired of it, namely The Beat, ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’. The song itself is all about delusion and mental breakdown. And so is used early on as Blair faces himself thinking about all this. Another song used is Johnny Cash, ‘I Hung My Head’, all about the guilt suffered after the murder of an innocent man but with religious redemption as a remaining hope for the life to come.
Other bits of Blairite policy are mocked such as policies involving police powers. One memorable scene was Blair having to wait in Accident and Emergency for 4 hours and complain he was surrounded by blood and shit. He asked why they didn’t go private, Cherie Blair (though self-identifies as Cherie Booth at one crucial moment) says there isn’t a private A&E which leaves Blair puzzled over how he had missed out on that one when in office.
The programme knows that the key thing is, ‘could it really happen?’ The big problem, it seems to me, is that in reality no one would let it happen for the obvious reason that major powers regularly if not always have an aggressive and probably not legal foreign policy. If one goes, so they all go. This was one of the problems here in the UK over a trial for Pinochet (who gets a notable mention in the programme) was that there was a worry others might follow, e.g. Thatcher (who gave a heart-warming defence – still in real life by the way – of her old mass murdering friend). And surely there is no way the US would allow a former president to face similar charges. The programme gets around this (as did the US in real life?!) by pointing out that the US does not recognise the International Criminal Court. Moreover, the (Hillary) Clinton administration won’t back Blair for internal political reasons, namely worries about anti-war feeling among the electorate, and not for any idealism. Similarly in the UK Brown won’t veto the arrest of Blair due to behind-the-scene wrangling, electorate worries, defining a new Brown era, and even revenge for Blair’s behaviour in the 2010 election (Blair was worried that Brown might get a bigger majority than he did so leaked a damaging email).
But even so – and this is the real problem – would any leader of a powerful country really allow such a thing? Once one big western name can be done for illegalities at the international level, then so can another and given the history of international intervention and support, it would be a radically different western leader who did not do something they shouldn’t have done in terms of foreign intervention. Still, should the media want astronomical ratings then the real trial of Blair would certainly pull them in.