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Monday, August 07, 2006

Blackburn blues

Liberal England draws attention to speculation in the Mail on Sunday that Jack Straw was sacked as Foreign Secretary because Condi Rice thought he was a bit suspect:

A US source told The Mail on Sunday: "Mr Straw's views did not find favour in the White House and its concerns were passed on to the British Government.

"It was revealed last week by a senior aide to media mogul Rupert Murdoch that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was shocked to learn of the influence of Muslims in Mr Straw's constituency when she visited Blackburn with him during a tour of Britain in April.

Four weeks after her visit, Mr Straw was mysteriously fired..."

The Bush team worried about the problems a British Foreign Minister faced when he depended for office on an electorate with a heavy Muslim component - something Rice noticed on her visit," said Mr Stelzer.

It is difficult to say if this is true or not of course, but it does capture the mood that Bush is fighting a religious crusade rather than a war against terrorism. In such a conflict there can be no mixed loyalties. Blair's adherence to this agenda is worrying and completely at odds with our liberal traditions.
Unfortunately Blair doesn't appear to understand our liberal traditions, or if he does he thinks them not worth preserving.

He is a classic case of the politician's delusion: He is convinced he knows best.
At the risk of roaming round the Lib Dem blogosphere as an apologist for Labour (which I am not), this story needs a good dose of common sense applied to it.

Firstly, Jack Straw had managed to combine being a fullsome supporter of the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war with having Muslim constituents. Do we imagine that Condi Rice had not noticed this? Ot that it mattered? Then there is the assumption that Blair does whatever the Whitehouse says. This tends to assume that he is a mere cipher. Personally, I think he is as convinced by the rectitude of his position as Bush is of his own. The third thing is that Bush sees this as a religious crusade (I know not) and that, naturally, Blair must as well (I know not, built on another "I know not").

But even if you knew the mind of Blair and his intentions and motives (and you don't know, one way or the other), it is perfectly possible to believe that the current UK foreign policy to Israel/Lebanon is the correct one on the basis of liberal principles. It is also perfectly possible to be a supporter of Israel's actions on the basis of being liberal (you know, as in supporting liberal democracy against Islamist fascist terror).

Painting Blair as a man with intentions that you prefer to dislike is to set up a straw man, easy to defeat on a blog, but with precious little connection to reality.
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