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Saturday, September 04, 2010

Shoes and eggs thrown at Tony Blair

The Daily Telegraph reports that Tony Blair had a hostile reception when he attended a book signing in Dublin yesterday. They say that shoes and eggs were thrown at the former British Prime Minister by anti-war protesters as he arrived at a bookshop in the Irish capital. However, the missiles did not hit him:

Activists clashed with Gardai as they tried to push down a security barrier outside the Eason store.

Campaigners, who turned out in the pouring rain, were chanting: "Hey hey Tony hey, how many kids have you killed today?"

They also shouted: "Tony Blair war criminal" and "blood on your hands".

There was tight security leading up to the book signing event, with undercover detectives mingled with the crowds taking names before Mr Blair arrived at the shop.

The city tram service was suspended as Gardai blocked off streets surrounding the city centre store.

Shops in the area also closed, with Penny's department store pulling down its shutters as scuffles broke out.

It is the first book signing since Mr Blair's memoirs were released this week.

I expect Mr. Blair will have a much more respectful reception in the United States. Whether he will risk book signings in Britain though is another matter. How will delegates react if he turns up at the Labour Conference for example and upstages their new leader? That is one to watch out for.
The BBC report that three times as many people turned up to meet Tony Blair(and buy his book) as protested at his presence. Somehow you cant see the same being true of Nick Clegg, no matter how much he describes his accession to power as "historical".
"I expect Mr. Blair will have a much more respectful reception in the United States."


As luck would have it I attended a pre-speech event and met then PM Tony Blair in Chicago during wartime (with Serbia) and while the Northern Ireland situation was still a hot button issue for some Americans.

PM Tony Blair came to Chicago in response to an invite from the Chicago Economic Club. At the time I was the acting Secretary for Labour International in Chicago and liaised with the British Consulate in Chicago to meet with Labour ministers planning to visit Chicago.

There were demonstrations outside the hotel protesting about Britain's involvement in Northern Ireland.

Blair's speech was very contemporary for the times, he rattled off stat after stat on the number of Serbia artillery pieces etc that we (the west) had knocked out (we were bombing and otherwise attacking Serbia ground forces at the time).

The difference I guess between PM Tony Blair's arrival at the downtown hotel opposite Chicago’s famous lake front Grant Park to give his speech and the book signing in Dublin was that the Chicago police and other security elements planned better and Chicago roads near the lakefront are pretty wide affairs. The Chicago protestors could protest, but I guess the protestors were held back across the street at a distance and maybe Blair arrived via an underground car park/parking lot.

I worked near by and came in via the front of the hotel (with the then acting Chairman of Labour International in Chicago (Professor at NU), and the senior partner of the law firm I worked at who loved the UK and all things British (having done service in the UK) and I can’t even recall the protest – anyway, Blair arrived early (to attend the pre-speech bash and press the flesh of the grandees of Illinois, including high ranking politicians) and the protestors probably arrived after Blair already arrived – it was a high-security event with Secret Service guys in obvious attendance.

To be fair, it was a speech and it was great for our wee Labour International contingent to chat briefly and shake hands with Tony Blair, he’s a pretty short guy and very communicative – I liked him, he was pleased that there was a Labour contingent in Chicago and gave us a quick mini version of the Labour fist salute. I was very thankful for the invite and after speech dinner (Blair left without attending the huge dinner – to get back to Washington to meet and discuss tactics with President Clinton) – it was an historic event too, because this was the first time a sitting British PM gave a speech in Chicago – Winston Churchill had previously passed through Chicago on a train – probably a long distance sleeper, but never got off).

Not bad for a kid off Llanishen/Trowbridge/Lansbury Park (in Caerphilly)/Churchill Park/Abbey Wood/Streatham council estates.
"he was pleased that there was a Labour contingent in Chicago and gave us a quick mini version of the Labour fist salute"

While Serbia was being bombed and at home he was carrying out a neo-liberal economic policy leading to inequality greater than under Thatcher. How fun.
Oh come on, he must've known this was going to happen and he must've realised it's great publicity for the book.
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