Letter in the Herald. No £wall. (Spoiler: includes apologia for Tony Blair.)

The achievements of New Labour were considerable

Friday 20 March 2015

It is also worth reflecting on Ruth Marr’s view of the world, which is not uncommon in the post-referendum world, where some individuals and parties can do no harm and others can do no good (Letters, March 19).

So in the latter case, New Labour cannot be given credit for its international interventions in Sierra Leone and Kosovo, and Tony Blair must be personally blamed for all deaths in Iraq, including the 90 per cent caused by Arab-on-Arab attacks (by Baathists and sectarian criminals).

Likewise, he must be damned for catastrophic decisions made not by him but by the dysfunctional Bush White House, not least the infamous CPA Order No 2 that disbanded the Iraqi Army.

In the real world, if Tony Blair really was a war criminal, he would not have been appointed by the Quartet of the UN, EU, the United States and Russia to be its Middle East representative.

And we now know that Labour MPs would not have voted for the Iraq War had they had the same information before them that Ms Marr enjoys in hindsight, as both Ed Miliband and Jim Murphy have acknowledged.

The untidy reality beyond the “four-legs-good, two-legs-bad” dogma is that all governments get some things right and some things wrong.

The achievements of the Blair/Brown governments are very considerable, both in domestic and constitutional policy, and in international affairs.

So while it would be wrong to claim that those governments were perfect, and others will continue to parrot their failures, more reasonable people will conclude that the balance sheets of the New Labour governments are more positive than those of the alternative Major/Hague/Howard administrations would have been.

Similarly, as we examine the prospects of the next government, we can be certain that it will either be led by David Cameron or by Ed Miliband.

The question we should ask is whether – on the evidence of the past five years – we would feel that the former will do more good than harm or the latter.

My money is on Mr Miliband, who was not even an MP at the time of the Iraq War, and was instrumental in the vote to veto British airstrikes in Syria.

Peter A Russell,

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