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Should Blair Listen and Obey?
Publication date: 2004-06-16

Tony Blair is Accused of Not Listening, but is This the Real Problem?

The bad performance by the Labour Party in the recent elections has forced Tony Blair to admit that many people disagree with his policies, and especially with those relating to the Iraq War.

People accuse him of “not listening to what they tell him”, and they are seeking to make him “listen to them” by voting for other parties.

But is it true that Tony Blair is not listening?

He obviously is, as he does respond to what people tell him.

Tony Blair does listen to what people say, but he does not always do what people tell him to do.

Is this wrong?

Tony Blair holds the office of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and while he should and does listen to what people say, he should act in accordance with the Duties of the Prime Minister, rather than following what anybody tells him to do.

Listening is not the same thing as obeying.

The problem that Tony Blair has with the Iraq War is not that he does not listen to the people and do as they tell him, but that he has failed to provide clear and sustainable reasons for taking part in that war.

Unless the war was a reaction to an imminent threat of attack, which required immediate response, the reasons for a decision to start a military action against a country should be clearly stated before the war, not after it. As Prime Minister, Tony Blair had duty to do so.

Tony Blair has failed to provide clear and valid reasons for starting the War against Iraq before the war. All his attempts to do so were either factually or logically flawed.

But even after the war Tony Blair has not yet provided clear and valid reasons for the War against Iraq.

He says that he believes that his decision to “go to war”, was right. But this is not enough.

As Prime Minister he has duty to provide clear reasons for his beliefs. He cannot keep the reasons for “going to war” secret from the public, saying, “I believe I was right, but I shall not tell you why”.

It is equally wrong for him to seek to justify the war by “a good outcome”.

It is not uncommon for disasters and crimes to have “good consequences”.

An arsonist, having set fire to a house and having caused the deaths of its inhabitants, could claim as his defence, “but the house that was built in the place of that old house that I burnt down is new and much better than the old one. It has new roof, central heating, double glazing! — Is not all that the result of my burning the old house! Do you want the new house to be replaced with the old one1?”

But do these “house improvements” make the act of arson, and the deaths of the people inside the house justified?

It is clear by now that there was no imminent danger from Saddam Hussain's Iraq neither to the USA, nor to Britain, nor to any other country in the world. Had the war not taken place, no disaster would have happened in Iraq, which the war had “prevented”.

Maybe some “enemies” of Saddam Hussain would have been killed or tortured in Iraqi jails. But it would have been tens not tens of thousands. As a result of the war tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and tens or, maybe even hundreds or thousands, were tortured by the Americans in Iraqi jails as a result of the war.

It may well be that Tony Blair has indeed valid reasons for “going to war on Iraq”, but so far he has not made these reasons public.

As Prime Minister he has duty to state these reasons clearly, point by point, in writing.

And it is the duty of the Opposition to demand from the Prime Minister such explanation for the reasons for the war.

And had Tony Blair made a clear, detailed statement of his reasons for the war, which would have shown that these reasons are indeed valid, and indeed followed from his duties as Prime Minister, then the issue of Tony Blair “not listening to the people and not following the people's wishes” would not have arisen. And there would have been no issue of “trust” in Tony Blair's government.

And this need to state reasons for each government action which would follow from the duties of government applies to all government actions, not just wars.

Government has duty to justify every action they undertake. This justification must follow from the duties of government. Government actions cannot be justified by “political convenience”, “social acceptability” or “political instincts”. It was this type of justification of government actions that lead to John Major's downfall.

It is the failure to understand the need for justification of government actions by the duties of government that will be the cause of Tony Blair's downfall, not his failure to “listen and obey to the people”.

Notes:   -----   to top

1) Jack Straw used similar logic in trying to justify the Iraq War. In response to a journalist question on whether the war was justified he answered: “Do you want to bring Saddam Hussain back?”. This type of dishonest argument in itself is a reason for disqualifying Jack Straw from holding public office for life on the grounds of dishonesty. But, like most politicians, Jack Straw owes his career to precisely this type of false arguments, by which politicians justify their actions. And this is why all form of “politics” need to be removed from government.

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