June 11, 2007
I have always admired the British parliamentary system because the leader of the governing party (the prime minister) has to stand up in the House of Parliament and defend his polices. I used to stumble upon these rapid fire debates on C-Span (Channel 8), but Time Warner seems to have shuffled the deck and C-Span is nowhere to be found. I have this thing where I rarely go above channel 33 on my TV. Maybe an occasional Animal Planet on 41, but that’s about it for me.
I love the spirited heckling that goes on in the tight-quartered House as the political parties hammer away at each other. It’s an intellectual free-for-all and not for the faint of heart or tongue tied. A well timed witty remark can provoke an entire political party to pound away on their tables. I loved the way Tony Blair jumped out of his seat and fired back at the opposition with passion, eloquence and logic. He is a good debater.
I’m not here to pick a favorite form of delivering democracy, but wouldn’t it be good to see the American President face his peers in the House of Representatives on a regular basis. The weekly press conference in front of a bunch of journalists just doesn’t cut it.
Tony Blair’s political life will come to an end shortly. Gone will be the President’s strongest (and some may say only) ally in the war on terror. It is unlikely that any successor in Britain will be as overtly supportive of the war on terror as was Tony Blair. Strangely, it seems as though George Bush has already gone, too.
I traveled to Northern Ireland a year and a half ago and I was a little taken aback at the pervasive anti-Americanism, or maybe more aptly labeled, the anti-Bushism. The war in Iraq was not a popular topic at that time, and I doubt much has changed since then. One woman in particular I met was vitriolic, spewing out her contempt for the American war, the American penal system (she was an expert in this field), and even American corporate greed. She brought up the case of Nestle pushing baby formula and causing malnutrition and disease in babies in Africa. I told her that was old news and that America is not the only country that is prone to excesses when it comes to maximizing shareholder profits. I also told her that Nestle was a Swiss company, but she didn’t want to hear it.
I admire Tony Blair for sticking his neck out and supporting the war in Iraq. He and W are strange bedfellows – Blair is from the Labour Party for goodness sakes. I have tried to sift through all the polarizing information that goes out in these complicated times and in this complex war, but whenever I was ready to throw in the towel and join the Green Party, Bush and Blair would appear side by side and speak passionately, and eloquently about the war on terror. Sorry, both would speak passionately, only one would speak eloquently. Even the British accent, the Queen’s bloody English, gives Blair more street cred.
A recent version of The Economist magazine has an essay written by Tony Blair. It is good, consistent, clear thinking on the world in which we live, and I highly suggest you read it.
Here are a few salient points.
• He rails against anti-Americanism in Britain and rightly points out that it will only lead to more isolationism in his country – the opposite of what is needed in the global economy.
• He points out that America and Europe share the same values, and that these two traditional allies should stick together.
• He understands the irony in the Iraq conflict is that it has mutated into something directly fuelled by the same elements that confront us everywhere.
America will miss Tony Blair. We don’t NEED Tony Blair, but to me, it felt reassuring having him on our team. If there had been more like him in Canada, France, and Germany, we might be facing a little different picture in Iraq right now.