There was a great fashion among Blair acolytes for comparing their man to Gladstone. Blair himself promoted this, declaring several times, including in a speech at the University of Sofia, that Gladstone was one of his “Political heroes”. In fact I very much doubt the notoriously ill-read Blair had very much idea of what Gladstone once stood for. Anti-interventionism and anti-Imperialism were at the heart of Gladstone’s creed. He was famously reluctant to send troops anywhere, even to rescue General Gordon, who Gladstone regarded as an unhinged imperialist and dangerous evangelical fanatic. Now there are very definite and interesting parallels between the equally preening Blair and Gordon…
Blair made his claim at the University of Sofia to justify his military intervention in Kosovo, by reference to Gladstones stand against Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria. But Blair seemed not to notice that Gladstone’s intervention was strictly non-military.
The difference between the two is most aptly summed up in this great Gladstone quotation, uttered in condemnation of the second Afghan War:
Remember the rights of the savage, as we call him. Remember that the happiness of his humble home, remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan, among the winter snows, is as inviolable in the eye of Almighty God, as can be your own.
William E. Gladstone
Compare that to Blair’s happy inflcition of shock and awe on the poor inhabitants of Baghdad, or the continual bombing of civilian targets in Afghanistan, with every haveli described as a “Taliban compound” and every dead farmer – and his dead family – described as “Taliban fighters”.
Then think of extraordinary rendition and the hundreds of people we helped the CIA to ship to be tortured. Think of the government going to the Law Lords to argue that confessions from torture should be eligible as evidence in British courts. Compare that to Gladstone:
Nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right.
William E. Gladstone
Gladstone was a great man. It falls to us who actually know something about him, to rescue him from annexation by the neo-cons.