Public will never get over Tony Blair and Iraq war, says David Blunkett

People hate the former Prime Minister partly because of the money he has made since leaving office, his former colleague says

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Indy Politics

People “hate” Tony Blair over the 2003 invasion of Iraq and “sneer” at the former Prime Minister partly because of the money he has made since leaving office, former Home Secretary David Blunkett has said.

Mr Blunkett, who was a leading member of Mr Blair’s Cabinet, doubted that the public would “ever get over Iraq” and were not prepared to accept that the Government had simply made mistakes. He admitted the administration of Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s forces were defeated had been “a disaster”.

The 67-year-old, who is due to stand down as an MP at the General Election next year, said he would not be “making the millions Tony has made”, but said he hoped he would show the kind of “vigour” that Mr Blair’s successor in Number 10, Gordon Brown, displayed during the debate over Scottish independence.

Mr Blunkett insisted he was “one of the few” that defends Mr Blair, but doubted his former colleague would be forgiven by the court of public opinion.

“I don’t think people will ever get over Iraq,” he told The Guardian. “It is not that they say Tony made a mistake. They hate him for it.

“The mistake was believing we could influence the US in the aftermath. He deluded himself and I was deluded that being close to the US could influence the way they went about it. And we couldn’t.

“If I had the same information I would have voted the same way, but we let Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney run the aftermath and that was a disaster. The shadow of Iraq affects people profoundly.”

Last year, a study estimated that nearly half a million Iraqis died as a result of the war and ensuing conflict between 2003 and 2011. Some 179 British soldiers were killed during Operation Telic, the name for UK operations in Iraq, which lasted until 2011.

Since leaving office, Mr Blair has made a small fortune on the lecture circuit and as a political adviser and PR consultant. It was reported in August that he gave the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, advice on how to defend the country’s much-criticised human rights record in the wake of the killing of unarmed protesters by police, although it is unclear whether he was paid for this.

Mr Blunkett said he had no desire to develop a similarly profitable business.

“I shan’t be making the millions Tony has made. It is not my ambition in life,” he said.

“People sneer at Tony. I am one of the few that still defends him. And I was one of the few to tell him when I didn’t agree with him.

“He makes a lot of money but he is giving a lot away. It is hard to put your finger on whether it is just resentment or a feeling that Tony was never really one of us, which is pretty unfair. Stafford Cripps was wealthy. Harold Wilson sent his children to private school. So did Attlee.”