Watching the Prime Minister presenting his case was like watching a running animal run. The ease, the power, the economy of movement were marvellous to behold; getting into his stride he was supple, muscular and graceful. And the kill was so delicate you hardly knew it was your very self who had been hunted down.
These reflections aren't the result of my own ample generosity: I'm just trying to do to him what he did to us, and heavy going it is too.
If you want to engage with Tony Blair you had better hang on to yourself because he is formidably persuasive. Early in his speech he made a brilliant - yes, brilliant - pitch to his critics, to the "sensible people who, faced with this decision [to go to war] would have gone the other way for sensible reasons".
For the avoidance of doubt, I'm including myself in this sensible section. Our case is, according to the Prime Minister, entirely rational and eminently sensible. He also eased off on the messianic language (there was only one reference to Armageddon, for instance).
But once we allow Mr Blair to take us by the hand like this, once we allow him to get a grip on us, very soon we find our arm up the back of our neck, our face on the mat and a foot, possibly our own, jammed up our jacksi.
On the Prime Minister's analysis we are reasonable and rational and wrong. We say he's wrong, so mustn't we allow him to be reasonable and rational too? And that's the sting. The fundamental argument between us, he argues, is about "judgement, not trust". Not until we accept this proposition will we - and more particularly he - be able to move on.
In isolation, everything that Mr Blair says is convincing; it's the totality that doesn't stack up. The Americans had determined to get Saddam Hussein, for reasons we don't need to know. After 9/11, Tony Blair fell in with the plan.
They deployed every argument they could: WMD, regional stability, terrorist links, humanitarian necessity. But if any of these had really been the driving force they would have made provision before the invasion: 1) to secure the WMD from being shipped to Syria; 2) to prevent terrorists "pouring into the country" and destabilising the region; 3) to provide the security and logistical resources to get the oil-rich country back to business.
No such provision was made. Inevitably then, we are left with the big question of trust - the huge stuff about trust - in Alastair Campbell's phrase, not with the smaller question of judgement. Because if Mr Blair wants to do something like this again (like reform the public services) he'll need more trust than judgement. And a lot of judgement too.Reuse content