Leading article: Tony Blair and the loss of civilised values

Share

Tony Blair's support for the United States in its so-called "war on terror" has been unquestioning. But never has the Prime Minister's stance with respect to the Bush administration left him so politically isolated in Britain. Yesterday, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which could once be relied upon to give Mr Blair an easy ride, joined the chorus of condemnation.

The committee's latest report criticises Mr Blair's unwillingness to stand up to President Bush. Echoing last week's United Nations report on Guantanamo Bay, it argues that the very existence of this prison has gravely diminished the moral authority of the US around the world. It also calls on the Government openly to condemn the US practice of "extraordinary rendition". British ministers, it argues, should tell the US that the practice of transporting terror suspects abroad for torture is "completely unacceptable".

Our government has been supine towards the Bush Administration on these issues. When allegations emerged that CIA prisoner transport flights have used Britain as a stopover, the first reaction of Jack Straw was to pour cold water on the story. The Foreign Secretary solemnly informed Parliament there had been no requests for rendition flights via UK airports since September 2001. But on Wednesday the National Air Traffic Service revealed that there have been 200 flights through British air space by CIA planes suspected of being involved in rendition. It seems that our Foreign Secretary is more concerned with keeping MPs and the public in the dark than getting to the bottom of this issue. As the Foreign Affairs Committee noted yesterday, it was only after "prodding" from EU partners that Mr Straw even wrote to the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to request a response to the charge that America operates secret prison camps.

Unfortunately, the idea that Mr Blair will be persuaded to speak out against such practices seems unrealistic, considering the measures he is attempting to introduce here in Britain. The Prime Minister has demonstrated almost as little concern for human rights at home as President Bush has abroad. The Government is in the process of extracting "memoranda of understanding" from several nations to the effect that terror suspects deported to them from Britain will not be mistreated. Such states include renowned torture states such as Libya, Jordan, Algeria and Egypt. And, as Amnesty International points out today, the Government's introduction of control orders and detention without charge for terror suspects amounts to a "sustained attack" on the civil liberties of British citizens.

The Foreign Affairs committee assumes that ministers have been lobbying the US over human rights behind the scenes. But from what we heard from the Prime Minister in his monthly press conference yesterday, this seems fanciful. Mr Blair's condemnation of Guantanamo Bay was pathetically weak. And his defence of his domestic anti-terror agenda was equally depressing. According to our Prime Minister, "little attention is given to the human right of British citizens to live free of the fear of terrorist attack". When he makes such nonsensical statements, one wonders whether Mr Blair actually understands what civil liberties are.

The human rights legacy of the Blair era is taking shape. Abroad, the Prime Minister is content to turn a blind eye to torture. At home, he is relaxed about the reintroduction of detention without trial and determined to push through a host of other pointless curbs on our civil liberties. Unless this changes, Mr Blair is in danger of being remembered as the man who squandered Britain's reputation as civilised nation.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before