Across Britain, in what are now known to have been 106 Labour target seats, the party’s candidates are coming under pressure from opponents to return the pocket money of £1000 which the former UK Prime Minister made Midas, Tony Blair, has donated to each of them.
Mr Blair’s attempt to buy [cheaply] widespread favour in the Labour ranks for his own reputational restitution has backfired on the unfortunate recipients of his non-largesse. £1000 is not un-useful but will make no measurable difference to the campaign success of any of the 106 areas to which it has been distributed.
Argyll and Bute is one of the nationwide 106 Labour target seats and therefore one of those upon which Mr Blair has bestowed £1000.
Labour candidate, Mary Galbraith, has now, inevitably, been challenged by the SNP candidate for Argyll & Bute, STV television producer, Brendan O’Hara, to give back the tainted Blair money.
Speaking at a meeting of Helensburgh SNP on Thursday 5th March, Brendan O’Hara said: ‘Is the Labour Party’s campaign in Argyll & Bute so hard-up that they need to take the bad money offered by the discredited former Prime Minister Tony Blair? Let’s never forget it was Mr. Blair’s reckless misadventures in the Middle East when he took an unwilling country into an illegal war that cost the lives of almost 200 UK military personnel as well as hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians. And twelve years on from that invasion we are still suffering the fallout of that terrible, irresponsible decision.
‘The only honourable course of action would be for Mary Galbraith to return the money to Mr. Blair with a polite “no thank you”. If she doesn’t then we can only conclude that she remains a devotee of Mr. Blair and that she continues to support the illegal invasion of Iraq.’
It has to be pointed out that, with the Blair/Bush Iraq war now 12 years ago, there is no record of whether or not Mary Galbraith herself supported that war, making Mr O’Hara’s supposition above – that if she does not return the money ‘she continues to support the illegal invasion of Iraq’- sustainable only by her association with the Labour party.
The challenge though, is entirely predictable and has substance. Made across the 106 target seats, this will test less the probity of the national and local Labour campaigns than their political judgment.
Blair gave Labour its best years – on the back of a fundamental corruption of political life.
The Labour party is perennially torn between gratitude for those years, the memory of star dust [never a durable commodity] and the perceived need to defend against the reality that the balance of the books of the Blair years is wholly negative for this country.
Taking Britain into that illegal war in Iraq has and will continue to cost this country consequential atrocities and terror for longer than we can guess.
The national bankruptcy suffered by the UK as a result of the Blair/Brown ‘regulation with a light touch’ – which fuelled the good years on a wave that came crashing ashore in 2008 – has left debris still to be completely cleared away.
The Labour party itself recognises that today it is in straits. It needs to reconnect with the people. Whether the party can bring itself to agree or not, the people see Blair as a contagion.
This perception is settled; and the man’s perpetual harvesting of personal wealth from the styes of some of the most reprehensible regimes in the world has irrevocably stabilised that opinion.
We gave Mary Galbraith the opportunity to respond to Brendan O’Hara’s challenge last night but have had no response.
The Scottish Labour Party Conference is taking place in Edinburgh this weekend; and it is likely that the candidates affected by the Blair donations are first taking party advice to arrive at a common agreed response to the challenges each will be facing from their SNP opponents.
In Argyll and Bute in particular, this is a mistake in political judgment.
In the SNP party’s engineered collapse of three separate SNP council administrations in Argyll and Bute – all within eighteen months from the May 2012 Local Authority elections – the electorate here has seen and paid the cost of its elected representatives’ blind subjugation to party central.
If we are to see the Labour candidate also unable to take the initiative and act as a principled individual regardless of whatever the Labour party decide is the party line on the modest Blair wonga, there is no red line between the two parties on the independent mindedness this electorate now finds reassuring.
No one can make the semblance of a principle out of anything connected with Tony Blair.
This small donation was an essentially peripheral matter which good political judgment would have kicked into touch at once, by doing as Mr O’Hara suggests – returning the money with no more than a simple ‘no thank you’.
Not taking that obvious action at once is politically self-mutilating in elevating the issue. Is the eternally self-interested Blair really a man for which it is judicious to accept damage to today’s struggling Labour party?