Report from England

The truth & Tony Blair

Tony Blair may be America’s favorite Briton, but his troubles at home continue to mount. During his warmly received address to Congress in July he said of the Iraq adventure, “history will forgive us,” which reminded me of Auden’s line that history “May say Alas but cannot help or pardon.” Someone should have warned Blair that Hitler, when he was on trial after his failed putsch in the 1920s, had preceded him in expecting the forgiveness of history. The distinguished historian Linda Colley wrote recently that it will not be “history” but miscellaneous historians who will make such judgments. As Colley puts it, historians are more likely to ask questions than bestow forgiveness: “Why and how, future historians will surely ask, did such a consummate politician, possessed of an impregnable parliamentary majority, as well as intelligence, industry, and fundamental decency, get himself into so much controversy and mess? What went wrong?” These are the kinds of questions that are usually raised in speculation about figures of the past, rather than of a national leader who is still only fifty, who led his party in two landslide electoral victories, and who recently became the longest-serving Labour prime minister, passing the record in the 1940s of the revered Clement Attlee.

Soon after Blair’s address to Congress, the news broke that a senior government scientist, David Kelly, a weapons expert and former member of...

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About the Author

Bernard Bergonzi is the author of A Study in Greene, among many other books of literary criticism.