There goes Tony Blair again. Failing upwards and moving effortlessly on to another high-profile international job. Does he not know when to stop?
Fresh from his years as a Middle East peace envoy that delivered precious little peace, the former UK prime minister has now been appointed chairman of the Brussels-based European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR). Ever heard of it before? Nope, me neither.
Still, Mr Blair is enthused about the noble prospect of promoting harmony, ending hate speech and making the world a better place. He’s not doing it for the money. Really, he isn’t. Instead of a stipend a contribution will be made to his own personal charity.
The trouble is you wonder just what Mr Blair wrote on his application letter to inform the council of his eminent qualifications.
Not sure if he mentioned pushing the UK into the 2003 Iraq war. There is no shortage of people who still think he should face trial for that. Others want Mr Blair to make a public apology for allowing this country to be swamped with millions of new arrivals from the EU.
Pretty certain he didn’t mention his abject failure to achieve anything in his time as a Middle East peace envoy – if anything, the area has gone backwards in his time there.
Mr Blair probably also neglected to mention the extreme embarrassment he caused earlier this year by accepting an award as Philanthropist of the Year by GQ magazine. This, for a man who can command upwards of £250,000 for private speeches and easily qualifies as a multi-millionaire.
Mr Blair’s clients include PetroSaudi, an oil firm with links to the ruling Saudi royal family, the bank JP Morgan, and Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi wealth fund.
Now he is heading for Brussels and a group set up by former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski and Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress. It aims to carry out seminars for thousands of school and university students across Europe in the next two years – about tolerance and the role of religion in society.
In a joint article in The Times announcing his new post, Mr Blair and Mr Kantor – a businessman and philanthropist, write:
“Racism and discrimination in the name of religion must be tackled with tough new laws…. We live in dangerous times. There have been three periods in the past hundred years when the annual GDP growth in Europe went below 1pc: first in 1913 just before the First World War, second in 1938 just before the Second World War and third in 2014. Economic decline fuels instability and we know these concerns are being felt across the world.”
Nobody could deny any of that. The ECTR has the most noble intentions. Look closely at its charter though and you might have pause for thought when you read words like this outlining its plans for greater government powers to prosecute those accused of “hate speech” by suggesting vigorous legislative action:
“The legislation includes giving greater power to judiciaries to prosecute hate speech, lowering the barriers to what constitutes incitement to violence, making Holocaust denial illegal, entrenching state funding for religious institutions into law, creating clearer definitions of what is racist and antisemitic, and securing educational programmes about tolerance in national legislation.”
Yes bring on lots more laws. Give the judiciary more powers. Kneel before the altar of pan-European governance and cloud the waters even further about what really does constitute ‘hate speech’ versus legitimate criticism of religions and pseudo-religious organisations.
It all sounds like a recipe for overweening legislative disaster. Which just about sums up Tony Blair to a tee.