Bruce Anderson

Tony Blair’s new job shows how self-important and detached he has become

Tony Blair's new job shows how self-important and detached he has become
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A spectre is haunting the world: the spectre of Tony Blair's ego. Mr Blair has wasted eight years pretending to solve the problems of the Middle East. He has also wasted millions of pounds, and achieved nothing. He has exposed his own total ignorance of history and his megalomaniac overestimation of his own powers. Throughout this time, he also earned large sums on the American lecture circuit, speaking to rich audiences so naive as to believe he is someone worth listening to. Rarely has shallowness been so profitable.

One might have thought that his failure in the Middle East would have taught him a lesson. Not so: this man is unteachable. He also has an ego which requires constant massaging. So he has found a new grandiose outlet; a new salve for his self-importance: combating anti-Semitism in Europe.

On the face of it, that is not only a worthwhile project: it is an urgent necessity. But there are two problems. The first is political correctness, which is preventing an adequate diagnosis. Even in France, contemporary European anti-semitism is largely a Muslim phenomenon. As such, it must be confronted, but Tony Blair is not the man to do that. Many young Muslims bitterly resent the Iraq War and the lack of progress towards a settlement in Palestine. They believe, wrongly, that this justifies anti-semitism. Is Tony Blair the politician to convince them otherwise?

An intellectual coward, Mr Blair was never the man to face up to difficult questions. He would always prefer side issues, and he has found an especially absurd one: holocaust denial. Anyone who denies the holocaust is self-evidently an idiot. But unless it is associated with Muslim extremism, holocaust denial is not a threat to European Jewry. Yet Mr Blair proposes new laws to ban it. In Germany, where there are such laws, the rationale is self-evident. But in Britain? Until the Muslim influx, England has never had a significant problem with anti-semitism since the late Thirteenth Century. Scotland's record is even better, partly because most Scots never took much account of the new Testament.

There used to be a daft old girl called Lady Birdwood who handed out cyclo-styled leaflets claiming, more or less, that the Holocaust never happened, but would have been a good idea. Once or twice, she manged to get herself imprisoned, which was a waste of resources. Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? (Not that she was a butterfly: a very unglamorous moth, perhaps.)

No doubt she has her successors, equally silly, equally irritating, equally harmless. If they tried to hand out their leaflets outside a synagogue, they should be arrested for breach of the peace. otherwise, de minimis non curat lex. Mr Blair is in danger of disappearing up his own ego. The claim that it is necessary to pass a law in Britain to criminalise Holocaust denial is an insult to the British people, their political stability and their common sense. But in recent years, Tony Blair has become increasingly detached from common sense.