Blair and Bush

The Sideshow Annex

The special relationship: Blair and Bush

by 56K

["56K" is the nom de 'net of a frequent commenter to many weblogs. This article was offered to me in response to posts I've made regarding the curious support Blair has continued to give Bush.]
The common assumption about Tony Blair is that he supports the war in Iraq because he is Bush's poodle. But there is some evidence to suggest that his support for this war may go back rather further in time and is linked to his relationships with neo-conservative consultant and influence peddler Irwin Stelzer and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

These excerpts from Neil Chenoweth's Rupert Murdoch, the Untold Story of the World's Greatest Media Wizard shed light on Tony Blair's relationship with Murdoch and Irwin Stelzer.

... Irwin Stelzer, an American consultant best known as director of regulation at the American Enterprise Institute and adviser to power companies. In 1989, while he was first cultivating a rising British Labour politician named Tony Blair, Stelzer was on what is reported to have been a $1.5 million-a-year contract as consultant to News Corp. - page 94

But five days later, on March 23, a Turin newspaper, La Stampa, reported the conversation and claimed that in an otherwise mundane discussion of European Union business, Blair had raised the subject of Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch had just offered Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian opposition leader, 4 billion to take over Berlusconi's Italian television network, Mediaset. La Stampa claimed that Blair had asked Prodi if the Italian government would block the deal.

The next day the Financial Times also reported that Blair had intervened on Murdoch's behalf when speaking with Prodi. ...

It took some time to get a coherent account of the telephone conversation with Prodi from Blair's office. Blair's press secretary, Alastair Campbell, briefed British journalists that the story that Blair had intervened on Murdoch's behalf was "a complete joke" and "C-R-A-P, balls." He later said he had been misreported, and denied reports in the Financial Times that he had said Murdoch had not been mentioned. ....

The Financial Times quoted a News International executive who had been suitably impressed: "Rupert's access to the Prime Minister is pretty amazing. We were all a bit bowled over." ...

Three separate disasters had come together to produce this horror month for Murdoch. The common feature in each of them was the strength of the link that Murdoch forged with Blair. It was a complex relationship that had been evolving for three years. The key to understanding it is the more complicated set of relationships between Blair, Murdoch, and the American who had become so influential on both of them, Irwin Stelzer.

Stelzer, who grew up in a poor Jewish neighborhood in New York, founded a highly successful international consulting firm, National Economic Research Associates (NERA), in 1961. NERA specialized in antitrust, electricity, and telecommunications issues. ...

After Harvard he joined the world of right-wing think tanks with a stint as director of regulation at the American Enterprise Institute. In 1998 he moved to the Hudson Institute in Indianapolis. ...

Of all Irwin Stelzer's bright middle-aged men, his greatest discovery was Tony Blair. When Stelzer reviewed John Kenneth Galbraith's The Good Society for the Times in 1996, he argued that while the book had "a few kernels of wisdom," it had not shown "so much as a nod in the direction of studies by social scientist Charles Murray.... In this area of public policy the good professor appears less well read than Tony Blair." ...

In the late 1980s he caught Stelzer's attention because of his opposition to the Conservative government's moves toward nuclear energy, away from the country's traditional reliance on coal. Blair saw the issue in terms of employment, while Stelzer by conviction and from his long-term association as a consultant with US energy companies acquiring Britain's coal power stations, saw coal as more efficient. Stelzer wrote several columns praising Blair as an up-and-coming star of the future....

Stelzer also reportedly arranged for Blair to address the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. In July 1995 Blair flew to Australia to address a News Corp management conference at Hayman Island on the Great Barrier Reef. There he made it clear that he had dumped Labour's longstanding policy to force News International to reduce its media holdings. ....

In the summer of 1996 Stelzer wrote a remarkable tribute to Blair for Public Interest, a conservative journal edited by Irving Kristol. The article was based on an interview that Blair had given at Easter, in which he said he was an ecumenical Christian. Stelzer went on to argue that Blair had led a revolution in the British left: "Christ in, Marx out." Stelzer took Blair's somewhat diffident comments and his decision to send his children to a Catholic school and discovered Blair as a man who "has room for Christ in his Christianity." Blair was a modern reformer, Stelzer proclaimed, who had put the Methodist chapel back at the center stage of the Labour Party. He had put "sin" - a concept that Stelzer linked with "the undeserving poor" - back into political discourse. He would leave it to the theologians and philosophers" to debate what Blair actually believed:

"On thing is clear, however: the leader of Britain's left-wing party finds it acceptable, politically, to profess his Christianity and to look to the New and Old Testaments for a central core around which to develop his political program. Of necessity, that requires a cultural stance not very different from that of America's Christian Coalition." -pages 281-287

It should be noted that Stelzer's characterization of Blair's views may or may not be accurate. In any case, it would be worth exploring Stelzer's role in the debate that led up to the war.

--56K
July 2003


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