The Anglo-American 'Special Relationship': Sleaze, Repression and Screwing the Poor

Just like George Bush, Tony Blair depends on the grease of corruption to operate his increasingly unpopular machinery of power. Unlike Bush, however, there are still members of Blair's own party with enough courage and integrity to call him on the carpet for the sleaze. He's now been hammered – by Labour's own treasurer – for succumbing to that ancient evil of British politics: selling royal honors to fat cats in exchange for big dough. Blair plunged into secret loans crisis (The Guardian).

Excerpt: Tony Blair was under unprecedented pressure over the secrecy of Labour funding last night when the party's treasurer instigated an official internal inquiry into millions of pounds of controversial soft loans which he alleges were kept hidden by No 10. Jack Dromey said Downing Street "must have known about the loans", and he was prepared to question the prime minister as part of an instant inquiry into how the cash ended up in the party's coffers, and on what terms…He is also to investigate claims that Mr Blair offered peerages in return for the loans. [End excerpt.]

Dromey's charges were part of a double whammy for the bumbling Blair, who, like Bush, is feverishly expanding the draconian powers of his government even as his public support – the "consent of the governed" – is draining away. Yesterday, Blair had to go over to the Tories to get enough votes to pass a bill that will exacerbate the deep and glaring inequities that already exist in Britain's educational system: the rich schools will get richer, both financially and in terms of drawing off the best students, while the poorer schools – and the poorer students – will be left further and further behind. It's no wonder that Blair – who increasingly resembles Margaret Thatcher both in in his right-wing policies and in the maniacal gleam of defiant self-righteousness in his eyes – had to turn traitor and bring in the Tories to pass this betrayal of everything that the Labour Party supposedly stands for. (Cartoon by Steve Bell, the Guardian.)

Right now, the idea that Bush can be brought down – or even mildly censured – by the American establishment for his manifold crimes is still little more than a dream, despite the courageous, if belated, stand taken by the likes of Senators Russ Feingold and Tom Harkin. Blair, however, is actually far more vulnerable – again, precisely because there is a strong contingent in his own party willing to stand up to his betrayals of egalitarian principle, his erosion of civil liberties and the growing tide of oily sleaze that stains his government. Contrast this to the Senate Republicans, where even the "mavericks" and "moderates" are busy trying to officially countenance Bush's criminal wire-tapping scheme. Contrast too, the British press, which is far less craven and kowtowing to power than the American media has become in the Bush Imperium.

Blair, like Bush, has weathered many scandals before, so it's still a big reach to think the latest blows will bring him down. They almost certainly won't, not immediately. But Blair has taken a very powerful, palpable hit at the heart of his political legitimacy: open betrayal of the party that put him in power, and blatant, undeniable corruption – cash for honors – that gives the lie to his constantly self-trumpeted image as deeply religious man of integrity and principle. To see this sadly degraded bastion of the Oh-So-Christian Coalition that launched the war crime in Iraq come crashing down would be at least some small recompense for the horrors he and Bush have propagated in our names.

Sidebar: How Blair, following Bush, has cozied up to the Godfather of Sleaze, the mafia-tainted, democracy-corrupting heir to Mussolini, Silvio Berlusconi. From the Guardian.