Blair Counters Glass-Steagall, Defends Thatcherite Neo-Liberal Policies
July 25, 2012 • 8:32AM

In an obvious response to the push in Britain for Glass-Steagall, Tony Blair, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, defends the "free market and liberal economic rules established by the Thatcher government," saying they are not to blame for the crisis. Defending banksters, Blair said we must not start thinking that society will be better off "if we hang 20 bankers at the end of the street."

Warning against reversing the Thatcherite policies, Blair said, "Don't take 30 years of liberalization, beginning under Mrs. Thatcher, and say this is what caused the financial crisis.... We mustn't go back to the state running everything." The Telegraph opines that his statement is a warning to Labour leader Ed Miliband, to avoid advocating left-wing interventionist policies.

Although neither Glass-Steagall nor bank separation is mentioned, Blair stands against changing laws and (de-)regulations, saying, "We must regain the basic values of what society is about. We're not against wealth, but we are in favor of social responsibility."

Even the Telegraph questions Blair's credibility, given that "He is an adviser to JP Morgan, a U.S. investment bank; Zurich, a Swiss financial firm; and has clients, including several governments, which are said to deliver an annual income of about £20 million."

Blair even threatens to reenter the political arena saying, "I'd like to find a form of intervening in debates."

But the bulk of the interview is on religion, especially Islamic fundamentalism. While he is careful to praise the Koran, Blair launches an attack against the bad "narrative" of "Islamist extremists" that says "The West oppresses Islam" and that it seeks "supremacy not coexistence." He fears that "The West is asleep on this issue," and asserts that it is the biggest challenge. He adds that his Africa Governance Initiative faces "this threat above all others." In "Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, outbursts in Tanzania and Kenya," sectarian Islamist extremism is "the great and growing problem." The Muslim Brotherhood is taking over large parts of the Arab world, he said and "the people without the loudest voices are desperate for our leadership."

"'We must engage, but also challenge," he warned. The Middle East "won't achieve democracy unless it understands that democracy is a way of thinking as well as voting. The key question is how the majority treats the minority." [A cute twist on oligarchy.—Ed.] The West, he says, has been too slow to help the people of Iran: "It is a great civilization. The people would undoubtedly boot their government out at the ballot box if they could. It is important they know we are prepared to help them. A Persian spring would be very welcome."