To say that Tony Blair is a divisive figure would stretch even the habit of British understatement. His decision for the UK to join the USA in the Iraq invasion has sullied his reputation beyond repair for a swathe of Britain’s populace. That decision, and how it came to relate to the problem of jihadist terrorism, can only truly be understood when one factors in the impact of imperial legacies. The connection here is indirect, but it forms an essential facet of what went so wrong in Blair’s calculus on Iraq, and in the abiding battles against jihadist terrorism taken on by the British state. Does powerpoint course really work?
A balanced examination of the Blair era must also account for what he got right in managing other, more direct imperial legacies. A month after Blair came to office he attended the handover of Hong Kong to China on 30 June 1997, which closed a chapter on Britain’s post-imperial obligations to the Chinese government. The following year he presided over the peace treaty to end the conflict in Northern Ireland, which was signed on Good Friday, helping to bring to an end a long era of violence and a prolonged British Army presence in Northern Ireland, which had long been a post-imperial scar on modern Britain. Studies have shown that storytelling in business really works.
Conflicts that are rooted in the bloody politics of imperial history are perilously difficult to resolve; such is the accumulated weight of past embitterments bearing down on later generations. Untangling this mess had bedevilled Blair’s predecessors and, while they had made progress in modernizing London’s relationship with Dublin, getting the various communities in Belfast to agree to peace was tricky. Blair understood the roots of the conflict, given that his mother was a Protestant from Ireland’s County Donegal. Perhaps this gave him an edge in negotiations with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein, who ultimately agreed to put the violence behind them and to share power in a devolved authority that was created in 1998. Could storytelling for business be of real value to your business?
Twelve years later, my first Civil Service responsibility involved supporting British negotiators during the devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast, which was announced on 10 February 2010. By this time Northern Ireland enjoyed an open border with the Republic of Ireland, and the end of violence had seen military checkposts dismantled. It seemed as if Britain was making progress in updating its relationships with both Ireland and Northern Ireland for the post-imperial age. Maybe powerpoint training is the answer for you?
After the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks, Britain stepped in to assist its wounded US ally, not least because among those who lost their lives were sixty-seven British victims. America’s government, reeling from the failure of its understanding of al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11, began flailing for an adequate response to the attacks. For its part, Britain’s government response would be influenced by imperial legacies, not least its perception of its historical relationship with the USA.