Dear Mr Gladstone
27th April 2001
Since you have been credited with being one of Tony Blair’s heroes, I wonder whether you would care to comment on my view that his New Labour “project” is the culmination of what you were seeking to achieve with Gladstonian Liberalism?
It seems to me that we should see the period between 1914 and 1989 as a giant cul-de-sac, dominated by the twin voids of German militarism and communism-creeds with nothing whatsoever to teach mankind. The politics of 2001 have returned to the same controversies of our day, before the two red herrings of 1914-89 began to stink out the 20th century.
The important issues of 1868-1902, the period when Disraeli, Rosebery, you and I took it in turns to serve as First Lord of the Treasury, were indeed eerily similar to today’s.
Your two Irish Home Rule bills-which I in large measure defeated-proposed Celtic devolution from Westminster, in a form similar to that which Tony Blair has brought about today. I argued then that the result would be independence for Ireland and was proved right; is not Scotland now set upon that same route?
Instability in the Balkans dominated much of both your and my foreign policy, and prompted what we called “the federated action” of the Great Powers, which was usually naval in nature. For although you yearned to send British troops there you always held back, yet Blair actually made the leap you never did. We feared back in our day that our soldiers might never be withdrawn. Weren’t we right?
Although Milosevic’s crimes are easily the equal of those of the Turkish-backed “bashi bazouks” whom you argued should be flung “bag and baggage” out of the Balkans in 1878-9, would you have tried to put them on trial? Furthermore, the Labour government has now sent the papers regarding Saddam Hussein’s misdeeds to Scotland Yard. Can you imagine us doing that with our imperial enemies such as the Khalifa, Chief Cetewayo, Paul Kruger or the Mahdi? And if they are going to act in this absurdly legalistic way, why not arrest John Major for having aided and abetted Saddam Hussein’s escape from justice by foreshortening Desert Storm back in 1991?
You ensured that my House of Lords faced radical threats to “mend or end” the legislative powers of the hereditary peers, and there was much discussion as to what…