Blair, BAE and misleading memoirs

By Symon Hill
September 1, 2010

I thought that Tony Blair had lost the ability to shock me. But within a few seconds of picking up his newly published memoirs today, I realised I was mistaken.

The media coverage of the memoirs has focused on Iraq and on the petty personal squabbles between Blair and Gordon Brown. But the first entry I looked for in the index was “BAE Systems”.

BAE, one of the world's largest arms companies, exercised so much influence over Blair's premiership that former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook wrote in his own memoirs that BAE's chairman had the “key to the garden door at Number Ten”.

In 2006, Blair pressured the Serious Fraud Office into dropping a criminal investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals. The Campaign Against Arms Trade, who I was working for at the time, took the government to court. The High Court ruled that the government had acted unlawfully, although the judgment was later overturned by the law lords.

So I was amazed as I stood staring at Blair's memoirs today, because BAE does not even appear in the index. The BAE bosses who influenced Blair so much – Dick Evans, Mike Turner, Dick Olver – are also absent from the index. So is the Serious Fraud Office. Saudi Arabia appears, with six references. I looked them up. As usual, Blair is complimentary about the vicious Saudi dictatorship, but none of the references to Saudi Arabia mention arms sales.

The arms trade was one of the greatest blots on Blair's premiership, second perhaps only to the invasion of Iraq. BAE's influence over Blair was the worst example of the corporate power that Blair encouraged and which has done so much to undermine democracy. It is a measure of Blair's warped priorities that he doesn't even bother to mention these issues.

I had thought Tony Blair's cynicism and willingness to mislead could no longer surprise me. I was wrong.

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