Is Tony Blair scapegoating the Jews for his troubles?

The British scene.
March 22 2007 6:21 PM

Letter From London

The Levy Incident.

(Continued from Page 1)

In 1918, even the philo-Semitic Winston Churchill warned Lloyd George, by now prime minister, "There is a point about Jews which occurs to me—you must not have too many of them. Three Jews among only seven Liberal Cabinet ministers might I fear give rise to comment." (One of the three concerned was Isaacs, who in the interim had become Lord Reading, Lord Chief Justice and ambassador to Washington, suggesting that there was another side to English bigotry.)

Margaret Thatcher was just as philo-Semitic, and there were five Jewish ministers in her Cabinets in the 1980s (though not all at once, Churchill might have noted). But this did indeed "give rise to comment." At the beginning of 1986, the Westland affair erupted when the ownership of a helicopter company occasioned a turf war inside the Thatcher government out of all proportion to its real importance. This time, the fall guy was Leon Brittan, and at least one commentator claimed he had been fingered because he was a Jew. After all, the former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had occasioned much merriment in clubland when he said that Tory Cabinets were once full of Old Etonians but now they were all old Estonians, while that lecherous, outrageous pol the late Alan Clark recorded the complaint at a dinner of Tory MPs that there were "too many Jewboys in the cabinet."

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In my view, Levy has some reason to think he's being set up. No one who has followed Tony Blair's career can doubt that he would sacrifice anyone, however close to him, if he thought it would work. And yet what Schochet and Rowan say does seem far-fetched, since Blair himself is as philo-Semitic as Churchill and Thatcher. Like them, also, he is a poor judge of men. Michael Levy is not a villain, but he is a flamboyant North London businessman, who made his money from cheesy pop music, and he is a very recognizable type, a glad-handing, backslapping tummler, who shakes down his friends to give, give, give—to the Jewish Lads' Brigade or Israeli charities or that ultimate good cause, Tony Blair and his New Labor Party.

And like Churchill and Thatcher, once again, Blair is careless about money and where it comes from. So much that has happened on either side of the Atlantic, from the Clintons hiring out the Lincoln bedroom to Jacques Chirac's lurid adventures, shows that fund raising is the cancer of modern politics. Blair should have taken the greatest possible care to avoid any appearance—and there is now much more than an appearance—that he would trade honors and favors for cash.

When the latest twists in the story began to break, the current attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, tried to silence the BBC with an injunction, until a judge lifted it. We were then able to learn something of the content of one anxious memo, from Ruth Turner, a Downing Street aide, to Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff, about her dealings with Lord Levy. It begins in the purest New Labor style with the exclamation, "Oh fuck." And that pretty much sums up what the British public feels about cash-for-honors, about the Downing Street junta, and about Blair's prime ministership as it reaches its unhappy end.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft's book Yo, Blair! has just been published in Britain.

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