The Chilcot Report into the Iraq War was finally due to be published this week. Tony Blair’s powerful religious beliefs were key to Britain’s involvement in the conflict
By the timE Tony Blair resigned after a decade in power, many people no longer thought of him as a leader who had won three successive general elections and become the longest-serving Labour Prime Minister in British history. They thought of him as the Prime Minister who had led the UK, on questionable legal and evidential grounds, into joining the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, and had entangled the country in a war from which it would not extricate itself for several years.
Blair’s Christian faith was key to his foreign policy, particularly underpinning his advocacy of military intervention in Iraq and, previously and more successfully, in Sierra Leone and Kosovo. In his memoirs, Blair would say that “I have always been more interested in religion than politics”. For all that the Iraq War was opposed by many Christians, including Pope John Paul II and other church leaders, there, as elsewhere, Blair’s faith underpinned his whole political mission.
When Tony Blair was growing up, his family were not regular church-goers. But although his father, Leo Blair, had been a non-believer, his mother, Hazel, to whom he was close, was “religious though not church-going”. She taught her son to pray, and has been credited with laying the foundations, not only of his religious faith, but of his social conscience.