Think of the worst thing you have ever done.
It’s not a nice thought, is it?
Well, don’t worry, you are more than that. Like everybody, you have made mistakes, but you have also done amazing things. As Sr. Helen Prejean says, “people are more than the worst thing they have ever done in their lives”. I do not believe anyone should be judged solely on their darkest moments, on their worst failings, but on the sum of their life.
So when I saw this image doing the rounds among Labour voting friends on Facebook the other day, I felt deeply uncomfortable.
We know, with hindsight, that the Iraq War was misinformed and unjustified. We know that Tony Blair ‘sexed up’ evidence in order to convince the country to back a war which turned Iraq into a failed state. Even at the time, many people were not persuaded by the case for war.
It is right that Tony Blair be held accountable for his part in the whole sorry affair. I do not doubt he holds himself responsible for what has followed. It is right that we learn lessons from Iraq (though I would argue we have now turned to far the other way, heeding only the lessons from Iraq, and ignoring lessons from Bosnia, from Sierra Leone, from Rwanda).
But it is not right that the good which Tony Blair’s government achieved be soured by this failing. From the Northern Ireland peace process, through to the national minimum wage, the Labour Government which closed the 20th century achieved a great deal which was positive.
What’s more, the legacy of Iraq should not mean that everything Mr Blair and his senior team say should be decried as falsehood and self-interest. If people have experience and knowledge, they are worth listening to, at least so you can work out why they are wrong.
So please, stop with the vilification. It simply serves to sour public debate further. Everybody deserves a chance at atonement.
People are more than the worst thing they have ever done.