Tony Blair was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and raised in various places as his father, a college professor, was often relocated. They lived for a short time in Australia, near Glasgow, but by all accounts, Blair was raised in Durham, England.
Blair is a Catholic, but this was not always the case. He was raised an Anglican–as are most good British lads–and only converted to Catholicism, the religion of his wife, recently. He was not religious as a child, saying:
I was brought up as one, but I was not in any real sense a practising Christian until I went to Oxford… Suddenly I began to see its social relevance. I began to make sense of the world.
His conversion, Blair says, felt right to him–though the following quote points to a more feminine influence:
Frankly, this all began with my wife. I began to go to mass and we went together. We could have gone to the Anglican or Catholic church – guess who won? As time went on, I had been going to mass for a long time… I felt this was right for me. There was something, not just about the doctrine of the church, but of the universal nature of the Catholic church.
Like most retired politicians–particularly ones of Blair’s stature–he took up a cause. And this one happens to be religious in nature. Blair’s foundation, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, seeks to promote religious tolerance in emerging democracies. Blair has said:
In the end, it’s for politics and religion to try and work out a way in which religion, in a world of globalization that is pushing people together, can play a positive rather than negative role.
Still, one oddity remains. It is rumored that Blair’s wife, despite being Catholic, has a New Age guru and has convinced Tony to participate in at least one pagan ritual where, in Mexican Mayan country, they chanted and smeared mud and fruit over each other’s bodies that helped them to:
to feel at one with Mother Earth… experience inner feelings and visions.
The politics of a politician
Blair has been a professional member of the British Labour Party since 1983. In U.S. terms, this would make him a Democrat, and probably a liberal. His policies (with the exception of his war-mongering) generally support that conjecture.
During his 10-year stint as Britain’s Prime Minister, Blair ordered British troops into five different foreign conflicts–Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq (twice). He was widely criticized by his people as a blind sympathizer of U.S. war-profiteering Republican presidents, criticisms that eventually led to his resignation.
These matters often overshadow some of Blair’s achievements such as negotiating peace in Ireland after over 30 years of warfare.
In economic and environmental issues, Blair’s liberal side comes out. The Labour Party has traditionally been associated with socialism and the social welfare state. It is the party of minorities and Britain’s poorer communities.
The environment is one area where Blair is even critical of the United States, saying:
I know that this issue creates political problems for you. But everything you want to do in the world is made more difficult by your government’s refusal to take global warming seriously. Your superb speech on spreading democracy in the Arab world fell flat because, as others have said, you offered moral clarity without moral authority. There are many reasons for this, but let me be blunt. The United States will never have moral standing in the eyes of millions of people around the world so long you have 4% of the world’s population and emit 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases, yet aren’t doing anything serious to address the problem.
Like most powerful men, Blair is complex and even misunderstood. His politics, like his religious beliefs, probably seem disjointed, or even hypocritical, but we can be assured they make perfect sense to him.