The Guardian on what Tony Blair’s middle east job isn’t

Last month I submitted a letter to the Guardian pointing out that the same day’s issue had wrongly described Tony Blair’s job in the middle east as that of ‘peace envoy’.  What happened next is described in a further email which I subsequently sent to the Guardian‘s letters editor and ‘readers’ editor’, and on which comment is superfluous.  Unsurprisingly, I have had no reply from the Guardian to either message, and the Guardian has, so far as I can see, published no correction to either of its published errors.  I wrote as follows:


Yesterday I submitted to you a letter for publication (copy below) pointing out that George Monbiot, in his article in yesterday’s Guardian, had wrongly described Tony Blair as the “Middle East peace envoy” whereas the Quartet’s statement of his appointment, which I quoted, showed that his mandate was to encourage foreign investment in Palestine and related matters — nothing to do with the ‘peace’ process.

You haven’t published my letter in today’s Guardian, as of course is your right, and I don’t complain about that.  But instead you have published a letter from a Jonathan Smith which describes Mr Blair as “UN envoy in the Middle East” and accuses him of not understanding “that the basic requirement for a mediator is a transparent neutrality…”, etc.  Had you published my own letter, it would have been clear that Mr Blair is the envoy of the Quartet, not of the UN, and that he is not in any sense a ‘mediator’.  Thus a large part of Mr Jonathan Smith’s letter is beside the point, being based on mistaken assumptions about Tony Blair’s role.  I am baffled by your choice of such an obviously flawed letter for publication, especially as you had the origin and exact text of Blair’s terms of reference in front of you in the letter which I had submitted, but which you chose not to publish.  (Perhaps you chose not to read it, either?)

I hope that you or the Readers’ Editor, to whom I am copying this, will now publish in the Corrections and Clarifications column corrections to George Monbiot’s reference yesterday to Tony Blair as a ‘peace envoy’ and to Jonathan Smith’s letter’s references to him as a ‘UN envoy’ and a ‘mediator’, since all three descriptions are wrong and misleading.  The fact that the ‘peace envoy’ error is so common right across the media surely makes a correction all the more desirable, especially as it has a bearing on current discussion of Mr Blair’s candidature for President of the EU Council of Ministers?

I may put a copy of this message on my blog for the amusement of its readers, but I’ll defer doing so until either I have your response, or else the errors concerned are corrected in the Guardian’s Corrections column, in which case I’ll acknowledge that in my blog.

Brian Barder
28 Oct 09
[Address etc. supplied]

2009/10/27 From Brian Barder

Text of letter submitted yesterday but not published

To the Guardian Letters Editor from Sir Brian Barder
[I submit the following letter for publication.  I am not submitting it for publication to anyone else.]

I enjoyed George Monbiot’s proposals for Tony Blair’s future (Making this ruthless liar EU president is a crazy plan. But I’ll be backing Blair, October 27), but was sorry that Monbiot joined the many commentators who erroneously describe Blair as the “Middle East peace envoy”.  According to the statement of June 27, 2007 by the Quartet — the US, Russia, the EU, and the UN — on Blair’s appointment,   “As Quartet Representative, he will:

  • Mobilize international assistance to the Palestinians, working closely with donors and existing coordination bodies;
  • Help to identify, and secure appropriate international support in addressing, the institutional governance needs of the Palestinian state, focusing as a matter of urgency on the rule of law;
  • Develop plans to promote Palestinian economic development, including private sector partnerships, building on previously agreed frameworks, especially concerning access and movement; and
  • Liaise with other countries as appropriate in support of the agreed Quartet objectives.”

How much if any success Mr Blair has achieved in these challenging but specific tasks since June 2007 I don’t know, but  as the Americans stressed publicly at the time, it’s a strictly limited mandate almost entirely unconnected with the peace process — just as it’s a bit of an exaggeration to describe as “President of Europe” an appointment as President (or more accurately in English, Chair or Chairperson) of the EU Council of Ministers, whoever gets the job.

Yours sincerely
Brian Barder
London SW18
27 October 2009

Anyway, just for the record, and whatever you may have read dozens of times in the newspapers,Tony Blair is not anyone’s middle east peace envoy.  Nor is he a UN middle east mediator.   And if common sense prevails, he isn’t going to be ‘President of Europe’, or even chairman of the EU Council of Ministers, either.  Once again the moral is:  don’t believe everything you read in the papers — especially what you read in newspapers that are too busy to correct their mistakes.


2 Responses

  1. Oliver Miles says:

    This misconception about Blair’s appointment is very widespread. See for example the blurb on the Parliament website about Blair’s portrait at, which describes him as “appointed by the UN, US, Russia and EU quartet to his current role as Middle East mediator”.
    Blair himself has been willing to speak on the record about political matters which seem to go beyond his terms of reference. For example the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Fifth Report: Global Security: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories published on 15 July 2009 comments “Although Mr Blair defended the Quartet’s policy, on at least three occasions during our evidence session he framed the issue concerning Hamas in terms of whether the organisation committed itself to exclusively peaceful means. This suggested that Mr Blair might prioritise this condition over the Quartet’s other two. For example, Mr Blair told us that if Hamas were to commit itself exclusively to peaceful resistance, ‘everything would be opened up’. ”
    There was a report when he was appointed that Russia had agreed to his appointment but not to pay any part of his costs. I asked the FCO whether the quartet had any budget, and who would pay. I was told that the British Government was supporting his appointment by seconding staff. My suspicion is that he is actually paid by Washington. He certainly sticks to US policy.

  2. Hello to prime minister, well, we talk about 1989, the peroistroika, and the wall  down, well i would like to talk to you about freedom and what is like, we can said today in Europa the peace is there, i said may be but still a but, this is my story in second world war my father was in england in royal air force, who are this people talk about exceptly for sure the prime minister, do they know what the world freedom mean, for me simple, freedom mean all equal peace love and cares,

    I work 17 years in newspappers in south of france whera are the infant from the resistance border, i m really happy for deustchland but nobody os perfect im jewish and i would like to tell you something, i denonce about corruption and drugs traffic in south of france, and i been a victim of  an agression, they stolen all my documents, do the people from deuschland know also this kind of story in past, for me nothing is more nice and freedom of speech and freedom to move where you want,,,,,, well for me is different because i talk what i see;,;;;;; my name is benyayer it s a old name moins 70 years before jesus christ,,,,,, and the ancestre of  my name us to said better to die in free country than die in slavery ;;;;;

    long life to the réunification in germany;;;;;;shalom…..joelle esther benyayer

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