Protesters outside Emirates stadium. Inset: Tony Blair
Below: Clockwise from top left; Stephen Twigg, David Miliband, Tessa Jowell and Margaret Hodge arrive at the stadium
Lindsey German and fellow protester with a message for Tony Blair. Inset: CND’s Bruce Kent
Published: 13 July, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
LABOUR grandees and wealthy supporters had to run the gauntlet of angry anti-war protesters in order to enter a glitzy £500-a-head fundraiser where former Prime Minister Tony Blair was making his political comeback.
Former ministers and current shadow ministers such as Tessa Jowell, Margaret Hodge and Harriet Harman, as well as one-time Labour leadership contender David Miliband, all had to be escorted through the crowd and endure chants of “Shame on you” and “Blair lied, thousands died” on their way into Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, where the event was being held on Wednesday.
Eddie Izzard, who was entertaining guests along with fellow Labour-supporting comedian Jo Brand, managed to slip in unnoticed.
But football manager Sam Allardyce, MP Tom Watson, who has helped expose the phone-hacking scandal, and Labour’s Stephen Twigg all had to face the crowd and have placards waved in their faces. Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell and current Labour leader Ed Miliband were also at the event billed as Mr Blair’s re-entry into British politics after a five-year absence.
Anti-war protesters have vowed to follow the former Prime Minister wherever he goes, however, to demand that he be arrested for war crimes over the invasion of Iraq. They accuse him and Mr Campbell of being responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.
An event in Lambeth earlier this week had to be cancelled because of protests.
Dozens of protesters, including vice-president of CND Bruce Kent, who lives in Islington, were at the protest.
Mr Kent – who left the protest before guests arrived – told demonstrators that he could remember being bombed during World War II and that the United Nations had been founded in 1945 in order to prevent further conflicts.
“The UN Charter, which this country signed up to, was to save the world from the scourge of war,” he said. “It says that no nation can go to war or take military action without the decision of the Security Council, and it can only take that decision after all other measures to avoid war have been exhausted. That didn’t happen in Iraq. It was a disgrace."
Sabah Jawad, of the Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation Group, told protesters that there were still terrorist attacks in Iraq.
“In the last few months there have been attacks in Iraq and hundreds of people have been killed,” he said. “This is a legacy of the war in Iraq. The tragedy of Iraq is still with us and it’s going to be with us for years to come. Our message to Tony Blair is that wherever you go, we’re going to be there to remind you of your murderous history. We’re not going to forget.”
At the event Ed Miliband shared a platform with Mr Blair in a symbolic gesture that saw the two wings of the party – those who support Mr Blair and those who backed his successor Gordon Brown, coming together.
He announced that Mr Blair would advise the party on the Olympic legacy.
“I want to thank Tony for what he did for our party and for our country. And I know how committed he is to Labour winning next time,” Mr Miliband said.
Mr Blair responded: “It’s an honour to be here tonight to support our party, whose values and principles I have always believed in and always will.”