It was a scene that will go down in history. A smartly suited Tony Blair standing alongside Libya’s dictator Colonel Gaddafi in the first high level meeting between the two countries in years. As reporters gathered, it was clear this was a meeting Blair had been relishing, telling them it was “good to be here at last”.
Under Gadaffi’s regime, Libya had been cast into the wilderness for decades. On the surface there was little to set his regime aside from the one Blair had been so keen to remove in Iraq twelve months previously. Libya was an authoritarian state with an appalling human rights record, and rumours consistently circulated about alleged attempts by the country to acquire WMDs.

As they stood in the dictator’s Bedouin tent in the grounds of his heavily fortified Tripoli compound, Blair spoke of the need to move beyond the past – the Lockerbie bombing, the training of IRA members on Libyan soil, the cold-blooded murder of a policewoman by a Libyan Embassy staff member in London. We were told this was an opportunity to create a new relationship that would benefit both countries – namely oil for the UK, and arms for Libya. Sure enough, no sooner had the first press shots of the historic meeting been wired back to London than it was announced that Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell had signed a deal worth up to £550m for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast. The UK’s silence in recent days on the possibility that arms supplied to the Gadaffi regime may have used against peaceful protestors in recent days will long remain another bitter pill to swallow.

Blair made countless trips back to Libya after leaving office; as recently as last June it was claimed by Colonel Gadaffi’s son that he had become a consultant for the dictator. A Middle East peace envoy acting as a consultant to one of the world’s most ruthless men. It’s a story many would find hard to make up.

Seven years on from the historic first meeting, and as Libya staggers into the unknown, it’s somewhat ironic then that the media hungry former Prime Minister is maintaining an unusually low profile. He has made no public statements on the situation in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya, leading many to question his role as a peace envoy. At the very least Blair owes it to the Libyan people to make a public statement calling on his close friend Colonel Gaffadi to stop the bloodshed and listen to the demands of the people. His current silence on the situation is deafening. Maybe Blair is turning to his faith once more to guide him in what approach to take. Alistair Campbell, his former press secretary, famously intervened to prevent him discussing his faith in public, telling Blair “We don’t do God”. As the clock ticks down on Gadaffi’s reign in power and the cries from the Libyan people grow ever louder, Blair may be left praying for divine intervention to save his battered reputation.