LONDON — His voice sometimes close to cracking, his expression strained and grim, former Prime Minister Tony Blair spent much of the past two days responding to the damning judgment of an inquiry into how he led Britain into the Iraq war, engaging in an extraordinary public mix of soul searching, regret and defensiveness.
Judging by much of the media reaction, he would have done better to save his breath.
“A Monster of Delusion,” read the headline over a picture of Mr. Blair in The Daily Mail on Thursday. The Sun, another British tabloid, described him as a “Weapon of Mass Deception,” a reference to the incorrect assertions by Mr. Blair and President George W. Bush before the invasion that Iraq had an arsenal of unconventional weapons.
Nine years after stepping down from office, Mr. Blair — the most successful politician of his generation, who led the Labour Party to three consecutive general election victories with a centrist message — is widely loathed in Britain, his legacy defined overwhelmingly by the Iraq war and its bloody aftermath.
He has few defenders, especially within his own party, which was split at the time by his support for the war and has since shifted leftward again, repudiating much of what he stood for.
Mr. Blair is such a pariah on the left, said Steven Fielding, director of the Center for British Politics at the University of Nottingham, that “if he says ‘black,’ almost everyone else will say ‘white.’ ”
Mr. Fielding added, “In the party he once led, to be described as Blairite is the greatest insult that can be leveled.”
More broadly, Mr. Blair has failed to rehabilitate his image since leaving office, and in some ways has added to his problems.
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