Hardly news really and not much of a surprise and some smart arse at the back it screaming: “At last!”
Prime minister Tony Blair will be standing down as of the 27th June and what a drawn out, horrible and sometimes embarrassing process it’s been. At least now we have a date so all the speculation can end and New Labour can get on with the business of electing a new leader (shoo-in Gordon Brown, who I have a real soft spot for wholly based on his excellent economic record) and taking the country into a General Election.
Like most British people I have mixed feelings about Tony Blair, in two of the three elections I’ve voted in, I’ve backed his party and it was only the last one where I eventually turned to the Liberal Democrats; the decision on Iraq and the junior partner role in the axis of imperialism with the US the straw that broke my back. That’s a lie, the aforementioned cult of the individual was getting a little too overbearing, as was the heavy handed policy making that seemed set on convincing us that taking our human rights away was the best way of savaging them as we lay under siege by terrorism.
The highlights of Blair? Great campaigner, great people skills and wonderful emotive speech delivery that set him above rather dry opponents and marked him as a statesman of much charisma. Bank of England’s independence was a masterstroke, as was devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and, via a tough but worthwhile peace process, to Northern Ireland. Support of the US versus Afghanistan was admirable in removing al-Qaeda from direct rule but the backing of the Iraq invasion was no doubt the greatest mistake of his rule. For me though, it is the economic stability, low unemployment and sensible fiscal policy (that man Gordon of course) that has made the 10 years of Blair and New Labour worth it.
The trouble was, back in 1997 the expectations of the nation were too heavy, after a long and torrid affair with the Conservative Party that nearly ran the country into the ground, both socially and economically; we wanted something amazing to pull is out of our Tory stupor and we thought, albeit briefly, that we’d got it. We hadn’t but it was far better than what we give it credit for now.
Maybe when the dust settles, we’ll look back a little fonder on the Blair years, that’s if the spectre of Iraq does loom too large…