Thursday, September 07, 2006

The travails of Tony

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I could almost bring myself to feel sorry for Blair. His premiership is ending in a way that reinforces Enoch Powell's jeremiad about 'all political careers ending in tragedy'.

Don't get me wrong. In my book he's the worst PM this country has had in 100 years, and he has had this distinction ever since May 1997 - indeed he had it before he ever took office. He has always been more interested in image than substance and such a person is bound to be seen through sooner or later.

The wonder is that so many were taken in for so long, both in Britain and overseas, especially in my much loved USA. I can only assume that the 'commentariat' here had invested so much emotional capital in the overthrow of Thatcherism and its Major offshoot that they were prepared to support almost anyone who was (a) presentable and (b) visibly not connected with either. Blair at first was a blank screen onto which they could project all their own desires and imagine to themselves that he felt like they did. He was at pains to foster and sustain this illusion throughout.

Americans saw in him the ultimate 'Friend of Bill' who was able with astonishing ease to become the faithful shadow of George W. Bush. That this inconsistency spoke volumes about his attitude to politics was ignored as he made all the right sounds about 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yet look at the substance. He has engaged in more foreign adventures requiring the commitment of troops than any PM since WW2. At the same time he has presided over the shrinkage in real terms of the Defence budget, putting the same forces under massive strain facing mortal danger with antiquated or inadequate equipment - Result ? increasing and avoidable casualties.

Blair claims to support the family as an institution. Evidence? He has 4 children. Yet the incidence of state interference in family life is on a scale never seen before, while we have daily examples of escalating violence being perpetrated by youngsters in primary school. They are often aware of their 'human rights' but have no conception of their responsibility to respect others' rights. Blair calls for 'a respect agenda' but his government's social policy seems designed to prevent the imposition of 'respect' by parents or teachers upon youngsters. Instead it sees salvation in another massive, costly and vastly intrusive Children's Index database and an Orwellian system of cameras.

How's that lot to be going on with - and I haven't mentioned the 'Open Door' and 'multiculturalism' yet


Anonymous said...

Would have been nice from a Tory viewpoint if Tony had carried on to say 2008.

Paul Johnston said...

He hasn't gone yet! In any case GB is just as much the architect of New Labour as was TB. Of course he might not win a contested leadership election.....

Jim said...

To state the obvious, I just want all this backbiting to go on as long as possible. We Tories know from experience (until Mr Howard effectively put an end to it) that when there is need for Ministers to tell others to stop mouthing off, there is truly trouble in paradise. Labour is done for until they get an entirely new leadership, and we've all seen how long that can take.

Will people really believe that when Blair goes that Labour will be invigorated and go back to the charms of the 1990s? I really don't think so, especially should Brown take over.

Which brings me to another point - I really don't like Brown's cosiness with the Unions that we've been seeing recently. One thing that Blair did do that was a good thing was distancing Labour from them. The Unions still have a third of the vote in any Leadership contest though, which makes me extremely uncomfortable and, with Labour's preent financial crisis, I am very concerned at an increase in Union influence.

Paul Johnston said...

I doubt if the backbiting is likely to stop after TB's removal as the strains within 'New' Labour are very deep and have always been there.

Blair has performed a balancing act, letting the left have its way on so many issues, largely to do with the constitution and 'political correctness' in its many forms, while keeping their hands off 'important' things like the structure of business and foreign policy. On business he's actually been a Bonapartist (effective direction by the state while leaving the means of production in private hands _ except for Railtrack of course!). On foreign policy he has pursued more overseas adventures than any PM since WW2, as I said. Unfortunately defence spending has been one of the bones thrown to the Left to keep them in line.
Sooner or later the wheels were bound to come off 'New' Labour and a change of Leader won't do more than slow down the process briefly.
Actually it might even accelerate it, as the expectations raised by the departure of TB on the Left are not met by his successor, whoever that might be.

He-Man said...

I have a 'feeling' that GB will not be taken up as leader. The question is who else is capable of getting the votes from the Labour electoral college (unions, members MP's - nearly 1,000,000 people). I think Milliband and Johnston (Allen that is) are getting some notice.

What ever happens to the leadership race, the Tory Party should benefit. I cant imagine the leadership contest going as well as ours did.

Tommy said...

Could I take this opportunity to say that even though I am a Tory voter, Tony Blair has been a great PM. Now before I get hung, I'm going to say that I dont agree with all his policies, but as a figure head for the country he has done well.

Paul Johnston said...

Britain already has a figurehead called the Queen. I would suggest that, even though TB did until 2003 project a good image of himself internationally, the image was largely a matter of 'smoke and mirrors' as at home.