May 10, 2007

A Good Prime Minister

Filed under: Politics/News — 4fooey @ 4:29 pm

On the day Tony Blair has announced he is stepping down as Labour Leader and hence Prime Minister it seems everyone is assessing his time in office. Overall I think he’s been a good Prime Minister and a very effective leader and politician. One of the best and fairest assessments has been written by Nick Robinson of the BBC: The Long Goodbye.

You have to cast your mind back to 1997 and before to fully appreciate how many good things have happened: reasonably sound economy, minimum wage, better childcare, more investment in public services – especially education, better paid public sector staff and teachers, there are plenty more. Internationally he’s had a real effect, in Serbia, Sierra Leone, and in helping peace along in Northern Ireland.

Obviously Iraq and his relationship with George Bush are the most contentious issues. Ask any ‘man in the street’ about Tony Blair and they tend to mention Iraq – they use this issue to revile Blair, but why? Are they concerned about the people of Iraq? In most cases I would argue definitely not (before the invasion of Iraq most people knew nothing or cared little about what was going on in Iraq under Saddam), or are they more concerned about the British troop losses and the financial cost of war? The armed forces are there to carry out government policy, and Blair’s policy was to intervene in Iraq, to remove Saddam and remove the risk of him or other terrorists acquiring WMD. The current shocking level of violence in Iraq is not 100% Blair’s fault (or George W’s for that matter); the Iraqi government, the religious leaders, and the different foreign elements in Iraq have to take most of the blame for the violence – it’s a tragedy that so many innocent Iraqi people are suffering. For an interesting assessment of Blair’s foreign policy read historian Andrew Roberts’ article here.

I actually believe Tony Blair has not been radical enough. With his huge majority after 1997 I expected so much more to change. The Lords should have been abolished by now and replaced by an elected 2nd chamber. Our links with Europe should have been strengthened much more and we should have adopted the Euro. The NHS and civil service (e.g. Home Office) should have been dramatically reformed much earlier on. We should by now have a written constitution and a bill of rights, and I would have liked the monarchy to be replaced by an elected President (and the royal family retired). More could have been done to curb personal debt, rampant consumer spending, and measures taken to stop house price inflation. Much more could have been done for the environment, climate change & recycling. Much more should have been done to stop the illegal drugs trade, at home and abroad. Although many regulators have been setup, they have not been strict enough, e.g. advertising standards should be much tighter, especially ads directed at children. And although we now have a smoking ban, there could have been stricter measures to promote better personal health.

Nick Robinson points out: “Millions, of course, have come to feel betrayed by him – whether over spin or sleaze or the Dome or, of course, Iraq. The disappointment they feel a mirror of the hope they once felt.” If anything people’s hopes were raised too high, only and ineffitably to be dashed. But now this constant harping on and doing down of practically everything really depresses me – over the past 2-3 years Blair and New Labour have become the scapegoat for so many things, many things that are beyond Blair’s or the government’s control. The doing down and cynicism has already started with Gordon Brown. I think we do ourselves down when we constantly run everything down.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen various Prime Ministers including Callaghan, Thatcher, and Major, but Blair has been better than them all. I admire Blair’s vision and believe his intentions were are still are entirely honourable, and I’m sure he has a useful and important part to play in some future role.


1 Comment »

  1. I find it hard to say anything positive about him, as I loathe and detest the man for all the harm he’s done. I can’t bear to see him on the TV – I switch channels immediately he appears. The same applies to George Bush.

    Good riddance!

    Comment by Flash — May 12, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

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