blair: scare, care, ‘mare or fair?

Is it just me or does anybody out there think Tony Blair did ok in his time as Prime Minister? I know Iraq is going to be remembered as his legacy and it’s a military and political cancer for him. But consider this – he went in to eradicate an evil influence in the region. His justification was trumped up and the legitimacy was questionable and the exit plan hadn’t been worked out. But it was a brilliantly executed tactical military exercise. They should have gotten out after Saddam had been captured but that’s hindsight for you. He’d been strapped to the Bush thinking on the war which was a mistake – a huge one – but does that make him useless as a PM?

I think i’m on thin ice on this subject but I honestly feel he did ok in some ways. Forget all that spin nonsense and the way he holds his arms out as he walks towards a mike whenever other leaders and especially Bush is around. But, can you argue with me that his bravery, determination and diplomacy weren’t expertly employed to secure the N. Ireland agreements? I know it wasn’t all him by any means but his was the firm hand ensuring the bold decisions could be taken. And the results so far are so postive. I remember those nightly news images of the bombings, killings etc in N Ireland. But most of all I remember working in London in the 70’s and I recall the bomb at the top of the BT Tower weeks after I joined and the Old Bailey bomb which rocked our building and the City bombs just 300 yds down the road. It wasn’t anthing like people were experiencing in NI but it was chilling and frequent and random. And now that has all ended at least in the NI/Ireland context. That has to be his greatest legacy doesn’t it?

I also thought he handled the Diana situation with huge sensitivity and aplomb. The Royal Family were in danger of being seen as aloof and unresponsive (if not worse) and he convinved them to be more engaging with the public and probably saved their skins at that point.

I’ve met and spoken to TB once. I was invited to a reception at 10 Downing St via our support for the LTA because of a City Initiatives function they were promoting. TB had agreed to support and host the initiative which I thought was pretty cool. He’d actually just been to a 4-5 day Summit (in Russia if I recall) and had had a tough time but having arrived earlier he spent several hours glad-handling with corporate UK to secure more support for British tennis. I spoke to him briefly and asked how he managed to do it. He must have been exhausted. He just said it comes with the job and asked about my company’s involvement with tennis etc. He spoke to everybody in the room and there must have been over 60 people. Cherie was there too and also spoke to most people, though she did pass by me closely on the way to a more interesting contact obviously. But I did brush myself rather rudely against her as she passed by and that was the first and probably the last time I will ever do that. But it did give me quite a considerable thrill, I can admit.

I’d nearly met Cherie when we were in adjacent boxes at the Commonwealth Games final night in Manchester when the Brit teams won a number of medals including I think around 5 golds. There was no wall between the boxes and young Leo was running across between the two. Cherie was very relaxed, enjoying the atmosphere and easy about Leo’s exuberance. She struck me as a great mum. Sorry to all those who write painful things about her but I can only comment as I see things.

Regarding that night in 10 DS. I’d lost interest in networking after a while and had wandered in into a side-room. It was fascinating, over-looking the garden. I was taking in the view when I heard a voice behind me asking if I was perhaps lost. It was a security guy of course and I told him I was just fascinated by the house and a little bored by the conversation. He asked if I’d like a peep round and off we went around the more public rooms. Brilliant. Before doing so he pointed out the crack in the plaster in the room overlooking the garden. That was the result of the audacious IRA mortar attack some years before and showed how close they’d come to causing a real world-wide publicity coup.

The next time I saw the PM and his wife was out in Singapore just before the vote for the 2012 games. It was an event at the Govenor’s residence and was the culmination of him working his butt off for two days personally meeting as many delegates as possible to reassure them about the HM Government’s commitment to supporting the Bid and The Games, before the casting vote. They reckon he saw nearly 100 of the delegates during that time. It’s probably a gross exaggeration but all those in the know told me he and Cherie really did work their rocks off and of course we won the vote.

I know it’s not fashionable or cool or creditable but I really have a lot of time for T &C and wish them well. They are on course to make a fortune of course. I wonder how many people will agree with me?



6 thoughts on “blair: scare, care, ‘mare or fair?

  1. I think history will look back kindly on TB. I’m not a fan and think he’s made some fundamental errors but then it’s a tough job and I’m not aware of anyone who doesn’t make mistakes over a ten year period in their career.

    Look how fondly the iron lady is regarded and, apart from the first two years, her reign was an unmitigated disaster that we’re still recovering from. We are even celebrating one of the most craven acts of war mongering for personal gain (Invade Falklands = win election at a time when you’re unpopular. Oh, and sod the deaths on both sides because we can put some great spin on that with photo opportunities in St Paul’s etc.).

    And we sneer at George Bush!

    Allegations of sleaze and spin pale into insignificance compared with the John “just pop yourself on the desk Edwina and I’ll show you my cover drive” Major years.

    The interesting thing about TB’s reputation for following focus groups and populist issues is that the one time he ignored public opinion (remember 1 million on the streets protesting) and followed his own conviction he got it really wrong and invaded Iraq.

    The acid test is are we better off after ten years of his leadership than we would have been if we had voted for one of the alternatives? (can anyone even name them and their key policies?). I think the answer is yes, and I’m grateful that in a period of vacuous political mediocrity the guy at the top did ok, and when he fucked up he did it with conviction rather than for personal gain.

    Being PM is a bit like being a goalie. No one remembers the 101 world class saves you make in a season but they will remember the miss kick that leads to the goal that knocks you out of the Champions League. I don’t think he’s Peter Schmeical, perhaps more of a David James?

  2. wotcha mike

    i thought i was going to be the only one in the world with a not-all-bad view of TB. I agree with what you say. He made some mistakes, some horrific, but he was a conviction politician and i think you’re right, history will be kind to him.

    I’ve just watched the extraordinary scenes at the conclusion of his final PMQT in the House. A never-before-seen full standing ovation was one hell of a response to his final comments as PM – so maybe we aren’t the only two who have some grudging respect for the man. Don’t think Cherie did herself any favours though with her final dig at the media (we won’t miss you!). She may regret that when images of her appear in the press tomorrow!

    PM Gordon Brown has just left Buck Pal after an audience with the Queen lasting almost an hour. They say that’s unprecedented. Quite a day for political precedents.
    ps nice goalie analogy but maybe more like fabien barthez – theatrical, likes the big stage, at times brilliant but flawed?

  3. PP (& Mike)

    A love fest over TB, who’d have thought it!

    Actually the other, less commented factor for TB has been the change made to the Labour Party over a period of 13 years, having taken over form the much respected (and highly capable) old school socialist John Smith.

    The fundamental changes made to policy, distancing from old Labour values, and claiming the ‘middle ground’ was as adept a marketing revolution as ever existed in any corporate circles. The result was the biggest defeat for the Tories since 1832, and the end of 18 years of their premiership.

    Now, we have the Golden Brown approach to kicking the unions about again (end to block votes, reducing their ability to influence policy as the conference becomes more of a PR forum) and generally becoming more allied to a centre party rather than one of even the soft left.

    I recognise all the achievements, and agree whole heartedly with the work ethic comments guys, however, the cornerstones of any policy for the labour Party should be Health & Education, and I’m seeing local hospital services being withdrawn including maternity and A&E, and a series of targets being introduced to schools that do nothing for the kids, but allow the ‘parents of above average children’ to select the best school.

    On these two I don’t think he has a great record – and the opposition hasn’t been able to challenge him about it because either they were too weak (Lib Dem), had their policies stolen (UKIP) or both (Tory).

    And, let’s not be too fanciful about the Iraq war – it’s about a vital world commodity that could be controlled by the US because the country controlling it was politically unstable and they saw the chance to have it. The UK had no choice but to support them, no matter who was leader. If it was purely about repression, dictatorship, destabilising a region and being a harbour for terrorists then let us not forget that Mugabe has been more active in this respect than Saddam – just doesn’t have the oil!

    I did hear an interesting comment on the radio this morning which stands a bit of airing – Brown is the most powerful PM for a long time, more so than Blair as all through TB’s time he had Brown on his shoulder. Major, and even the Milk Snatcher had weaker majorities.

    I like the TB feel the country has had under his premiership, but really would have liked to him to address the issues above in a more socialist style.

    What does the new era hold – careful diplomacy and fiscal control doesn’t make for Sun Headlines, TB has the prime world statesman role (and I suspect will keep up the good work with the idiot Bush) and Cameron is better placed to take the ‘boyish good looks’ vote – albeit he is as vacuous as a Paris Hilton thong.

    I too would wish the Blair household well, and hope that his successor can keep the Daily Mail and Telegraph view of the world away from power for a little while longer yet.



  4. hi cc
    cogent stuff. wouldn’t argue with any of that. i wasn’t really aiming to eulogise tony blair. in the last few days i’d read and listenned to a lot of highly critical stuff about him and his family. john gaunt on talksport was, as usual, particularly rabid. I just felt like talking about my own first hand experiences having seen them both up close and working bloody hard as it turned out.

    i’m sure GB will prove to be at least as hard working and a formidable conviction politician too. he will surely be less of a grandstander and less colourful. and you might just get your wish for a more traditionallly noticeable labour style.

  5. Bit late i know but …

    Any assessment of the Blair years must I think, give a nod to his efforts over Northern Ireland. Almost hard to recall now how bad things were over there (and in mainland UK) and how f***ing useless it all seemed and beyond any hope. I know that some of the end was probably down to simple exhaustion, but nevertheless, the fact is that he did devote time, energy and political capital and got a result. Contrast with Bushie, who pretty much ignored the somewhat comparable Israel/Palestine imbroglio until suddenly, at the 11th hour of his miserable presidency, he decides to take an interest – pathetic.

    Anyway, in the mixed legacy that is TB’s, Northern Ireland is the one unblemished, incontrovertible historic success.

  6. yep b i agree and reckon it’s a colossal achievement to have on his cv.

    god only knows what bush will put on his when he steps down – went after osama bl with the biggest miltary machine in history. still looking…gwb


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