Tony Blair: Success or Failure
It looks like Mr. Blair has started a media war with his recent remarks concerning News media. This article from the Times online demonstrates this.
“Bliar, the mendacious, spin-obsessed, manipulating fraudster who lied to take us to war, undermined our independent civil service, took cash from the rich and rewarded them with peerages and favourable decisions, and suborned our politics” you say? You go too far, David. He’s less interesting than that. Mr Blair has cut a smaller, meaner figure. It’s not the big lies but the grubby little half-truths that are so depressing.
“Emphatically not – I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly,” said the Prime Minister to journalists on a plane over China, after Dr Kelly’s suicide. No – not a lie. Not quite. In fact Mr Blair had taken part in a meeting at which it had been decided to let Kelly’s identity “emerge” without ever actually saying his name. What a creep.
To the Iraq war later. As for spin, enough has been said. All politicians spin to some degree. Churchill did. Disraeli did. Thatcher did. We forget the spinning when it has accompanied the achievement of great purposes; and these we remember. It is because Mr Blair’s work has been so unsolid, so bereft of any real sense of direction, that we obsess about the surrounding spin. When the picture’s blank, you do tend to look at the cheap faux-gilt frame.
And I could forgive the pushing around of civil servants (Mrs Thatcher did it) if it had been to do anything beyond treading water prettily. Nor did Mr Blair invent the linkage between cash and peerages, any more than he invented the greasing of palms in overseas arms deals: what disgusts is all the breast-beating about purity, the noisy enactment of legislation to “reform” party donations and “outlaw” corrupt foreign deals, then the sidestepping of both new laws. It is this curious disjunction between the world of ideas and the world of actions that has led me to ask whether Mr Blair may actually have a screw loose. Kinder souls just accuse him of hypocrisy.
You conclude by inviting me to agree that Britain has improved while Mr Blair has been Prime Minister. I agree readily. It’s the causal link with which I’m having trouble.
Yours ever, Matthew. PS: You’re not in the “unfashionable left-of-centre corner”. You’re in the until-lately super-fashionable New Labour Third Way corner. Anyway we all have our spells in the wilderness. Mine lasted from 1994 to the Iraq war: a time when Tony Blair was believed to be real.
First, on your postscript: let’s agree that you too have suffered. Then allow me to recapitulate your argument. Mr Blair is a barmy creep who has done nasty little bad things, failing even to commit larger sins.
These sneaky transgressions might have been excusable if he had done anything substantial, but he hasn’t – and even if he has, they weren’t his things, they were inherited from the unlucky John Major or someone else did them. I don’t think I’ve missed anything out.
Certainly I can see why, as a supporter of Major – two members of whose political hierarchy were imprisoned for perjury – you should regard Mr Blair’s crimes as insufficiently epic. But more of those another time.
Rather let me head straight for your claim that Mr Blair hasn’t changed anything for the better. In 1997, after nearly two decades of Conservative rule, 43 per cent and 46 per cent of primary schoolchildren failed to achieve the average standards expected in maths and English respectively. Those figures are now 21 per cent and 24 per cent, and the primary schools that have done best are those in the poorest areas. One legacy of the Blair years will be new school buildings. Look around you.
In ’97 it was not unheard of for patients to wait up to two years for important orthopaedic operations. In winter there might be a flu crisis in which thousands of operations had to be cancelled. Child poverty and pensioner poverty had both increased enormously. No one seriously disputes that in the last decade waiting times have fallen dialectically and hundreds of thousands of pensioners and children lifted out of poverty. Rather the debate now, if one follows David Cameron, is about whether this is enough.
Tell me, Matthew, does no part of you secretly think “Hmmm, not bad”? Or is Mr Blair somehow innocent of all the credit?
Inquisitively yours, David.