So, finally, the day has come: Mr Blair is now an ex-PM. As he prefers, let history be the judge of his premiership, though I cannot resist comparing him with the British prime ministers from the previous century. Where does he rank? I have a feeling that, depending on the situation in Iraq, peace in Northern Ireland, the course of Scottish and Welsh devolution, historians of the future may be kinder to him than I am.
My view is that he was no Margaret Thatcher, no Winston Churchill, not even Clement Attlee, David Lloyd George or Herbert Henry Asquith. In my opinion, Mr Blair has not been an effective or persuasive war-time leader that Churchill or Lloyd George was, and I am not sure if there were fundamental shifts in domestic policies in the mould of the early 20th century Liberal government (hence the inclusion of H H Asquith), the post-WWII Labour government, or Mrs Thatcher’s ‘revolution’.
The devolution of power to Scotland and Wales and the future of the Northern Ireland may count as very different and revolutionary changes: we shall see. There were changes but something that really changed the role of the state in society and towards citizens? Domestically, the Blair government did do a good job: the economy has been sound and people – in general – have become wealthier, the health and education systems are better, even if there’s a long way to go. Mr Blair should be given credit where it is due.
However, constitutional reforms got stuck somewhere and the improvements in education and health were tweaking of the existing system rather than something new, something different. Perhaps that was what the UK needed: extension / correction of the Thatcher years and in a sense a continuation of the Major government in a different guise. As for foreign policy and especially the war in Iraq, it was disastrous. In the long-run, Iraq may turn out to be a happier place but evidence at the moment is scant. As I have expressed this opinion before and I reiterate: Mr. Blair should have resigned when there were no weapons of mass destruction. He had either lied (which I doubt) or made a bad, that is to say an incompetent, decision. On either account, he should have gone, if accountability, personal honour and integrity were to mean something.
If it’s good-bye Mr Blair, it’s hello Mr Brown. Now what will he attempt to do and whether he can do what he aims to achieve? It will be an interesting few weeks to see the new Brown government taking shape and come up with concrete policies or ditching of policies.