There will be many, on the left and right, who'll be happy to see Blair depart Number 10; I don't share their sense of schadenfreude.
I distinctly remember Blair's 1997 election, it appeared to me as ever increasing towers of red eclipsing a computer generated map of the UK as New Labour swept the decaying Conservatives out of office. At the time, I was working in the NZ Labour Party Research Unit and we were hoping that just as the Conservatives seemed to have dissembled out of office, so too would National in the coming election (they did).
Blair is now political history. The BBC includes authorised comments from Number 10 confirming that he will soon announce his departure date, suggested to be May 2007, leaving the way for Brown to take the reigns (that is if he too isn't fatally tainted by this shambolic situation) with two years left before the next election.
What it will mean is difficult to assess. In NZ, Clark will need to reassure the public that her ally's demise in no way foretells her own. The Nat's will enjoy talking up the prospect that the New Labour movement is coming to an end. Odd really, given that British Labour ain't so far from where, I imagine, many within National would like to be positioned; economically othodox, socially liberal, internationally active. What it'll mean for Bush and the so-called Coalition on the Willing is far more important. As commentators over at roadtosurfdom suggest, with Aznar and Berlusconi gone, will the Shrub be the last surviving member?
The end of an era? Turning of the tide? Hard to know. I'm hopeful that progressive labour-friendly policies remain ascendent in the UK and NZ (they most certainly are not in Australia). I guess comparisons could be made with the Thatcher/Reagan era but they're weak and premature - Blair and Bush's alliance doesn't stretch beyond Iraq and their domestic policies have little in common.
I'm sorry Blair's going, I admire his ability and respect his achievements. I'm entirely unconvinced of the merits of the war in Iraq and wonder if he had his time again, would he still be so supportive of Bush?
2 days ago