Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blair really is going... soon

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?


Cheezy said...

I think that a Nat would have to have a very good imagination to read anything positive into Blair's ousting, bearing in mind that the glaring reason for his massive unpopularity (Iraq) is precisely what they would have gone along with too, and precisely what the NZ government did not.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Blair landslide of 1997 fondly too. I took the day off and watched it on the telly -- Prime (was it called that then?) was broadcasting BBC coverage all day.

As for now, listening to Blair on the radio I was reminded Enoch Powell's observation, quoted in Jeremy Paxman's 'The Political Animal: An Anatomy':

"All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failures, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs."

Paxman adds, "how many [Prime Ministers] could be said to have left 10 Downing Street contented figures? Hardly more than one or two. For many, the culmination of a lifetime of effort was to be forced out of office, having their fingernails prised from the Prime Ministerial desk."

backin15 said...

Cheezy, I agree entirely. With Blair on the way out, will Brown withdraw from Iraq? What's the Conservative's view?

Nice comments David. I think Paxman's line is attributable to most politicians really. I can think of only a handful of senior MPs in NZ that left their positions voluntarily - Caygill being one.

Cheezy said...

Publically at least, there is no light whatsoever between Blair's stance on Iraq, and the stance of both Brown and Cameron. The only reason for optimism comes from that fact that neither Brown nor Cameron yet has a 'personal' relationship with Bush (i.e. praying pals) and could therefore, in theory at least, revisit the issue with none of the old baggage. After all, the glaring reason for Blair's vast unpopularity (both in parliament and among the general public) is well known.

backin15 said...

Is there a serious contender who'd come out strongly against the war within Labour? Would such a person stand a chance of winning against Brown (I wonder what the Blairites would do if confronted with such a choice?)

Cheezy said...

This bloke: Alan Johnson

He's just starting to be mentioned as a sort of 'John Major' figure... and not because he tucks his shirt into his undies, it's because, if Gordon continues to alienate too many people during Blair's last days (a la Michael Heseltine, during the toppling of Thather), then a third, lesser known (i.e. lesser hated) figure may emerge from the middle of the pack. Some people, like Bruce Anderson in this morning's Independent, are saying that it could be Johnson (who was anti the Iraq War from the start).

backin15 said...

Hah! I still laugh at the idea that all the while he was boring as batshit, Major was off shagging someone and the media never worked it out!

Would this Labour party elect someone who was clearly opposed to the war? There's always an odd disconnect between the electorate and the Caucus. Thanks for the heads up - will check out Johnson some more.

Cheezy said...

Yes, Mr Major was quite the 'dark horse'...hehe... (But if only it wasn't Edwina Currie! What a witch!)