The Legacy of Blur

From the title, you can tell I’m not very keen on him. I’m writing this not because my thoughts are terribly valuable on him, but because its a convenient place for me to write this where I’ll remember it. Because on previous things – like, say, the invasion of Kosovo – I’ve tended to forget, after, what my thoughts were, before, under pressure of events.

At the moment, Blairs reputation is dominated by the disaster of Iraq. Since this is a real disaster for which he shares a lot of the blame, this is fair (I know it was mostly US troops but our (his) support seems to have been very important: likely it would not have happened had we said no). The Economist says that in 5 years time this will be less important, and his other achievements will come to the fore. I think that will depend on how Iraq plays out. Since I can’t see a happy ending (obvious possibilities are a long slow collapse if we don’t pull out or a quick one if we do; anyone care to propose a plausible happy scenario?) I think that in 5 years he will still be best remembered, badly, for Iraq. What else should we remember him for?

The Economy? Its been doing well, but unequally. More importantly, Broon gets most of the credit for this, which seems reasonable given that he was chancellor, or maybe just the giving interest rates to the Bank was the thing. Anyway, not Blair.

Northern Ireland? Its a peace process that seems to have largely worked. I’m unsure how much credit Blair gets for this (or rather, how much he deserves). Compared to Iraq, it seems like a small thing; more, Iraq makes it look like an accident. I also suspect that the two sides had run out of anything else to do. That said, even if Blair got lucky, he seems to have pushed things along somewhat.

I’ve seen it said, more and more, that he didn’t really know how to govern or what to do. Certainly the stupid target culture he brought in was and is useless (or posivitively harmful). That the only really effective thing he managed to do was reform the Labour party. But a lot of people hate him for that, too. And the H+S sh*t* has got worse under him, but then it just keeps getting worse no matter who is in power.

Overall… begins to look a bit like King Log, apart from Iraq; hence thumbs down overall.

Parklife was good, though.

[Oh, and PFI too – another disaster. But mostly Broons fault]

[Update: a couple of things I forgot, added here where only those who read by RSS will see them: (1) devolution (2) House of Lords reform (only half way, but still a good thing) (3) minimum wage (4) interventions in Sierra Leone and Kosovo (less sure about the last) (5) Increased toleration -W]


  1. #1 guthrie

    Blur did some good music. Some cutting social commentary, entertaining lyrics, and so on.

    Oh, wait, you don’t mean that Blur…

  2. #2 guthrie

    LIke you I have some trouble thinking of stuff that Blair actually did. I am not sure who was responsible for the minimum wage. Thats almost the only other sensible thing he did. On everything else, the rhetoric has been Conservative in its fashion. Unfortunately Brown sounded exactly like Blair this week when he was talking about whatever it was that he was going to do in office- it was so bland and speechified I am afraid that I have forgotten.

    Then I notice that Broon is planning 5 new towns built to be carbon neutral. I wonder how much of our taxes will go for paying for them? Yet he is ignoring the simple fact that introducing and enforcing proper building regs. on new builds would make a noticeable difference to this countries CO2 output. But no, instead of doing that, he has to trumpet some fancy new town scheme.

  3. #3 Mark Hadfield

    “Target culture”?

  4. #4 guthrie

    Target culture is where you set targets for everything that you want to get done. (As pioneered by everyone from Stalin and Mao to your local multinational business)

    Unfortunately, Blairs idea of targets too often degenerated into micromanagement. Also, monitoring all these centrally set targets requires a large bureacracy and much training and re-training, and an IT system to match. Ah yes, thats what I had forgotten- the many large scale gvt IT projects which cost hundreds of millions if not billions more than they should have, not to mention the upcoming ID cards fiasco that will piss off a good part of the populace, especially when they realise that they will, by default, be criminals when they don’t tell the gvt every last bit of information it requires.

  5. #5 Eli Rabett

    You have to think about N. Ireland as a long process in which Blair had a hand at every turn but often a hidden one. As to Iraq he deserves even more blame, having provided much of the cover that the US used to justify that splendid adventure.

  6. #6 Hank Roberts

    All I know is what I read in the newspapers, like

    But mostly I concluded I don’t understand UK politics _or_ cartoonists.
    Or moviemakers.

    Fortunately the science makes sense.

  7. #7 SteveF

    My perspective on government is that the best any party can do with power is not bugger things up too much. In this regard I think the Blair admin has done a decent job. There have been specific positives as well; minimum wage, Northern Ireland, employment rising etc.

    I think a key thing about Blair is that he has been great at raising awareness about things that need to be tackled. Prior to his term, people didn’t care so much about climate change, poverty in Africa, child poverty in the UK and so on. I think it’s a tribute to him that the conservatives realise that in order to win power you have to be touchy feely about such things. He has redefined the political landscape in this regard and deserves credit for this. Sadly he wasn’t able to provide concrete solutions to such problems and this has been his great failing.

    For me and those people I know, the last 10 years have been pretty good. We are comfortably well off and have good lifestyles. Therefore his time in office has been a success for us personally. Wider than this, I suspect history will judge him reasonably kindly, although the Iraq elephant blundering around the world will always be a stain (although in some respects I actually accept his views on foreign policy, with specific regards to Islamism).

    Maybe a fair summary (nicked from a recent paper) would be brilliant politician, (above?)average statesman.

  8. #8 guthrie

    Hank, I learnt the other side of 80’s politics and life from Steve Bells cartoons, in the same way that old Giles annuals gave me an idea of what happened, for example, in 1976.

    SteveF- prior to 1997, climate change was not a huge issue, and there was still a fair bit of unceertainty. As for the poor in Africa and elsewhere, I assume you are old enough to remember Live aid, Oxfam and everything else. Blair has been great at making pronouncements, but is unclear to ordinary little me that they have had any impact upon society at large.

  9. #9 fergus

    Perhaps the most pertinent thing to say about TB is that he isn’t (wasn’t) Thatcher. It will be a while before it is clear how much of the MT heritage has been responsible for what has gone on since, especially in relation to the economy, which is (though arguably) the best achievement of the current regime.

    So, Blair will in time be measured against Thatcher. I suspect that this may work in his favour…

    OTOH, we could look at the American model of democracy, and end up with a head of state like GDubya. Or the French model…

    I get the impression as things stand that the world leader most likely to be seen in a good light down the line, of the current bunch, might be Angela Merckl (sp?).

  10. #10 James Annan

    I’m with SteveF. Until Iraq, Blair didn’t actually fuck things up too badly (and had some achievements of significance), which is good enough for me. After Iraq I couldn’t consider voting for him or his supporters.

    I suspect history would have been much kinder to Broon as the best Chancellor in modern(?) British history, rather than as a mediocre PM. But _someone’s_ got to do it.

    (ObClimateScience: a past Director of a UK science lab once told me that the reason he took the job is not that he wanted it or even thought he would be good, but that he feared the alternative would have been worse. When my lab needed a director, no-one there wanted to do it, and the alternative WAS worse :-) )

  11. #11 SteveF

    guthrie – I was a mere three years old at the time of Live Aid, so my memories of the even are not great! However, I still think my point stands; Live Aid occurred and there was obviously concern about poverty, yet Thatcher still managed to win elections and I don’t imagine she spent too much time discussing third world poverty.

    Now we have the prospect of a new Tory government and in order to win power they are absolutely required to give a shit (or at least be seen to be giving a shit) about the plight of starving African’s. I think Blairs re-ordering of the political landscape is strongly responsible for this. A similar situation can be seen with climate change – it wasn’t a massive issue before Blair came to power, but he has helped bring it to people’s conciousness.

    I do agree about government IT projects. If the Private Eye are to believed, most such efforts are nothing short of debacles. Moreover ID cards surely have to be one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard of.

  12. #12 guthrie

    Hey, that makes you younger than me!
    (Not by too much though. I had started primary school when Live aid was on)
    Well, here we differ. I have trouble seeing how Blair has reorganised it, rather cumulative decades of hard work by everyone from Christian aid to Oxfam, from coffee mornings to charity shops to leaflets. Meanwhile, countries are still subjected to structural adjustments and despite all that aforementioned grass roots stuff, they managed to only write off a few millions of pounds of debt.

    The thing about ID cards is that they are superficially atractive, but we do not live in an ideal world. And of course the gvt has lied constantly about what they would be for. “They’ll prevent terror!” “They’ll help prevent dole scroungers!” And so on.

  13. #13 Brian Schmidt

    “(I know it was mostly US troops but our (his) support seems to have been very important: likely it would not have happened had we said no).”

    You misunderestimate God’s Chosen President.

    Still, had the Brits not supported the war AND hadn’t lied/continued lying about WMDs even worse than my government (something I find incredible), that might have shifted enough of the vote in 2004 and President Kerry would be winding down the war right now.

  14. #14 Gareth

    (Not by too much though. I had started primary school when Live aid was on)

    Now I really feel my age. I was half way through primary school when the Beatles were on.

    And Giles cartoon’s are about the 1950s. He was crap in the 70s.

    But, to return to the topic: when the Blessed Margaret was elected leader of the Conservatives, I promised a room full of people I would emigrate if “that woman” ever became PM. I broke my promise, and emigrated a year before TB took office.

    He hasn’t made me want to return.

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