Thursday, May 10, 2007

Head above parapet

This is an unfashionable thing to say, but I think Tony Blair's all right. I wish he wasn't such good friends with George W, who I think is very, very far from all right, and I think he made a colossal, irredeemable mistake with Iraq. But he made the Labour Party (which I have never joined but which I have always voted for) electable and he's kept it electable. And I think his heart's in the right place on many issues, domestic and international, even if I'd prefer it if he was an atheist (not least because if he was I don't think he'd be such good friends with George W). Basically, I think he *does* want to make the world a fairer place, and some of what he's done has had that effect. And I think the alternative's still worse, a whole lot worse, and those of us who can remember politics in the 1980s and early 90s shouldn't forget that.

He's also indirectly responsible for one of the best nights of my life, which I spent at the now legendary Billy Bragg gig at the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden on 1 May 1997. The sun came up, the birds began to sing, and light shone in on everything. (There were Class As involved too, but still).


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Anonymous jonathan said...

You know, I almost had a tear in my eye watching Tony's end-of-an-era speech from Trimdon yesterday... which surprised me a bit given that as a fellow old-Labour person and refugee from the 1980s I share all the fashionable misgivings about Bush, Iraq and the rest. But yes, the man does deserve credit for a lot of what he's done (just keeping out the Tories for 10 years is a decent start..)-and I do think we may only start to appreciate him properly once he's gone.

1:13 pm  
Anonymous Charlie said...

Well, I'm bound to say, first, that his valedictory speech combined the sort of toe-curling faux sincerity and dizzying hubris which have become his calling card, and, second, that if our summary of a prime minister is to be: "Well, yes, he was directly responsible for countless thousands of deaths overseas through his active support for a war made in bad faith by morally compromised powers, but on the plus side look what he did for us at home",then I'm not sure what sort of a nation that would make us. Possibly one that shouldn't be too aggrieved to have its trains blown up.

Sorry. I hate Tony Blair and there is no legitimate trade-off for Iraq. I think he is the poster boy for the dictum that power tends to corrupt.

7:41 am  
Blogger Jo said...

I don't think it's a trade off. I think you can say that Iraq was a terrible foreign policy decision and one which was made dishonestly and untransparently and yes, which has caused thousands of deaths and contributed to Islamic militancy here and elsewhere. A really, really shit decision, and one which was, I think, accompanied by the kind of messianic fervour that scares the life out of me. I agree that power corrupts, and thinking that you have god on your side makes it even worse.

But I don't think that negates all the positive things that the Blair government has done to change / influence others on aid, debt, trade and other international development issues. Some good stuff on climate change. Some good stuff on arms control. The Commission for Africa. At home (off the top of my head), the minimum wage, the Gender Equality Duty, civil partnerhships, the Northern Ireland peace process, flexible working, fox hunting, devolution.

I think a Conservative government would have made the same decision on Iraq: they supported it at the time and they have continued to. And I think in other areas they would have been worse. So it's in the realpolitik 'could have been a lot worse' sense that I think he's all right, and I think in ten years time the benefits of some of the less visible but quite profound changes that have happened will be more obvious.

Some of these are bad ones as well, though. I'm no fan of PFI and no apologist for some of the policies that have increased inequality and behaviour that has increased disillusion with politicians as a breed, I'm just saying that broadly, overall, no, I don't hate him.

1:09 pm  
Blogger Simon Bell said...

I was atop a large building in Den Haag, NL, partying with a guitar band called Powderfinger. I was so tempted to return to the UK the following day.

I opposed the war and told my MP on the eve of it. We exchanged a number of e-mails on the subject and I kept them to beat him with. I haven't done it yet and he is now minister for transport. But I like him nevertheless and cetainly don't want the blue rinsers in round here (I live in a pretty deprived area - 20% unemployment - and the local tory council are as corrupt as it gets).

I bloody hope Gordon does the biz but did you see the cheesy blair style grin on the front page of the guardian Saturday. Worrying.

I did find myself thinking the same thing last week though.

7:20 pm  
Anonymous Charlie said...

Ok. I think it does negate it. Really, that's my point. I don't see how you can balance those things, without implicitly suggesting that far-away deaths are one thing and nursery places and sexual tolerance are another, and that the two can be weighed in the balance. I think he has blood on his hands, and I think he's a maniac. I can't get past that.

I also think the case for domestic transformation is shaky at best, but that's a separate argument.

7:53 pm  
Blogger Jo said...

C - I'm not balancing them, I think they're mutually exlusive. I am compartmentalising. I can do that for Blair in a way that I couldn't for Thatcher (and can't for Bush either). Don't know why, just can.

S - I hope Brown fights for his right to stay dour. He doesn't want to grin, I'm convinced of it. And May 2 1997 was a beautiful day. We walked from Harlesden to Paddington in the early hours, blagged our way onto the first train to Oxford, then dozed on the grassy bank outside the train station (now concreted over, sadly) until the tucked away pub opened. There'll never be another morning like it.

8:45 am  

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