C’mon, he wasn’t that bad:

Mick Hume, Spiked: To listen to the deluge of buck-passing attacks on Tony Blair, from his erstwhile allies as much as his enemies, you might think he was personally to blame for everything that has happened in the past decade, from the crises in Iraq or the health service to England’s exit from the World Cup or the return of Take That … By all means, let us have a cutting assessment of the Blair era. But let’s try to criticise New Labour for the right things. For a start, here are a few of the most common myths about Blair’s political legacy. “Blair has destroyed the Labour Party” … “Blair’s governments have been all about spin” … “Blair didn’t do enough to solve Britain’s problems”.

In fact, he was pretty damn good:

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian: The Blair era did change the political climate as surely as Thatcher had done before. What better proof than [Conservative Party Leader David] Cameron’s strange transmogrification into a caring, green, liberal-minded leader who claims wellbeing trumps wealth? He may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but he thinks Conservatives can’t win unless they look, sound and smell more like progressive social democrats … Back in 1997, Labour never promised much to mothers. But now universal childcare will be well on the way by the next election … Clinics, hospitals and schools are almost unrecognisable from the shabby disrepair Labour inherited … Where’s the money gone, the Opposition asks? It can be seen in every public service, public building and open space by anyone who can remember 10 years ago … All this, with the strongest economy and the longest period of growth, is Blair’s legacy.

Blair’s legacy = unaffordable housing:

James Harding, The TimesOne of the unplanned but most intractable legacies of the Blair decade is the distortion of any normal or sustainable relation between house prices and people’s incomes. If that link is not already broken it is certainly stretched to the limit.

What happened to rock under Blair?

Alexis Petridis , The Guardian music blog: What has been the predominant musical sound during Tony Blair’s premiership? You might disagree, but I’d plump for what one critic recently dubbed mortgage rock: the portentous, wistful, stadium-filling, ballad-heavy, post-Britpop genre that gets played in the background when an English team gets knocked out of an international sporting tournament, or an unsuccessful X-Factor hopeful collapses weeping into the arms of Kate Thornton. In fairness, it wasn’t really around when Blair took office, although the records that influenced it were: Wonderwall, OK Computer, The Drugs Don’t Work.

A political history through food:

Paul Vallely, The Independent: What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago, the restaurant at 127 Upper Street in Islington was called Granita. The food was what chefs like to call modern British — a sophisticated melange purloined from all around the Mediterranean: you know the kind of thing, char-grilled aubergine, shellfish with interesting vinaigrettes and a signature dish of Roquefort with toasted walnuts. It was sophisticated and trendy, and it was where, modern political mythology has it, one night in May 1994, Tony Blair persuaded Gordon Brown not to stand for the leadership of the Labour Party but to support him instead … [Today] the restaurant has changed hands. It is now a Tex-Mex cantina with thick steaks and chilli burgers of a kind more to the taste of Tony Blair’s political friend and military ally, George Bush. The place is called “Desperados”, a name which offers scopes for gags whatever your political perspective — as do the John Prescott-style cowboy boots hanging from the ceiling.

Bush’s top salesman:

Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post: [Blair’s] hand-on-heartfelt convictions had dire consequences for US foreign policy. Blair was exactly what George W Bush needed to sell his fraudulent and immoral war in Iraq to the American public: a seemingly reasonable and non-partisan stamp of international approval (after all, he’d been bosom buddies with Bill Clinton, hadn’t he?) … More than being just Bush and Cheney’s cheery wingman, Blair was one of their top salesmen, pitching sexed up dossiers, Nigerian yellowcake, and the specter of chemical weapons “ready within 45 minutes” raining down on Europe. Although Blair was far from the only enabler to Bush’s Iraq fantasies — spineless Congressional Democrats and a wildly compliant press certainly did their part — the impact of his unwavering support was enormous.

Don’t forget his extraordinary first term:

David Marquand, The Guardian: The monstrous shadow of Iraq has hung over Tony Blair’s prime ministership for so long that it is hard to remember the achievements of his first term. Yet they were extraordinary, in scope and significance. Under Blair, Britain acquired a fundamental law – the Human Rights Act – for the first time in its history. It has not yet been fully digested. Blair and his ministers clearly haven’t understood it; and its repercussions for the dealings of private individuals and organisations have yet to be grasped by the wider public outside the legal profession. But, like a stone thrown into a pool, it has created ripples going well beyond the expectations of its authors. The same applies, rather more obviously, to the devolution statutes in Great Britain and the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland.

What about Cherie?

Alice Thomson: The Telegraph: I don’t feel sorry for Mr Blair as he slides down Downing Street’s bannisters for the last time, appears with Catherine Tate for Comic Relief and reads the pages devoted to his legacy. He has had his chance. But for the first time I do feel sympathetic towards Cherie. She has shared Mr Blair’s 10 years in Downing Street, but while the People’s Prime Minister takes time to decide how many international jobs to juggle, she has become the most disliked woman in Britain… Mr Blair is rarely gallant towards his wife. During the flats fiasco, when the Blairs bought two homes in Bristol through the conman Peter Foster, she was the one who took the blame and was forced to make a humiliating apology. Meanwhile, Mr Blair distanced himself as much as he could. It has worked to his benefit that she is seen as greedy, that she was blamed for lying — when he is usually the one who has been less than honest. Cherie, on the other hand, is unfailingly loyal to her husband in public. She may have gone too far when she mentioned to The Sun that he liked s-x five times a night — but she was only trying to help.

How does Blair stack up internationally?

Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian: For all the problems that remain, you must ask yourself this question: who is better off? Britain after 10 years of Blair, France after 12 years of Jacques Chirac, Germany following eight years of Gerhard Schröder, or the US in the seventh year of George Bush?

Added extras:

  • Could Blair be the next EU president? asks FT.com
  • See Blair dance. Well, it’s Hugh Grant, actually.
  • Hear Blair resign.
  • The Spectator ‘s theatre critic reviews Blair’s farewell speech. “By way of introduction his white-haired agent made a short warm-up speech and then introduced Mr Blair in person. Smiling and beaming like Dumbo on crack, the great statesman made his way to the podium, acknowledging the cheers of the suitably multicultural audience. The front row, in particular, boasted a range of colorations: dark, blond, fair, ginger — and that was just the Blairs.”
  • Historians say: how Blair will be remembered.
  • Gordon Brown: The Time interview.
  • Tony Blair is waving goodbye to Downing Street — and hello to a staggering £40million from book deals and lecture tours, says The Daily Mail

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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