Tony Blair set himself many challenges. He laid out some of the more complex in his speech to News Corporation executives meeting on Hayman Island in 1995:
The central question of modern democratic politics is how to provide security during revolutionary change. That is what people look for from the governments they elect. And I don’t just mean economic security. They want social stability too. They want some sense of rules, boundaries, parameters, reorganised and accepted by society as a whole, and enforced. It is not just the economy, stupid.
The task is to combine the preparation of a nation for economic change with the re-establishment of social order. The disillusion with much of politics and politicians in modern democracies is in part that this task is immense in size and complexity, but in part because politicians have failed to ignite the honest debate needed about the nature of the society we live in and the values it is built upon… [T]he moral challenge is every bit as pressing as the economic challenge… The old left solutions of rigid economic planning and state control won’t work…
Blair charged his Minister for Welfare Reform Frank Field with the task of “thinking the unthinkable” and reshaping social security and social responsibility — and then failed to back him when he did just that. Field resigned.
Blair’s foreign policy has been consistent. He has stood for freedom and democracy from the Balkans to Afghanistan. He has opposed tyrants, be they Bosnian Serbs, the Taliban or Saddam Hussein. Holding this line, however, has distracted and destroyed him.
Britain is a bossy nanny state. Bureaucracy has burgeoned.
Blair’s chancellor Gordon Brown is to blame for much of this. Blair left the details to him, while he fought wars abroad.
The new social contract Blair imagined — New Labour, New Britain — has never been developed, thanks to Brown and his old Labour tendencies. The Chancellor is all but guaranteed to become prime minister, even as he talks about statist 10 year plans.
Blair has only ever been able to apply his single-mindedness to foreign policy and foreign policy has destroyed him — along with all the ideas that made him such an attractive and potentially great prime minister. It is the tragedy of Tony Blair.