Blair’s Long Goodbye

Britain’s longest-serving Labour prime minister will step down within the year. Small scale revolt from within party ranks and a nasty dispute with long time political rival Gordon Brown were the straws that broke the camel’s back after growing anger over the country’s foreign policy.

During his time in office, Blair successfully captured the country’s political center, led Britain away from his party’s traditional Welfare State policies towards those inspired by market forces, and navigated international relationships across the Channel as well as those across the Atlantic.

He seemed to see himself as Robin to Bush’s Batman, in a multilateral world with the US at the helm and the UK right behind. Sometimes called “Bush’s ambassador to the US,” he prized the “special relationship” above all others.

So now that Blair is approaching lame duck status, what are the lessons and the legacy of his nearly ten years at 10 Downing Street? What next for the curious counterpoint of left and right, up and down, linking British and American politics since Thatcher and Reagan?

Extra Credit Reading
James Laxer, The Long Goodbye of Tony Blair, James Laxer, September 7, 2006: “Blair’s conceit that in return for support for the U.S. in Iraq, he could convince the Americans to sign on to the Kyoto Accord and to adopt a less one-sided pro-Israel position in the Middle East, was misplaced.”

Rachel, How Mad is Tony Blair?, Rachel from North London, September 6, 2006: “He ran through various incarnations – frequently a knobbly-kneed Boy Scout, or a smirking US poodle, until he ended up as the swivel-eyed, bloodsplattered zombie that cartoonists portray him as today.”

Laura, Could Labour learn valuable lessons from the rave scene?, Homepage blog, September 6, 2006: “[In May 1997] in Liverpool, where a vast proportion of electors had grudgingly tolerated 18 years of a Conservative government, the atmosphere was jubilant.”

Tony Blair: should he carry on or quit now?, Homepage blog, September 7, 2006.

Oxford Analytica, Party Revolts Over Blair Exit Strategy, Forbes, September 11, 2006: “It began when Blair conducted a newspaper interview in which he declined to indicate the latest date that he would remain in power, insisted that would be his “last word” on the subject, and implied that any Labor members of Parliament who wanted him to be more precise had to be malcontents or doctrinal opponents undermining his leadership.”

James Button, Execution date awaits Tony Blair, The Age, September 9, 2006: “Think of the months ahead: Labour falling further in the polls, the Tories gloating, neither journalists nor public servants nor the world at large paying any heed to his policy statements because they might soon be undone.”

Denis MacShane, Why I remain loyal to Tony Blair, Telegraph, September 9, 2006: “Field Marshal Montgomery insisted that the most important quality in generalship was being calm when all appears to be going wrong.”

Peter Stothard, The Succession: What really happened in Britain last week?, The Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2006: “Who will succeed President Bush’s eloquent and loyal Mr. Blair?”

Guest List
Robert Guest
Washington, D.C. political correspondent for The Economist.
Rod Dacombe
researcher at Oxford on British government, blogger at Brit Pundit, and former Labour party candidate.
Rachel North
survivor of the 7/7 attacks and blogger, Rachel from North London.
Iain Dale

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