Blair is now slowly becoming a thing of history- as are many of his closest advisors and ministers. Not to mention the fact that the Brown accession looks much more troubled than it used to, with many commentators beleiving that Brown may only remain Prime Minister for a couple of years not a couple of terms. Slowly the controversies that used to dog the body politic are becoming a thing of history and new controversies are arising in their place- but that leaves us now at a point where we can begin the long business of assessing Blair, Blairism and New Labour as phenomena.
Ross McKibbon has begun just such an assessment in the London Review of Books. I find much that he says convincing- new Labour has not been as focused on equality as previous Labour governments and has presided over an uneasy synthesis of Thatcherite economics and increased public spending. There have been some rather spectacular errors- the invasion of Iraq, both in its planning and its execution, has not been a success by any terms. The Blair government has seemed to be too close for much of the electorate or indeed any party in the political spectrum's comfort to George Bush and the Republicans in the United States. What Britain has gained for its close adherence to American foreign policy is not clear- Britain's diplomatic clout is not obvious and for many Sir Christopher Meyer's portrait of Blair as a starstruck teenager worshipping power has become more and more convincing. There have been successes as well. People underrate how Blair has helped the country become more liberal, more accepting over his years of power. Economic success, born of luck and continuing Tory economic policies, has been a feature of the Blair years too. Perhaps most emblematic has been a difficult relationship with the two chief dissident forces within the state- the judiciary and the civil service. Blair has appreciated the role of neither and seems to regard all professional bodies and groups with a degree of scorn only matched by his close predecessor Margerate Thatcher.
All in all as Blair's reign fades out towards the sunset- his retrospective will be written by more and more individuals. My own sense at the moment remains confused- and this piece therefore is confused. Dr McKibbon has begun a work I fancy which it will take years and many hands to finish.