I understand that Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, continues to be admired in the States, though I’m not entirely sure why. I suspect it’s because people do not know him the way that we know him, a man in every way even more morally bereft than former president Bill Clinton. Even in his own Labour Party he is widely despised for the damage he did while in power. I have no idea where he is these days, this rootless, cosmopolitan man, travelling the world, never resting, accursed a little like the Flying Dutchman.
So, you may ask, why is he so disliked? Norman Tebbit, a former minister in the government of Margaret Thatcher, now writes a blog for the Daily Telegraph. At the beginning of the month he, in the style of a prosecutor, drew up a heavy charge sheet against Blair (War, debt and drunkenness, a broken nation: the real legacy of Tony Blair). I’m only too happy to act here in the role of a prosecution junior, bringing the various misdemeanours to your attention.
There was no great vision when Blair came to Downing Street in the wake of his first general election victory of 1997. After years in the wilderness Labour was desperate for power, so desperate that the party allowed itself to be hijacked by a shallow opportunist who had nothing to sell but himself. Things can only get better, was the advertising jingle that carried him over the threshold of power. Instead, in the years that followed, things got considerably worse.
Consider his wars, all part of the Blair-Bush Axis, which created massive levels of indebtedness that will take generations to clear if, in our present economic malaise, they are ever cleared at all. Never mind that; victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam in Iraq made us safer. Oh, no, it did not; it made things even more dangerous. The real risk now is not Islamists in Kabul but Islamists right here in London.
In Iraq our service people sacrificed themselves for nothing. That country is more unstable now than ever. In removing Saddam we immeasurably increased the power of Iran, now a far greater threat than ever to the peace of the region, to the peace of the world.
Then there is the question of mass immigration, which Blair’s government encouraged without reservation or restriction, in the full expectation that the huddled masses yearning to breath free would huddle towards the polling booths and vote Labour, the biggest attempt at gerrymandering in the whole of electoral history. Instead, as we have seen recently, some of these masses are turning to unprincipled politicians with a cynical Islamist agenda.
As part of the process of electoral and social manipulation, Blair’s period in office saw a massive increase in welfare spending. Along with Gordon Brown, his successor in office, he created a huge sub-class of welfare dependants, welfare junkies, as Tebbit refers to them, families in which several generations have been workless and intend to remain workless, kept alive by state doles. We now have a culture in which idleness pays better than employment.
Add to that the cancer of multiculturalism, the inner essence of Blairism, with legislation introduced for the sake of legislation, absurdity following hard upon absurdity. All sense of national identity, of what it means to be British, was systematically destroyed by one fashionable cause after another, a centrifugal process that has acquired a virtually unstoppable momentum. Fragmentation, disassociation and alienation, they are all part of Blair’s malign legacy.
To make matters even worse more and more of our sovereignty was given away to the European Union, without the consent of the people of this country. We can only be thankful that we narrowly avoided joining the single currency, the madness of the euro, though it was a close run thing.
There are other areas where things have got steadily worse. Take state education, one of Blair’s favoured causes, where experimentation and investment resulted in ever more declining standards. Then we had a relaxation in licensing laws which have given our city centres not over to ‘café culture' – Blair’s expectation - but to drunken anarchy, recalling Hogarth’s seventeenth century depictions of Gin Lane. In fear of terrorism, which Blair brought home, levels of surveillance were introduced unprecedented in peace time, unprecedented in a free society. The Taliban had no need to destroy our way of life; Blair was doing it more effectively than they ever could.
Hopeless, unwinnable wars, huge debt, welfare dependency, uncontrolled immigration, social fragmentation, disorder and crime, these are all the legacy of the Blair years. Could any foreign occupier, I ask myself, have done more damage? Yes, things can only get better. They certainly can’t get any worse.