Thursday, August 24, 2006


Tony Blair's Real Legacy

I've written more than once about Blair's legacy- he is so obsessed with it after all- but was provided with a new slant on it by a French commentator today. Agnes Poirier suggests that the political trajectory of Blair since 1994 has not just changed British politics but profoundly affected wider European politics too. She suggests that Blair's practice of 'campaign to the left, govern from the right' has influenced Romano Prodi's government in Italy- already implementing rightwing reforms which eluded Berlusconi- and informs the pathways to power envisaged both by French socialist Presidential hopeful Segolene Royal and the even more upper class David Cameron over here.

Blair certainly seems to provide the template for the latter and I fully expect him to continue ploughing the furrows of social justice and inclusiveness; low interest and flexible employment on the economic side; and further 'modernization' through private sector involvement on public services. An interventionist foreign policy is the only policy area I expect Cameron to avoid as far too risky: it worked in Kosovo and Sierra Leone but proved a disaster in Iraq. It all depends how closely he chooses to follow the lead of Washington but I suspect that in his case if he wins the next election- not to mention the likely earlier one of Gordon Brown- Blair's legacy of blind obeisance to the White House will be smartly ignored if not overturned. And that will go for his European imitators as well.

A very interesting article by Poirier - thanks for linking it, Skipper.

I don't agree with one point you make - that "interventionist foreign policy is the only policy area I expect Cameron to avoid as far too risky". Hague is an enthusiastic hawk - a foreign-policy neo-con, even. And I suspect that, for his first few years as PM at least, Cameron will allow Hague a lot of room in shaping foreign policy, for two reasons. First, I get the impression that Cameron feels less knowledgeable about foreign affairs, as was implied by his near silence over the Lebanon crisis; second, Hague is extremely popular with Tory activists, despite his recent criticisms of Israel.
The Tories might well opt for a less messianic and more “realist” (one might say, more conservative) foreign policy (an approach which would receive a boost if John McCain gets the Republican nomination). Matthew Parris in The Times (29/7/06) says a “war for Cameron’s ear” is currently underway. Michael Gove is apparently the most ardent neo-con; Parris describes him as “stark, raving bonkers” on matters of foreign policy. Admittedly, Hague’s past record is as a hawk, but his recent comments suggest a slight change of tack. I suspect that in private there are many senior politicians (both Labour and Conservative) who despair of Blair’s kow-towing to Bush, even if they feel they can’t say so in public.
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