In Defense of Tony Blair

September 2, 2010 Topic: Ideology Region: United Kingdom Blog Brand: Jacob Heilbrunn

In Defense of Tony Blair

Blair was a politician of conviction and substance. What more could you ask for?

 If Gordon Brown writes a memoir, will anyone care? That cannot be said of former British prime minister Tony Blair, who has been been flayed and sniped at by critics inside and outside the Labour party he did so much to renovate. His new memoir A Journey has triggered a new round of remonstrations, as Alex Massie observes in Foreign Policy . But the blunt fact is that Blair will surely go down in history as one of the great British prime ministers.

Blair's greatest accomplishment was to institutionalize the Thatcher revolution. The state of England was dreadful when Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979. Blair did nothing to rollback her measures. Quite the contrary. He forced a recalcitrant Labour party, mired in Fabian nostrums, to modernize itself as well as England. He also brought about peace in Northern Ireland.

"But what about Iraq!", the doubters will cry. What about it? Blair stood by his American ally, believed in the cause, and helped to topple a despot. He says that it turned into a "nightmare," which it did. But Blair was a politician of conviction and substance. One of the few reasonable assessments of Blair comes from the Financial Times:  "all the gun smoke of Iraq and Afghanistan cannot obscure the fact that Mr Blair was an astonishingly successful party leader."

Right on. The lamentable record of his successor Gordon Brown simply highlights his virtues. David Cameron's job is to clean up the mess left behind Brown, probably the most overrated figure in British politics. The economic brownout that occurred during his tenure should irrevocably tarnish his, not Blair's, reputation.

(Illustration by Strassengalerie.at )