Tony Blair today announced that he would hand his resignation to the Queen on June 27. Several features about this news are typical. First of all, leaks from spin-doctors have been advising for a long time what was coming. No previous British government has ever gone in for such media manipulation. Far from going cleanly, Blair is clinging on for several weeks, during which time he will attend a European conference and may sign there an agreement to a treaty that nobody wants and that will further curtail national independence. What a parting slap in the face that would be. Finally, Blair himself was fighting back tears as he set the date for his departure – tears of self-pity and thwarted ambition. In his abdication speech he thanked the British people for his successes and apologised for “the times I have fallen short.” Charles Dickens alone could do justice to the unctuous sentimentality.
Under John Major, the previous Prime Minister, the government simply fell apart. It has done so again under Blair. Culture, education, health, transport, are at abysmal levels. Crime is such that there is no more room in prisons for the convicted. Through legal and illegal immigration the country has lost control of its borders. Agriculture is shattered. Blair allowed the mass slaughter of livestock, and banned fox hunting, a nasty measure of class war. He tinkered disastrously with the constitution, abolishing the House of Lords, devolving power to Brussels, to Scotland and to Wales. In Northern Ireland, at the expense of the moderates he has installed in power the rival Catholic and Protestant men of violence, which is disgusting in itself but also an invitation to Islamist terrorists. He packed committees and appointments with his cronies, some of whom have been arrested for their financial dealings. “I’m a pretty straight kind of guy,” Blair once crowed, but the sleaze comes perilously close. Yes, Dickens had the measure of artful dodgers like this. With his usual accuracy Anthony Daniels hit upon the perfect phrase – Blair, he said, has “delusions of honesty.”
Yet he got one thing right. He supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and committed British troops to that end. He understood that the United States is the ultimate protector of Europe. It is a horrid irony that his best decision is the cause of his unpopularity and downfall. In his farewell speech he is reduced to apologising about Iraq, “We must see it through. It is a test of will, of belief,” adding, “hand on heart, I did what I thought was right.” Of course this is the issue that has forced him out of power because experience in so many other fields has taught the public to disbelieve and mistrust whatever he says, especially when he turns weepy about his hand being on his heart. That is his legacy.