Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bye Bye Blair

Here's an interesting piece from Dan Finkelstein's column in the (London) Times on the five Americans he thinks most influenced Tony Blair, who announced today that he would be stepping down as prime minister for 10 years come June 27. As Finkelstin sees it, they were Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, the "new Democrat" think-tank that provided back-up to Clinton and others, Bill Clinton, Rupert Murdoch, Dick Morris, and George W. Bush. If he was going to be influenced or changed by Americans, you might think he would have picked a more propitious bunch.

One thing Tony Blair might have done was to change the way politics is discussed in Britain. Left-wing Labor members used to grouse that he left Margaret Thatcher's market-oriented reforms pretty much in place, thus becoming like the putative opposition party -- Thatcherism-lite. Now the British Tories are falling all over themselves to show how compassionate and socially aware they are, becoming Blairism-lite?

He does deserve a fair amount of credit for the fact that Northern Ireland now has a coalition government that so far (it's only a few days old) looks to be ready to operate with a minimum of violence and correct if not exactly warm relations between former foes. Maybe 50 years from now in Iraq.

Americans might remember him best for his warm relations with two quite different American presidents and for the fact that he could always make the case for the war in Iraq much more convincingly than our own sometimes tongue-tied president. Ironically, that torpedoed his popularity -- although it might have plummeted anyway; people tend to get tired of a politician after 10 years.

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