Thursday, 10 May 2007

Blair sets date for departure

British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced he will leave office on 27 June.

He acknowledged his government had not always lived up to high expectations but said he had been very lucky to lead "the greatest nation on earth".

He will stay on in Downing Street until the Labour Party elects a new leader - widely expected to be Gordon Brown.

In an emotional speech, Mr Blair said he had been prime minister for 10 years which was "long enough" for the country and himself.

He thanked the British people for their support and apologised for when "I have fallen short".

(See also speech in full.)

Blair has done a lot of good, Northern Ireland and living standards come to mind, but also a lot of bad, namely by buddying up with the Bush administration in its 'war on terror' and passing questionable anti-terror laws as well as entering the Iraq war. One thing arguably good or bad was his reforming of the Labour Party.

Blair is a charismatic, intelligent leader, who seems to believe what he enacts. The UK's National Health Service has not been made much better, one of the major domestic hot topics that has faced the Blair occupation of No. 10 this past decade. The economy is doing better and education has seen some noticeable changes. He brought transparent, democratic government initiatives such as the Prime Minister's Questions, which I personally like immensely, but Blair also brought about some civil liberties crushing anti-terror reforms following the attacks on 9/11 and 7/7.

Labour has suffered defeat lately in local elections, especially in those of Scotland — a rebuke to the Blarite leadership? The fact of the matter is he's needed to leave for a while now, and his announcement today comes as no surprise.

As historians point out, Tony Blair has political savvy, he did work towards ridding Afghanistan of al-Qaeda, but he also brought the power of the PM to a "presidential" level.

What happens next?

Current Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown is likely to take over.
These days Mr Brown likes to talk about Britishness, which he sees as the fount of shared values that can bind society together. It often sounds a bit stilted. But of one thing Mr Brown is convinced: like him, the British care passionately about fairness. If he is right, and if he can find the words to express it (both big ifs), the voters may in time decide that there is something in this strange, clumsy, powerful champion of social justice that they find, if not likeable, at least admirable.

How long he will last is another question, but he is certainly qualified. Blair finally endorced Brown earlier this month for the job, and no serious contenders within Labour seem to have arisen.

Brown is an interesting man nonetheless. For one thing he is Scottish, which worries some English nationalists and xenophobes.

The not-so-conservative David Cameron, Conservative Party leader, is the greatest threat to Brown. On one hand he does not want to call a general election so soon (the last one was in 2005; they are generally five or so years apart), and by the way Labour is going Brown would probably loose. On the other hand he doesn't want people to look at him as a dictatorial-like successor to Blair, especially as the conservative media has labeled him "Stalinist" after his latest budget.

Rightfully, Blair has admitted the "blow-back" from Iraq. There has also been blowback at home from his Middle East excursions. Hopefully Brown will keep a more independent, yet international and liberal/centrist, foreign policy.

Farewell Tony. The end of the Blairite New Labour era — with all its ups and downs — is nearing. As Labour is down in the polls and the UK faces a number of important issues, a new, strong political leader is needed. Hopefully Brown will be able to step up to the plate. He has waited long enough.

Technorati technorati tags: , , , , , , , , ,

No comments: