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Thursday, May 10, 2007

The long goodbye

There are many people more qualified than I to comment on Tony Blair's legacy. As I write he has just announced that his last day as Prime Minister will be 27th June.

On Radio Wales this morning the Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain, said that the Prime Minister has grown to appreciate the value of devolution and to understand it better. It is certainly the case that the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament were not his projects but a policy that he had inherited from his predecessor as Labour Leader.

His decision to treat Wales differently has had severe consequences for the development of our institution and for the Wales Labour Party. It has taken a second Government of Wales Act to try to correct that mistake. Even that Act is badly flawed.

David Cornock has a more comprehensive overview of Blair's relationship with Wales on the BBC website:

Blair initially struggled to understand that devolution did mean doing things differently in different parts of the UK.

Morgan's Welsh Assembly Government rejected much of the public service reform agenda Blair introduced in England. Longer hospital waiting times in Wales - the consequences he thought of an unreformed NHS - were said to be one reason why Blair pursued that agenda so vigorously.

Tony Blair is Labour's most electorally successful leader, but the Welsh displayed an independence of spirit during assembly elections. Lance Price, a former Downing Street spin doctor, reported "TB effing and blinding about the whole thing" during the first elections when Alun Michael failed to win a majority.

My view is that Blair's greatest legacy is the settlement in Northern Ireland, a matter that Peter Hain also must take some credit for. It should be noted however that this is a process that was started by John Major, who showed tremendous courage in seeking to bring the parties together in the first place. Blair also showed political courage but in all the celebrations earlier this week it seemed that Major's role was forgotten.

Blair's biggest mistake was of course Iraq. Whatever the merits and demerits of going to war, the way that he handled the issue was a key factor in destroying the trust that many voters had in him.

Watching him on television now, one has to admire his mastery of the occasion. He is clearly the most talented politician of his time and Labour will have a tough job replacing him, even with a heavyweight such as Gordon Brown waiting in the wings.
It comes to me why Blair is more popular in America than Bush: His French is better than Bush's English.

Northern Ireland aside, But what can you say?

Tony Bliar was:
* One of England's most talented politicians.
* One of the U.K.'s worse statesmen.
* The U.S.A.'s greatest Prime Ministers.

If he comes to the USA, Bush will make him War Czar. (no one on this side of the Pond will consider this novel position & Tony Bliar's experience and track record alone proves his qualifications.
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