Goodbye to all that

Tony Blair, the second-longest serving British PM of the 20th and 21st centuries, has left Number 10, for his new job as Middle East Peace Envoy for the Quartet.
Eyewear is glad to see him go. Blair was a mostly negative influence on British politics, and society, more generally. He ushered in an age of spin - glib media-manipulation and poll-driven decision-making - and then, paradoxically - made an isolated, almost Lear-like stand, in pushing through UK support for the Bush-led illegal war on Iraq - never admitting the failed vision of that action. Both of these impulses - to manufacture events, and often deny the reality of others - has led to a widespread cynicism in British life, where often the worst are filled with intensity, and the majority lack conviction.

The latest example of this is Tory leader Mr. Cameron, a lightweight Blairesque figure, who may not be a match for the lead balloon gravitas of dour Mr. Brown, now Prime Minister. Cool Britannia seems a long way back, now. It'd be nice to think a new age of seriousness may arrive - one able to cope, with honesty and integrity - with real-world issues, such as climate change.

If Mr. Brown wants to start well, he will distance himself from Iraq - and America; become more open to Europe - especially France or Germany; tax the super-rich; monitor the military-industrial complex; curb the cigarette and pharmaceutical interests; and attend to the problems that face schools across the nation. He will also try to provide more affordable housing for families who work hard, and deserve a step onto the property ladder.

Time will tell whether his clunking fist will wear a velvet or an iron glove.

As for Mr. Blair, history may yet swerve his way. Should he be a truly balanced interlocutor in the Middle East, he might - against the odds - work a miracle, and win his Nobel Peace prize. Meanwhile, he will rake in millions, speaking in America. He is, as his farewell speech in the House of Commons reminded, a witty, clever man. Imagine what he might have achieved, if he had been a true Labour leader.

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