Farewell Mr. Blair

Tony Blair

So the date the Prime Minister will finally be leaving office has been announced, and his successor (thanks no doubt to his iron fist) is all but crowned.

Prime Ministers are such a part of day-to-day life, that when they change, it prompts you to reflect on their period of office, and how their tenure effected your own life.

When Tony Blair entered Downing Street in May 1997, I was just under the threshold of being able to vote. I do remember the event pretty well, having lived my life up until that point knowing nothing but the Tory governments of Thatcher and Major. For a little while things certainly felt a little strange.

At that time I was a closet Conservative, but even I welcomed the opportunity for some change in government and some new ideas. Hopes were high for this first Labour government in 18 years, but only because those hopes were raised by this fresh faced center-left social democrat who preached the third way.

It didn’t take long however to work out that this government was going to be just as bad as the previous, if not worse given it’s agenda of ‘spin’.

Blair and Me

At the end of the day I can only comment on Tony Blair’s success, by looking at how Blair’s ten years effected me.

  • My old secondary school became a ‘Technology College’ 1 , extensively refurbished and extended - yet also surrounded by a 10 foot high fence. TP Riley, a faling school close to where I live, was torn down and rebuilt as an ‘Academy’.

    This (privately financed) bricks and mortar can only count for so much. It’s what happens inside these buildings that really matters, and I don’t actually believe there has been as much improvement as Tony Blair would like to believe - and he can skew the numbers as much as he wants.

  • I was a victim of crime on three separate occasions. The theft of my wallet and phone from Walsall Gala Baths, a robery at my former place of work, and more recently my assault in the center Birmingham, in which the police paid a passing interest. How connected these events are to Labour being in power I don’t know, it is quite possible that the same would have happened under any other leadership.

    I certainly feel less safe when in the UK than I did ten years ago, and our towns and cities almost seem to turn into war zones as soon as the night draws in.

  • I started University during the first year in which students had to pay tuition fees (a cost that then increased year on year). I’m actually in agreement that those wanting to go to university should be responsible for it’s cost.

    The more recent update of this policy, and the privatisation of the Student Loans Company is a step too far in my opinion.

  • I now live in a country that is needlessly at war with another, and with a governent that sides with George W. Bush, who is perhaps the worst thing to happen to western civilisation since the Cold War. It can be strongly argued, that thanks to this policy, we are probably at an even greater threat from terrorism than we would have been otherwise, and in an effort to combat that, we see a continual erosion of our civil liberties.

I was always against going to war in Iraq. To me it seemed more like a US focused policy (after all it was stated aim of the Neo-conservatives to remove Saddam from power, and 9-11 was just the catalyst they needed to pursue that policy).

I think this was the greatest error of Tony Blair’s ten years in power, and has come to reflect all that was wrong with his premiership. The constant spinning of information, whilst almost humorous to start off with, has become quite sinister when applied to the reasons for going to war (remember the ‘45 minute’ claim).


I’m not sure where this notion ever came from, but political commentators have always talked about Tony Blair trying to ensure he left office with a legacy.

Regardless of the domestic policies, which could be argued either way as to how successful they’ve been, the fact that Tony Blair lead us into a war, alongside a frankly crazed American leader, and presented this policy with plain lies, is inexcusable, and that will be his legacy. And he knows it.

1 Nobody has actually explained to me how having different secondary schools with their own specialisms actually works. If a child is interested in Maths, but attends a Technology focused school, are they worse or better off?


9 responses so far. Go on, add yours!

 Gravatar#1 On May 19, 2007 5:00 AM, David Hamilton said...

Very interesting post Paul.

From your experiences in the US, how would you compare fear of crime and anti-social behaviour to the UK? Do you feel more or less safe?

 Gravatar#2 On May 19, 2007 6:05 PM, Paul said...

Well most of my time is spent in Palo Alto, which (apart from bumping into the odd mental patient from Casa Olga across the street from our offices) is full of students, geeks and yuppies, and is an amazingly safe city. Mind you the adjoining city of East Palo Alto, is notorious for gun crime and murders, and somewhere you just don't want to set foot in.

Where I live, in the Potrero Hill district of San Francisco, this is again a really nice neighbourhood, that feels very safe. Yet my flat is within eye-shot of 'the projects', which is another place you're told to keep well away from (gun crime, murders...).

In the city, just a few blocks from the main shopping district, is an area known as The Tenderloin, another section of the city that is noted for it's high crime rate, prostitution etc.

Across the Bay is Oakland, which I kind you not features in local news seemingly every night, with a story about a shooting, murder etc.

So it would seem, from my experience that the Bay Area is pretty safe, as long as you don't happen to wonder into these bad patches that seem to exist. It should be noted that these areas are usually very poor, and adjoin areas that are more upper class. It's certainly a very strange area like that.

In the UK, I think it's different. Firstly we don't have as much gun crime (although it is on the increase), but then we have more knife crimes and stabbings - it's just a different choice of weapon. There are again good and bad patches, but they seem to blend in more.

I think the real difference comes at night, and whilst yes, people get just as rowdy in the US (or even more so, after all the Yanks are famed for their loudness), it seems to be more friendly. In the UK, it always seems to turn to a more violent nature.

Do I feel more or less safe? I'm not sure. I guess I feel much less safer than I did ten years ago regardless of location, purely because of the assault on me last year. That sort experience I think changes your perceptions of the world around you forever.

 Gravatar#3 On May 20, 2007 2:58 AM, Lawrence Lockhart said...

You say "I’m actually in agreement that those wanting to go to university should be responsible for it’s cost." Presumably you would agree that they should not be expected to pay ALL of the costs; that would be crippling, and wouldn't take account of the benefits that society as a whole gains from educating some of its members at university.

My quarrel with tuition fees is the distribution of the burden between those graduates who get the best-paid 'top' jobs, and those whose rewards will be more modest. Most graduates will face debts of £20,000 to £30,000 and an effective tax rate of 42%. They also face house price escalation, family spending commitments, and the need to save for pensions for their own extended old age, not to mention their contributions through taxation to the health care needs and pensions of their elders. Perhaps 20% of new graduates, the top ‘City’ earners in finance, law and other well-paid professions, with generous starting salaries, handshakes, increments and bonuses, and those with wealthy parents (often the same group), will comfortably pay off their debts in a few years, and this will take a very small percentage of their lifetime earnings.

However, for the majority of graduates in the public service, in provincial jobs, in ‘non-graduate’ employment, and especially those working in low income regions of the country, student debts will be an intolerable burden lasting decades, and taking a far larger proportion of their lifetime earnings. This is unfair and regressive taxation. Take teachers: at present starting salaries and annual increments, with a promotion or two, it will take on average about fifteen years for them to clear their debts. As for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, they are unlikely to have families that can subsidise them at university; this loss (relative to middle class students) effectively cancels out their fee remissions and bursaries.

I offer a suggestion: tuition fees should be replaced by a lifetime tax on new graduates, perhaps 2% or 3%, once their non-tuition debts are repaid. This need involve no loss of revenue to universities or Government for a decade, and would shift some of the unfair burden from the modestly paid majority of graduates to the minority of high earners. It's not a perfect solution, but it would be much fairer.


 Gravatar#4 On May 20, 2007 3:25 AM, Paul said...

Hi Lawrence, thanks for adding to the discussion, you obviously know a lot more about the details of this area of policy than I do!

What I said was a bit of a sweeping statement, and no I wouldn't expect students to pay for their entire university education. I also maybe slightly skewed in my thinking, having come from a middle class family, who were able to support me during university, and I'm now fortunate enough to have a top-earning job.

At the same time, I've not totally read up on the newer tuition policy compared to the system I was part of in 1999.

However, I will say this. I think there is a general trend in the UK (and perhaps all of western society) that going to university must be the next step in somebody's education, and there is this stigma that not going to university is a bad thing.

It's great that the number of youngsters going into higher education is increasing, but how many of those that do a.) really want to (apart from enjoying the 'student lifestyle') b.) actually benefit from it.

From my own personal experience, apart from that of living independently and away from home, I'm not sure I actually learned a great deal at university. Basically everything that I do day-to-day is a result of me being self-taught (and perhaps natural talent).

I think having a degree does help you get a job, but only because of this stigma, and people assuming that because you have one you are somehow better (be it that degree being in something totally left of field, and totally unrelated to your chosen profession).

It seems to me, Universities wouldn't be finding it so hard to fund themselves if there was more effort put into post-16 education from the government, that is less focused on University education, and other programmes (vocational qualifications, apprenticeships etc).

I guess that is a slightly different argument.

On your proposal, a 'Pay As You Earn' type of tax, that is then proportionate to your earnings is a great idea. I remember it being talked of during the whole debate, and was a little confused as to why it wasn't an option. I guess the answer is that governments don't want taxes in the future, they want them now!

 Gravatar#5 On May 20, 2007 7:54 AM, David Hamilton said...

The thought of indiscriminate shootings and murders scares me. In fact, the thought of any kind of indiscriminate crime scares me.

Walking around town last night after the cup final, with drunken idiots 'oi, oi-ing', pushing people around and shouting abuse, really annoyed me.

It seems impossible to have a good night out any more. People are never off guard. There is a general bad atmosphere, mainly caused by cap wearing Neanderthals.

In contrast, recent trips have shown me what things should be like:

  • The Czech Republic was peaceful - apart from the British stag trips
  • New Zealand had a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere - apart from the British backpackers
  • Australia did have a few problems, but nothing on the scale of here in the UK.

Your experience last year was a prime example of the kind of mindless, idiotic crime that is rampant in the UK, and at the moment, I can't see the government any closer to curbing it.

The problem seems to be a fundamental lack of respect for fellow human beings - something that needs to be tackled at an early age. But, of course, there is disrespect and a complete lack of control in many British classrooms too. What's happened to morality and values!?

Would you say the US has more pockets of extreme crime whereas the UK has a broader spread of thuggery and 'cap head' idiots?

 Gravatar#6 On May 20, 2007 12:33 PM, Paul said...

Yes, I think that is exactly the point I was trying to make! Let me add to your list the time that I was in Las Vegas - you could spot the British lads on their drinking excursions from a mile away!

It's definetly something that has only become more apparent during Blair's term in office - did you ever here the word 'chav' before that time?

I think part of the problem is kids (i.e. young, under-age mums) bringing up kids - this is perhaps a problem that was being fertilised under the Tories, and has come to fruition under Labour. Again, it's a bit of sweeping statement to make, but in a country with high teenage pregnancies, having parents who have yet experienced the world (and still have that teenage 'I know everything' attitude) bring up kids is only going to lead to problems.

This itself is also a result of the gap between rich and poor getting ever wider (and now it's widest under Labour), and perhaps partly also as a society we are getting more leisure based.

Note here also the rise of celebrity too - people being famous for being famous and then becoming role models for young children 'all I need to do mum is be famous, I don't need a job' etc.

Wow, bringing up all these points and you realise he really didn't make things much better at all did he!

 Gravatar#7 On May 20, 2007 6:19 PM, David Hamilton said...

Ah well... At least I'm not having to worry about the IRA anymore... But then, we've got Al qaeda instead... Pah!

 Gravatar#8 On May 20, 2007 6:27 PM, Paul said...

Yes, anyone would think the timing of his announcement was somehow related to the new assembly in Northern Ireland ;-) Nice try.

 Gravatar#9 On May 21, 2007 1:11 AM, Paul Le Comte said...


Having watched the DVD of The Queen recently, I didn't realise how thrust into the role that Blair was. That aside, and all the right wing agenda he copied off our (New Zealand) sell-out Labour govt, I will remember Mr Blair for two things - neither of his making, but very defining of him and his govt.

The first came early in his time, and of course there is no way in the world that he can be atributed with this, but he did his best to promote it - Brit Pop/ Cool Britania. The whole Cool Britiania scene was a creative and fun time. WHo cares the music was pretentious or even silly, it was fun music and it kicked ass. And there was a young British Prime Minister, really giving it to the Thatcherites that were dinosaring about the place.

The second was of course the gulf war. If they say time gives perspective, then I can add to that distance. It was very easy to see the whole 9-11/Bush/Iraq scene with very different eyes. What a mess, (I am not in any way shape or form anti-america) and having Blair in there boots and all was from our point of view some what of a let down. Although allies, from this side of the world, we often viewed the UK as the US's conscience, this time it wasn't and that was amazing to watch.

He's been a stunning PM, for so many good and bad reasons, and we have a lot to be thankful of him. None the least for at least whipping the Torries into the 21st century.

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This entry was written on 19 May 2007, 2:13 AM and is filled under .