Thursday, October 19, 2006

Blairs legacy

If as we all suspect Tony Blair has been hanging on in order to establish / preserve his legacy then things have changed a lot over the last week or so. His legacy was always going to be dubious at best - more a case of opportunities lost than a case of opportunities taken.

Frankly if one is looking for positives then once you get past Independence for the Bank of England (for which no doubt Gordon Brown will claim the credit), the Good Friday Agreement, equalization of the age of consent and the Civil Partnership Act one begins to struggle to find positives.

The negatives include much of his foreign policy (which appears to most observers to be merely an extension of that espoused in Washington DC) as well as many problems on the domestic front. Whether Tony Blair likes it or not the illegal war in Iraq will inevitably form a huge part of his page in history.

General Sir Richard Dannatt should not have said the things he said from a constitutional point of view but nobody has seriously questioned the fact that he was right. Yesterday Blair was forced to concede that British troops may be out of Iraq in 10 to 16 months time.

It has also become clear (yet again) just how beholden Blair is to the policy espoused by the United States. He does not want to act unilaterally and needs to await guidance and direction from Washington. That guidance will appear doubtless after the US mid term elections when James Baker's commission will publish its recommendations. It is apparent from this article in yesterdays Guardian that a potential change of direction for US foreign policy is in the offing.

If that change of direction indicates a withdrawal from Iraq it will be fascinating to see what calculations Blair make about his place in history. Does he want to bring the troops home himself or will he continue to hold out stubbornly and leave the task to Brown or whoever the next Prime Minister may be.

If it is left until he is gone and Brown takes over then I would not be surprised to see a whirlwind of announcements on policy (many of which will be contrary to the current position) including a swift withdrawal from Iraq. Brown is ruthless and he will calculate that he needs to kill this issue before a general election which he will want to win.

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