With regard to Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister – architect of numerous follies, from our involvement in the Iraq war, to mass immigration, to ever increasing erosion of British freedom, sovereignty and democracy at the hands of the EU, and to the present constitutional trauma playing out on our screens in the shape of a strutting, oozing, mendacious Salmond pulling every trick in the political trick-box to break the country in two in what will be the final stage of the process unleashed by Blair’s bungled devolution – it is interesting to see how attitudes about him have changed over the years.
In the 1990s, during that exciting but ultimately vacuous period dubbed ‘cool britannia’, he was the great saviour, the British JFK, the reincarnation of King Arthur, presiding over a new camelot in the form of New Labour. He could almost do no wrong, and protests regarding his dismissive attitudes on issues such as fox hunting, the countryside generally, the EU uplands, the bizarre belief we lived in a young country and not an old one, devolution that was supposed to kill Scottish nationalism stone dead, mass immigration his government hoped would dilute the obnoxiousness of old British values, the obliteration of national finances, and the contamination of the political system with spin, were dismissed out of hand.
But now, at the moment he carries almost no political influence in the country at all, he is derided freely. What has changed? Nothing significant has changed. It was clear to anyone with any sense where his policies would lead on so many issues, yet raise a word of dissent at the time and you were denounced for any number of sins, from xenophobia to racism to bigotry and more. The thing that is different, though, is that it is no longer the fashion to support him, though it remains interestingly fashionable still to support the essentials of the New Labour project. It’s easy to go along with the crowd, as we did back then; it is far harder to defy the consensus. Tony Blair hasn’t changed that much; he still believes the same things and would pursue the same policies if he were in power today. But when he was in power he received all the support he needed from an acquiescent political culture. Today, as he has no power, and as it is now fashionable to deride him for everything, so we deride him. Nothing much has changed.