Tony Blair’s legacy is a redefinition of what it means to be of the left

In the May 6 British general election, David Cameron’s Tories took 306 seats – 48 more than Labour, which had been in power for more than a decade, but 20 short of an outright majority. For five days, both Labour and the Tories courted the third-place Liberal Democrats in the hope of assembling a parliamentary majority. The prospect of Labour staying in office via a “coalition of losers” was not a popular option – even among many Labour MPs. After five days, the Tories and Lib Dems crafted a formal coalition. Gordon Brown resigned, both as Prime Minister and as Labour leader; he announced his intention to leave Parliament. This marks the end of a political movement that began in 1983. That year, in an election that resulted in a disastrous loss for Labour, among the new MPs in the Labour caucus were Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Over the next decade and a half they overturned traditional Labour Party policies, and from 1997 to 2010 they governed Britain. Now is a good time to assess the successes and failures of their “New Labour” project.

A good place to begin this assessment is with two books by Anthony Seldon, a school headmaster and a prolific writer of “contemporary history”: books about currents in modern British politics. He has written about Margaret Thatcher and two massive tomes on Tony Blair, Blair (2004) and Blair Unbound (2007). Seldon’s exercises in “contemporary history” entail interviews with a vast number of players; this produces a great deal of chaff that other historians will in time blow away. His books are, for the moment, the best accounts available of Blair’s political career and influence. Blair is a controversial political figure, nowhere more so than on the intellectual left – in Canada as in Britain – where he is often damned as a usurper who manipulated the Labour Party into an embrace of Thatcher’s libertarian economic ideas and George W. Bush’s messianic imperial overreach.

In his review of Blair Unbound for the London Times, Simon Jenkins concluded that “Seldon does not place Blair in any political or historical tradition.” Jenkins, a prominent British journalist, succinctly stated the conventional left-wing dismissal:

Blair’s heart was always in Washington and his head in the clouds … The truth is that Blair was good at being Blair, but not prime minister. He never mastered the art of government. The list of his achievements (Ulster, tax credits, a minimum wage) is meagre compared with what he left undone, notably in Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan and in his incoherent upheavals of the health, education, police and local government services.1

Blair made profound mistakes, an excessive faith in U.S. military competence to wage war in Iraq being the most dramatic. A more nuanced review of Seldon’s book, and of Blair, came from the Daily Telegraph’s reviewer:

Seldon doesn’t spare on Iraq, nor on foreign policy in general. He is more grudging on Ireland than he is understanding on Iraq, but he does realise that, here more than anywhere, judgment must be reserved … Seldon also understands that the second term was when Blair really found a method for reform of the public sector. It was when the spending restrictions were lifted that he found the policy to meet his instinct that extra money alone was not enough … The third term was, in many ways, the most fruitful: school reform, the NHS into surplus, pensions reform, energy, Northern Ireland … Looked at by a historian, rather than a participant with a column, Blair gets a good report.2

Whether the Telegraph’s reviewer had Jenkins in mind as the “participant with a column,” I have no idea. But Seldon’s books are important. They oblige an honest reader to recognize the substance of Blair’s effort to renew the “old” social democratic discourse that, by the time of Thatcher’s election in 1979, had become a set of ideological blinkers rendering the left in Britain a menace, unfit to govern. Better than anyone else, Blair understood that until the left addressed that which was legitimate in Thatcherism, it deserved to be out of office.

While parties rise and fall, the ideas that underlie them persist. No one disputes the influence of Pierre Trudeau’s constitutional ideas on Canada, regardless whether one agrees with them. In terms of ideas, the New Labour project represented the most successful and controversial social democratic movement in the Western world since the 1970s. It deserves inspection.

Blair through a Canadian lens

An interesting Canadian parallel is with J.S. Woodsworth, first leader of Canada’s Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (predecessor of the New Democratic Party), and one of many who claimed that socialism was “Christianity in practice.” In many ways Tony Blair differs from Woodsworth: Woodsworth never came near to governing while Blair was Prime Minister for ten years; Woodsworth was a pacifist – he even opposed Canadian participation in World War II – whereas Blair was among the most eloquent advocates of war in Iraq. But the two are similar inasmuch as both are deeply religious leaders. We know that Woodsworth bequeathed his legacy to Tommy Douglas. What is Blair’s legacy? What lessons can be drawn from his successes and failures for Canadian social democrats?

There are also parallels between Blair’s marriage of convenience with his Chancellor, rival and ultimate successor, Gordon Brown, and Jean Chrétien’s similar partnership with Paul Martin. First the positive. Even more than Martin under Chrétien, Brown’s fiscal priorities prevailed from Labour’s first victory in 1997 until the end. Martin’s tough budgets in the mid-1990s enabled Canada to end two decades of deficit spending, and to undertake recent fiscal stimulus without undue financial jitters. Brown’s determined opposition to Blair, who wanted Britain to join the euro, was right. Not being in the euro-zone, Britain is not adding to its fiscal woes by lending to Greece and potentially to other fragile euro-zone economies. Brown insisted on big spending increases in health and education, as did Martin once the deficit had been conquered. In retrospect, Brown placed too much faith on stable economic growth and loosely regulated financial markets. The post-2008 recession has hit Britain hard; it now has one of the largest defict/GDP ratios among OECD member countries. Brown spent too much, but spending increases were required to rectify Thatcher’s stinginess with respect to health and education budgets.

The negatives in the two political marriages are obvious. As a campaigner, leader and Prime Minister, Brown was to Blair as Martin was to Chrétien. But just as New Labour’s 1997 election did not mean repudiation of Margaret Thatcher’s moves to constrain trade unions and liberalize the economy, just as the election of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives did not mean Canadians had turned against the social liberalism practised by the Liberals, it would be wrong to view the rejection of Gordon Brown as a repudiation of New Labour.

Discussions around Blair and his legacy are coloured in Canada by our obsession with the United States and the deeply conservative nature of the Canadian left. Blair’s unyielding support for the American-led invasion of Iraq confirmed for the Canadian left that Blair was a usurper. It has ignored everything that Blair and Brown did to modernize the British welfare state.

Formerly close links between the British and Canadian left have atrophied, in part because the Canadian left never experienced an equivalent to the collapse of Labour self-confidence that occurred following the 1983 electoral debacle. Labour campaignd that year on an uncompromising left-wing platform, summarized as the “world’s longest sucide note.” The collapse of NDP support in the 1993 election might have produced an equivalent rethinking of left-wing orthodoxy, but it didn’t. In the 1990s many on the centre-left – Bob Rae the most prominent – simply abandoned the NDP and turned to the Liberals. The Liberals were happy to align with Blair’s ill-defined “Third Way,” a strategy that tried to combine the efficiency of the market with the social solidarity of social democracy, but most of this was opportunism, not ideology. If we leave aside the short-lived “green shift” led by Stéphane Dion, the Canadian Liberals have retreated to a postideological bunker: policies are a distraction from day-to-day partisan jousting.

With Jack Layton’s focus on organization and communications, the federal NDP learned the basics of New Labour’s modernization of electoral tactics. But the NDP has demonstrated no interest in the big ideas that obsess Blair – and major Canadian politicians from Woodsworth to Douglas to Trudeau. While Blair wanted to transform society, the NDP has carved out a niche as a parliamentary watchdog, fighting for lower credit card fees and parliamentary openness. There is no longer anything about the NDP that defines it as radical, other than its heritage and self-image.

Blair’s rise to power

Whether Blair and his New Labour project were or are left-wing is up for debate, but they were unquestionably radical. New Labour ideas dominated British political life for more than a decade. Building on its traditional commitment to well-funded public health and social programs, New Labour came to be trusted on crime and, finally, on tax and fiscal policy. The Conservatives were crushed in 1997 and again in 2001, and in 2005 Labour won an unprecedented third majority.

The party’s first term in office was marked by fiscal prudence, as Labour had to prove that intense and enduring public fears about its tax-and-spend tradition were unfounded. It is easy to downplay those concerns now, but Labour’s previous periods in office, and its “longest suicide note” campaign against Thatcher’s early reforms, had scarred the party’s reputation among the majority. An American pollster, astonished by the visceral dislike of many voters for Labour in the early 1990s, asked rhetorically, “What did you do, to make these people hate you so much?”3 In this context the prudence of 1997–2001 made sense. But it means that an understanding of Blair as Prime Minister, and a fuller exposition of his political beliefs, has to focus on his second and (incomplete) third term in office.

Blair rose to power in a divided Labour Party. First elected in 1983, Blair initially shared an office in the overcrowded Commons with David Nellist, an MP backed by the Trotskyist “Militant Tendency.” The Labour establishment, a coalition of trade unionists and middle-class intellectuals still smarting from their loss of government in 1979, was severely weakened by the 1982 defection of many moderate Labour supporters to found the Social Democratic Party, which soon joined in alliance and eventual union with the old Liberal Party.

At the time, Labour’s radical left was ascendant. Sectarian groups seized control of weakened Labour constituencies; they ran city governments – most notably Liverpool – with spectacular incompetence. Labour appeared to be in a death spiral, driving away moderate supporters and alienating millions of voters who preferred Thatcher’s Tories to incompetent Marxists. For the four million unemployed at the worst of the early 1980s recession, Labour militants offered the finer points of Lenin’s April Theses. The party’s extremism made it impotent, allowing Thatcher to reshape the political landscape.

The Labour establishment began to fight back with the election of Neil Kinnock to replace Michael Foot as leader following the 1983 rout. Kinnock began to reclaim the party, expelling the Militant Tendency after a full-frontal attack. He began to reshape the party’s organization, determined to avoid recent disasters that had seen multiple conflicting election campaigns waged by factions supposedly within the Labour fold.

The necessary price of victory over the ultra-left was an end to the cozy relationship between Labour and trade union leaders. Thatcher’s aggressive, and widely popular, anti-union legislation of the 1980s generated bitter strikes, the most dramatic being that of the coal miners, led by Arthur Scargill. Under Kinnock, Labour refused to serve as backup to leaders such as Scargill. Where decisions had been decided by former Labour prime ministers and union leaders over “beer and sandwiches” in Number 10, it was clear to Kinnock, himself elected with union support, that future Labour governments would have to maintain a critical distance from organized labour. Not surprisingly, for Labour leaders to define and accept such a critical distance took many years. Trade unions were not just related to Labour; the Trades Union Congress was Labour’s parent, creating the party through a resolution in 1900 – just as the Canadian Labour Congress united with the CCF to give birth to the NDP six decades later.

Ironically, Labour adopted many of the ultra-left demands for change in the party’s culture and procedures, and these changes contributed to the rise of Blair. Incumbent MPs now had to secure renomination by party members before each election; the party’s governing bodies opened to include more grassroots members; and space was made for women, young people and minority communities. Union influence was reduced: the “block vote” that allowed union leaders to cast several million votes at party conferences was curbed. This allowed a new generation of activists to feel welcome in the party. The party grew. In the 1987 election Labour outperformed Thatcher’s Conservatives, then at the peak of their power. But a slick campaign was not enough to conceal the fact that beneath the new logo – a stylized rose, combining an old socialist symbol with an English icon – the old policies of nationalization, unilateral nuclear disarmament and withdrawal from the European Union were still in place. Thatcher won; Kinnock lost.

Kinnock won his big battles with his party in open combat, a lesson Blair, moving up the ranks of the Shadow Cabinet in the late 1980s, learned well. Appeasement is the enemy of democracy, which relies on open conflict between clearly articulated positions. He was frustrated by the slow pace of change under Kinnock, and sensed that much more clarity about its policy changes was required before “middle England” would again trust Labour.

Here, around 1990, the paths of the NDP and Labour diverged. It is worth recalling that between Brian Mulroney’s initial victory in 1984 and the subsequent free trade election in 1988, the federal NDP was a major force in Canadian politics. Realistically, party leaders hoped to replace the Liberals as official opposition; some speculated about assuming power. As in Britain, union leaders overplayed their hand. Accusing Ed Broadbent of insufficient vigour in opposing Canada–United States free trade in the 1988 election, union leaders forced the party to the left, which led to an ignominious rout in the 1993 election. The party remained on the critical list for the next decade.

In 2003, Judy Rebick, Buzz Hargrove and Svend Robinson led the New Politics Initiative, a less potent equivalent of the Trotskyist Militants within Labour. The NPI advocated an incoherent mash of New Left social policies and economic protectionism. After dispatching the NPI, the NDP’s new leader, Jack Layton, did as Kinnock had, moving away from the unions. Layton championed fashionable left-wing reforms but, rather than collecting his commitment to bicycles, communities and recycling into a coherent whole, the party promoted boutique programs aimed at small constituencies, coupled with a pragmatic approach to working with other parties in Parliament. While this strategy has restored the party to levels of popular support obtained in the 1970s, it also represents the politics of low expectations. The party refused to bury old myths: NDP events continue to use the language of mid-20th-century trade union conventions. The red rhetoric clashes with the pale pink policies on offer.

The NDP has a base of old activists and new voters to maintain in uneasy balance; confronting either with its intellectual limits could lead to electoral oblivion. British Labour in the 1980s, the Canadian Tories in the 1990s and Ignatieff’s Liberals right now showed us that voters don’t take kindly to a party engaged in civil war. But a cautious approach that avoids all the major political tradeoffs is equally unlikely to yield electoral dividends. There were many moments in Blair’s leadership when his pushing the party towards the mainstream could have been rejected, notably his campaign to dump Clause IV in the party constitution. This was the clause stating that the party’s goal was to nationalize the economy. In 1995 he succeeded in replacing it with the reassuring communitarian statement that “We achieve more together than we can apart.”

In the 1992 election, John Major, Thatcher’s successor, defeated Neil Kinnock in a campaign that exploited the public fear of Labour tax increases. Kinnock promptly resigned and was replaced by the conciliatory John Smith, who galvanized Blair and the modernizers – although not Gordon Brown: Blair urged Brown to stand against Smith for the leadership, but Brown refused. In 1994, upon Smith’s premature death, Brown ceded his aspirations to Blair, who ran successfully to be leader.

Blair’s election as Labour leader was the first to be based on a partial “one member one vote” system that gave the party membership a large say. Blair’s personal biography was middle-class with aspirations; his parents worked hard to send him to private school, despite his father’s suffering a serious stroke and, a few years later, the death of his mother. He went on to Oxford, where he became first a Christian, then a socialist. He briefly practised law in London before being selected, at the last minute, for a safe Labour seat in the northeast for the 1983 election.

Blair’s connection to the Christian- or ethical-socialist tradition, which emphasizes community cooperation over state control, could have led to strong links with the Canadian social gospel tradition (had that tradition survived). Unlike Labour in Britain and Labor in Australia, both trade union parties, the CCF was at the outset a party in the Blairist mould: community-based, emphasizing financial restraint and voluntary cooperation in place of grand statist visions. The nationalizing rhetoric of the Regina Manifesto was a sop to the Marxian wing of the party, much as was Clause IV for most Labour leaders. However, transformation of the CCF into the NDP directed Canadian social democracy away from the ethical-socialist tradition and, as we have seen, the NDP has now comfortably settled into its niche, far removed from power.

Instead, Blair drew on Scottish and Australian philosophers, coupled with strong connections to party organizers who emphasized the electoral advantages to be gained. From the outset Blair hoped to reunite the Liberal and Labour traditions that had separated at the dawn of the 20th century. Long forgotten is that Blair’s natural pessimism as to Labour’s electoral chances led him to offer the Liberal Democrats a role in his first government, a promise ironically broken by Labour’s massive majority in the 1997 election. The victory denied Blair any tactical reason to persuade the Labour Party’s base to dilute its own control over the government.

Reform at home and trouble abroad

Seldon’s Blair Unbound takes Blair from his second general election victory in May 2001 through to his departure from Downing Street in June 2007. Seldon portrays a Prime Minister who grew steadily into his job, pushing ever more radical programs as the end of his career drew closer. Despite the distractions of Brown’s endless campaign for the party leadership, and the dissent caused by Blair’s support for the invasion of Iraq, the Blair of Unbound is not the poodle of Bush; above all he is a domestic reformer who pushes transformation in health care and education, who oversees a successful peace process in Northern Ireland and devolution for Scotland and Wales, who greatly expands protections from discrimination and who presides over the country’s longest period of economic growth.

Georges W. Bush and Tony Blair in the Blue Room

Not all is positive. Under Blair came a mild but pervasive authoritarianism, a faith in government regulation and intervention in citizens’ everyday lives. This area of Blair’s leadership has been little examined. The sympathies of the old left, keen on regulation, and of the right, keen to be “tough on crime” and to revive the spirit of the Blitz through laws relating to the post-9/11 war on terror, coincided to downplay erosion of British liberties, including habeas corpus and the right to satirize religious beliefs. Blair’s communitarian instinct led him to empathize with middle-class abhorrence of what crime and lawlessness wreaked on poor communities and communal spaces. The result has been a massive increase in public and private surveillance. Britain set a benchmark for closed-circuit television sales that the Chinese did not match. “Anti-Social Behaviour Orders” attempted to contain bad behaviour, but at the cost of semicriminalizing behaviour that had been dealt with by community standards, the old-fashioned tools of public shame and ostracism. Blair the communitarian made the authoritarian mistake of thinking public morals could be changed through legislation, not education.

On the world scene Blair’s liberal internationalism received widespread recognition when applied with military force to Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and to leadership on debt relief to poor countries and aid to sub-Saharan Africa. This was a consistent theme, and no one should have been surprised by his decisions on Afghanistan and Iraq. Blair’s decision to join George Bush in the invasion of Iraq consumed much of the political oxygen in British and world politics between 2002 and 2007, and takes up much of Unbound.

The caricature of Blair as Bush’s lapdog is nonsense. Independent of the United States, Blair wanted to remove Saddam Hussein and he stated repeatedly that the only reason he didn’t pursue other dictators such as Robert Mugabe and the Burmese junta was that the geopolitical environment and Britain’s limited resources didn’t allow it.4 Blair insisted that Bush seek a second United Nations Security Council resolution to spell out conditions under which Saddam could prevent the invasion. France’s announcement that it would veto any resolution that included the threatened use of force ended the diplomatic track. Blair hoped that British support would moderate U.S. policy and influence conduct of the war. That proved naive. From 2003 to 2007, the United States attempted to prevail by brute military force. It required the internal U.S. army dissension associated with General David Petraeus to reorient U.S. military and diplomatic strategy.

The government’s obsession with “political spin,” the presentation of public information in a favourable manner, should not mask the fact that Blair was actually revealing information to the public. The so-called “Dodgy Dossier” included what turned out to be inaccurate intelligence information about Iraqi weapons systems. Few governments would have released such information in the first place, and likely few will in the future given the multi-year media flogging Blair and his entourage received for allegedly “sexing up” the intelligence. For many, especially on the left, it was easier to imagine that politicians were lying than to entertain the more worrying thesis that Saddam’s tyrannical regime was superbly efficient at misinforming the world, including Western intelligence agencies, as to its intentions.

Transforming the beloved but creaking National Health Service was a high priority of the Labour government. During the first and early second terms the focus was simple: a massive injection of cash. In a January 2000 interview Blair committed to increasing health spending from 5.7 per cent of GDP to the European average of 8.0 per cent.5 It became clear that money could not resolve structural and management defects, and Blair began an increasingly aggressive campaign to introduce private-sector incentives into the health system, based around the idea of foundation hospitals, state-supported but managed by nonprofit or private foundations, an innovation that had met with considerable success in Spain.

A similar approach was tried in education, where foundation schools or academies were introduced, cautiously and in the face of stiff teachers’ union opposition. The results spoke for themselves, and the program spread, coupled with a renewed focus on teacher training standards. Brown, who resisted many of Blair’s plans to introduce incentives into provision of public services, eventually became a convert to foundation schools.

Blair was an effective leader but he had little understanding of how large organizations worked and little interest in finding out. Brown was similarly handicapped. Blair often approached policymaking with blunt analytical tools. First, he would spend money. If that did not succeed, he would look for private-sector solutions. Significant reviews intended to make the bureaucracy more efficient within the context of ongoing exclusive public ownership and public supply were rare.

“Your problem is that neither you nor anyone in Number 10 has ever managed anything,” said a senior civil servant to Blair, in a comment that applied to most senior Labour politicians. An aide told Seldon that Blair “was very concerned that the 2001 election should give him a personal mandate for radical reform, but he was uncertain exactly what the radical reform should be,” and Seldon adds, “It took him time to realize that attending ‘third way’ jamborees, or announcing policy initiatives in speeches, did not automatically translate into hard policy.”6 This blind spot contributed to Blair’s tendency to move quickly toward private solutions, which worsened relations with public-sector workers who felt reforms threatened not just the way they worked, but survival of their jobs. In this conundrum Blair’s instinct was healthy inasmuch as the public service exists to provide the public with services, not public servants with jobs. But his lack of attention to public administration meant missed opportunities to engage with genuine reformers within government.

This failure to recognize the importance of organizational structures left the government prey to rapid policy reversals, often provoked by a Treasury keen to use the power of the purse to support the position of the Chancellor and his political allies instead of delivering on government promises. Seldon addresses this point repeatedly, but never draws the obvious conclusion that a failure of management requires a focus on management. He highlights the impact of personalities in Blair’s entourage – notably Peter Mandelson, the political organizer turned cabinet minister turned European Commissioner, Alastair Campbell, Number 10’s famously pugnacious communications director, and Anji Hunter, Blair’s assistant from the early days of his political career – and notes when each outlived his or her usefulness. He chronicles the rise of Andrew Adonis, the policy wizard who gave Blair’s later reforms their intellectual weight. Seldon’s conclusion: Blair was not a policy expert, but he could evaluate which policies would drive his agenda forward.

Large questions, incomplete answers

The 2008–09 recession slammed Britain and shredded Labour’s policies. The damage was made more severe because Blair and Brown’s liberalizing policies had dismantled the harbour wall of regulation that surrounded the finance and banking sector, making the sector more competitive when the financial seas were calm but vulnerable to the perfect storm that swept the world in 2008. The scandals that stain most aging governments also multiplied. Voters remembered Blair’s long-ago promise to run a “purer than pure” government, and contrasted the promise with a torrent of ministerial resignations, corruption and sex scandals.

The optimism of late-nineties “Cool Britannia,” with London the world’s capital of finance and with Brit-pop, artist Damien Hirst and British writers and thinkers ascendant, dissolved into “Broken Britain.” The country’s self-image crumbled under the crimes of a new underclass resistant to every government program, ethnic ghettos infected with Islamic fundamentalism and a parliamentary expenses scandal that exposed politicians from all parties as white collar thieves. Faith in institutions is at a nadir, and the idea of community at the heart of Blair’s philosophy has been eroded by fear, individualism and consumerism. Many of Blair’s goals from 1997, such as being “at the heart of Europe,” are further from realization now than then. If Blair’s goal was to transform first Labour and then Britain, it is easy to conclude – as a shattered party examines its electoral entrails in a divided country – that he failed.

But that easy conclusion is too harsh. Blair transformed Labour, just as Thatcher had transformed the Conservatives, and in the process he forced the Conservatives to change once more. Leader after leader attempted to reincarnate the spirit of Thatcher and foundered on the rocks of public disapproval. The Tories finally acknowledged that success lay in reincarnating Tony Blair; hence the rise of David Cameron. Labour forced the Conservatives to abandon libertarian excess; that has to count as a victory for progressive politics.

In social policies Blair advocated new paths to success, but failed to sustain them. For the British left, much now depends on how the transition from Brown to a new Labour leader is handled. Will the party embrace internal democracy and have an open leadership race that encourages ideas, or will it conduct a quick contest? A quick contest will probably eliminate the chance for appealing modernizers such as David Miliband and James Purnell. The danger exists that, in reaction to its defeat, Labour will return to being a champion of “old Labour” verities.

Blair stood against his party on many issues, and against the public – most notably on Iraq. The accusation that he adjusted his rhetoric to remain popular is wrong. Like Thatcher, he was a “conviction politician,” but undeniably he often seemed to be in search of convictions. He had principles, based on his religious and political evolution, but he struggled to transform them into a coherent ideology. He famously said that Labour should pursue “principles without specific policy prescriptions,” but he failed to realize that it is the elevation of policy prescriptions into political struggles that motivates people to engage in democratic politics. In this failure Blair is not unique. He was an ambitious failure: the modern democratic left is still struggling to motivate people with a battle cry that focuses less on the workers losing their chains and more on making sure every home has a white picket fence and that children achieve higher school grades.

A post-Blair left will have to return to basic questions, the most important being “What is government for?” In the face of a century of evidence, the answer is that we want government to take the lead in the sectors of health, education, welfare, infrastructure, environment and justice. In those areas we need to make the public service excel; beyond them government must step aside, and serve as the defender of individual liberty, creativity and market competition.

Tony Blair started to redefine what it means to be of the left, not just in Britain but in the wider Western world. That is his legacy. That Blair, in government, incompletely answered the questions he posed – about liberal international interventionism, communitarianism, consumer-oriented public services – is testament to a seriousness of purpose, not to failure.


1 Simon Jenkins, “Review,” London Times, November 4, 2007.

2 Phil Collins, “Tony Blair: Hat-Trick Hero,” London Daily Telegraph, November 17, 2007.

3 Philip Gould, The Unfinished Revolution: How Modernizers Saved the Labour Party (London: Little, Brown, 1998).

4 Anthony Seldon (with Peter Snowdon), Blair Unbound: The Biography Part II (London: Simon and Schuster, 2007), p. 86.

5 Ibid., p. 69.

6 Ibid., pp. 41, 23.