For better or worse, he probably had to go - arguments will continue about if he should have gone earlier, particularly depending on how Gordon fares (if Brown settles in well and transforms things then the word will be he should have got the chance earlier: if it all goes agin him, the word will be that Blair dragged on the doorstep of No.10 and scuppered Brown's chances to regain the ground lost). Whichever way you look at it though, the wall-to-wall coverage on radio and TV was almost akin to that for a royal funeral cortege passing the population such was the tone adopted by journalists commenting on the minute-by-minute 'action'.
Anyway, selected thoughts:
- Blair led the party to three historic general election victories
- Even in this final term, the party still had a 66 seat majority - that's larger than the majority in 1992, 1979, either 1974 election, or the 1970 election
- There's peace in Northern Ireland (something that seemed destined for constant disappointment and failure even after the mid-1990s efforts by the Conservative party seemed to make some headway)
- Reduced waiting times in NHS hospitals: it's not as consistent across all points of entry as I would like but it's made progress inconceivable under the previous regime
- Minimum wage: seemed a pipe dream in the early 1990s. Yes, it should be higher. I'd also like significantly adjusted tax bands to remove far more people from paying any tax. I'd also like us to stop subsidising and by default therefore justifying crappy pay levels via the provision of tax credits, but I accept that the assistance they provide has value. And this is starting to look like more of an anti-list than I'd like...
So, to less good things:
- It's not an elephant in the room. It IS the bloody room. It's the house that no one is even trying to ignore. We're mired in wars we can't easily get out from without rendering both ourselves looking stupid and the countries concerned in greater potential danger (at least in the short term). I'm not happy about this, though probably for different reasons than many people. As you probably know by my signing and support of the Euston Manifesto, I was largely supportive of the overthrow of Saddam. But it was ultimately done with shit public reasoning, faulty logic, poor forethought, and crappy alliances at its heart. The intention of installing some semblance of democratic elections was laudible and, Galloway apart, does anyone really think that keeping Saddam in power was a good thing to do? I've heard a lot of piffle spoken by those who proclaimed against the war in Iraq on the grounds that we should have done something better and more effective earlier. Well YES, but the fact remained nothing did get done earlier and better so we were lumbered with circumstances less than ideal for everyone concerned. Did Blair lead as best as possible within a desparately difficult context? I'm not entirely sure I would have wanted any of the alternative leaders then on offer; did he do the best in a bad situation? Hindsight and ranty criticism allows a lot of possibilities to cross our minds that really weren't options at the time. I'd have liked stronger reasoning with and against the US and regarding the manipulation/ignoring of the UN but in reality that was unlikely to occur.
- Faith schools: I suspect that these would be on the rise anyway whoever was in power, but I don't think that Blair has been anything other than a conduit for bringing this noxious provision to the fore.
- Targets: if it moves, measure it. Targets suck; measurements generally suck - sorry, but they usually become about the PROCESS for measurement, about being exercises. Achieved changes tend to be by default and the work of specific groups or individuals than the the system of measuring per se. We know the cost/measurement of everything and the value of nothing (to paraphrase)
This isn't meant to be exhaustive, just a few reflections on my own particular thoughts. I'm still unlikely to consider voting for anyone other than Labour, for all my misgivings and the criticism I have faced for saying so. I'd like to think there could be a social revolution that felt more, well, revolutionary in what it changed but in the meantime I guess I'm going with the changes that have been introduced and a hope that we can eventually rebuild the house around us and not just move the furniture.
It could take some time.