This week marks the absolute end of the Blair era.
Last week, we had the official discrediting of Tony Blair’s well-meaning and reasonable policy to remove a National Socialist warlord from a Middle-Eastern country due to the methods Blair employed and the timing.
This week, we have the departure of the self-styled ‘heir to Blair’, in the form of David Cameron.
Blair forced the Tory Party to modernise and be led by someone almost in his image. Certainly, David Cameron did not reverse many of the changes wrought by Blair, but instead applied a Blairised Toryism that infuriated traditionalists and residual Thatcherites. Nick Clegg was another Blair-like politician and shared power with Cameron in a coalition government for five years. Indeed, the fact that David Cameron, together with Theresa May, brought in gay marriage during this time is a testament to the cultural shift wrought by Blair in British politics in general and Conservatism in particular
It could be argued that the Thatcher era started with the institution of monetarist policies by Labour chancellor Denis Healey in 1976 at the behest of the IMF that saw unemployment start to rise as industrial overmanning was reduced. It ended at the start of Blair’s second term in 2001, a quarter of a century later, as Brown started to flex his muscles and ramp up the State’s share of GDP.
However, there was an overlap, with Blairism gripping the country from the accession of the man himself in 1994 until this week a span of twenty six years. Blair was a rock-star politician from day one as Labour leader and set the standard for telegenic leaders in the UK that was imitated by Cameron. Blair was the also first true post-Cold War PM. His predecessors all had to formulate policies informed by the existence of the Warsaw Pact. Blair became Labour leader at about the same time as Soviet forces evacuated the former East Germany.
Thatcherism was economic and political, dedicated to removing socialism from the wealth-creating sector at home and defeating it abroad. Blairism was cultural and social, trying to make a fairer society without the punitive redistributions of wealth and Labour’s traditional social bigotry that actually discouraged wealth creation. 9/11 and Iraq represented distractions from the Blair project. But Blair reacted little differently to these events from how a Conservative government would have behaved. Thatcher had an effect on Blair as much as Blair had an effect on Cameron.
The Blair era is now over. What the next era will be called is a matter for debate. Brexitism seems logical. May be.
(Image: White House)