Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Handover

Well it all went through in text-book fashion. Indeed this transition has been so smooth I believe that future British governments over the next century will be trying to emulate and achieve hand-overs as elegant as this one.

I watched PMQs and thought Blair was a little grave to start with, though he warmed up during the second half when a stereotype Tory (Winterton) and a stereotype LibDem (the guy with the obscure question about the church) popped up. And the standing ovation at the end was poignant. Blair was a star in sheer galactico politics.

Yet one was reminded why a change was needed when we saw the Browns. I think the public will be struck with Mrs Brown in particular (this is probably their first glimpse of her). A more different character to Cherie you couldn't find. People watching the proceedings will have seen Cherie throw her arms out theatrically to embrace the Lady in Waiting who came to greet them at the palace and contrasted that with Mrs Brown's more reticent and normal behavior (I mean does anyone in Britain anywhere greet anyone with their arms flung out?). It's unfashionable to mention this, but spouses matter, whether male or female. You get a glimpse into what sort of person the politician is drawn to, and what sort of person the politician has inspired to love them back. Brown must be a great guy if someone as nice as Mrs Brown loves him.

The slight awkwardness outside No 10 struck an endearing note too. Just five years ago, Brown would have been pilloried over it, you were expected then to be a performer or you were a non-starter. But it's a measure of the change in public mood that people are now inclined to feel touched and reassured by the human awkward unscripted moments. The next decade will be very different from the last, and it's Brown that embodies the change (Cameron with his 1990's script is so last century).

One last thing about Blair's new job as Middle East envoy. People are carping about this. But Blair didn't actually need to take it on. He could have just focused on making a lot of money a la Bill Clinton. The role of Middle East envoy is a horrible thankless job and the chances of failure are very high. So why take it? I think he's doing it because he's seeking Redemption. He's only 54, young in political terms. Suppose he works flat out the next ten years and pulls off a peace initiative, it will then change his final story. It will become the story of a man, who through inexperience and mis-judgement made a mistake over Iraq, and then with very hard-earned knowledge of how war (and civil-war) actually works, tried again and fixed things. He'll be different from the usual envoys who go in with pipedreams about bringing peace and find their illusions shattered. Blair comes at this battle hardened - all his illusions about the middle east are already shattered and all that's left is knowledge about just how difficult it will all be. He may just succeed. I hope he does.


Anonymous said...

Yes Blair's exit was all very textbook; especially the way that the anti-war campaigners from families of deceased British soldiers ensured that their presence was seen and felt.

Despite your speculations Blair will never 'put right' his huge and indelible mistake of historical proportions on Iraq (and let's not forget his portfolio of other little war adventues). He cannot put right this thing because he has been handed a posioned chalice on the Middle East.

His problem there is that he does not have a John Major like he had in the Northern Ireland scenario. Major did all the early difficult work to get the momentum behind the peace process. Blair doubtless did a competant job in keeping it going to conclusion, but it was Major's success and it was sad and squalid that Blair did not accord him proper recognition.

snowflake5 said...

Ted - I think you are being churlish about Blair's achievements in Northern Ireland. Makor's efforts lasted about 18 months, and then completely broke down, and didn't revive until Blair took over. Comparing a mere 18 months work to a decade's all-out effort and saying the former is more important is downright bizarre.

I guess it's all part of the way the Tories are trying to re-write the history of the Major years - though at the time, Tories despised him so much that they destroyed him, even in the middle of the 1997 election, poor Major was pleading with his own party to back him!