A legacy of regret

by Stephen Tall on May 10, 2007

This, famously, is what Tony Blair said to Paddy Ashdown, back in 1999:

“Going is the most difficult thing to do in politics. Too many people stay for too long. I would rather stop when people said, ‘Why is he going?’ than when they said, ‘Why isn’t he going?’ Or, even worse, ‘When is he going?’”
(Tony Blair quoted in The Ashdown Diaries, V.II (1997-99), p.385)

Tony Blair’s promise of a surprise departure turned out to be yet one more expectation he disappointed. His last 12 months in government has been torture to watch, and doubtless excruciating to witness. A Labour leader who helped re-build his party has, almost single-handed and quite contentedly, let it go to wrack and ruin because of a misplaced sense of his own indispensability.

A politician with any honour would have resigned four years ago, when it became clear that he had committed his nation to the most disastrous foreign policy in living memory. He took this nation to war on a false prospectus, and with contemptible sophistry. That he has clung on to power regardless is to his shame, and that of his party.

A man blessed with extraordinary powers, he has achieved lamentably little of his potential, and has tossed away a generational opportunity to transform this country’s public policy and political institutions. Such waste is scandalous. It is also to be pitied. He has a long retirement ahead to reflect on the barrenness of his legacy.