Tony Blair’s Poisoned Legacy

Regardless of the merits of his domestic reord, Tony Blair's decision to take Britain into the Iraq war has ensured that his legacy will be one of disillusion and distrust. Indeed, for many Britons, Blair may have discredited the very idea of a "special relationship" with the United States.

Tony Blair has a powerful claim to being one of the most successful British politicians of any recent generation, at least in domestic economic and social policy. But history will remember him mainly for his strategic error in going to war in Iraq.

During his ten years in power, Blair and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, gave Britain one of the longest periods of economic stability, relatively high growth, and low unemployment that it had ever known. In this respect, Blair’s premiership marked a fundamental break with the Labor Party’s tax-and-spend tradition. It also established a new tradition of stability in economic policy, continuing and reinforcing the previous Conservative government’s commitment to fiscal discipline and low inflation. Stable economic policy and rapid growth, in turn, enabled Blair’s government to pour extra money into education and the National Health Service.

Yet Blair’s domestic legacy is a mood of disillusion and mistrust, especially of Blair himself. One reason is that a significant portion of Blair’s party (which he renamed “New Labor”) never reconciled itself to the primacy that he gave to free-market principles over its old Socialist or Social Democratic values. Another is that Blair consistently seemed to pay much less attention to Parliament than to the right-wing tabloid press: the spin and media manipulation to which his office devoted so much effort worked wonders at first, but soon generated deep skepticism and mistrust.

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