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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

AND THAT IS THAT, THE END

With those words, Tony Blair left the House of Commons last week after his final Prime Ministers Questions. I just saw the session on TiVo tonight, and it really did feel like watching a little piece of history.

For Brits, I understand the question of Tony Blair is a thorny one. He came into power in a wave of optimism 10 years ago only to find himself deeply unpopular at home. He got cozy with one of the most hated men on earth and helped facilitate the invasion of Iraq. At home, he got caught up in scandals about selling spots in the House of Lords. And he's credited with bringing sleazy, American spin-doctoring to British politics.

In America, we're much less conflicted. We pretty much like him. Folks on the right think Blair is the only right-thinking leader who isn't named Bush. He's a true and loyal friend who will stand on principle even when it's unpopular. Lefties see him as a noble but tragic figure who made a deal with the devil (agreed to endorse Iraq war in exchange for help with the Israel/Palestine conflict) and got burned.

In many ways Blair is the kind of person we wish our president was. Despite the obvious flaws, Blair could be counted on to give a thoughtful, reasoned argument for going to war in Iraq. You got the idea that he had actually thought it through and determined it was for the best. Perhaps that's why his support meant so much in the run up to the war. By that point, far more Americans trusted Blair than Bush.

As a person who consumes British politics mainly for entertainment purposes, I will miss Tony. His public speaking and rhetorical skills are first rate, and that made Prime Minister's Questions a fun watch.

Gordon Brown seems much less fun. Apart from the fact that he looks like a koala bear wearing tie, he also seems worn out from spending the last 10 years working at the highest levels of government. While I don't have access to any polling numbers, it feels like Brown would have a hard time winning a general election. He'll face the Commons tomorrow, and I'll be interested to see how he does. Perhaps he's got some life in him yet.

I found a video of Tony Blair's first question time as opposition leader in 1994. It was fun to see him with youthful swagger back in the days before 9/11 and the Internet boom and the Spice Girls. He sort of reminds me of that young buck David Cameron.

In his last question time, Blair ended his remarks with a brief speech on the value and basic nobility of politics. To American ears, it sounded silly and naive and helped me to understand why he was once known as "Bambi." But he made you at least believe that he believed it. Perhaps it's the British accent that makes us Yanks believe anything he says.

But whatever you think of him, you have to appreciate any guy who can rule a country for 10 years, step down on his own terms, and get a standing ovation as he walks out the door. When our guy leaves after 8, I doubt you'll see a scene like this.

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2 Comments:

At 3:37 am, Blogger Birchsprite said...

Old Tony was a bit of an eijit....but GB is worse I think!

 
At 8:13 am, Blogger Darrell said...

So, Did you see Olbermann's call for Bush and Cheney to resign?
He went all Howard Beale....
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19588942/

 

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