To Tony Blair, who was born on May 6, 1953.
I have spent the better part of the last two days at a conference, co-hosted by McGill and UdeM, addressing the question: “What remains of Cool Britannia?” There are panels on the third way and the economy, devolution, culture, europe, etc., a solid look at the legacy of Blair’s first two terms.
What has surprised me more than anything is the unrelenting disdain the British academics who are attending have for Blair and the achievments of his premiership. Some of the presentations have been little more than an extended string of sarcastic remarks — though it must be said that sarcasm delivered by Brits, especially the Scots, is deliciously entertaining.
At any rate, I have a hard time faulting Mr. Blair for being “focused exclusively on the attainment and retention of power,” as the keynote speaker complained. I have little time for politicians or parties who prefer the unsullied virtue of perpetual opposition to the nasty business of actually winning elections.
In winning a third straight majority, Mr. Blair has done something no Labour politician has ever achieved. To do so, he had to transform his party from the British equivalent of the NDP into the British equivalent of the Liberals. He’s marginalised the left and the right, and made enemies on all sides, no more so than within his own party. So what? He’s the Prime Minister, and no one else is.
Good on you, Mr. Blair. Happy Birthday, on this glorious sixth of May.
UPDATE: Oh, jeezus. Polly Toynbee has decided that, having won an unprecedented third majority, Blair can’t possibly stay on. He must turn his job over to Gordon Brown by next May. This would be surreal, except it is so damn familiar. Where have we heard this story before?