Blair is desperate to try to persuade himself and others that he leaves a legacy of achievement. It’s a need he has to be significant in terms of concrete results and not just a class sales act that used spin to look good. The kind of achievements he wants to lay claim to are proving elusive, the supposed improvement to public health services and so on. His main achievement may be nothing to do with policy.
There was a time when politicans were elected because of policy. When the country divided into classes. When unemployment was public enemy number one, and when people went hungry. Whichever class you were from decided your political viewpoint. Policy was important because policy identitified your position in the structure that existed.
Britain in 2006 may still have identifiable classes. David Cameron went to Eton. Tony Blair went to Fettes. But John Prescott didn’t go to Public School. John Reid did not either. Nor did David Davis or Liam Fox. Both current party leaders may have gone to public school. In the case of Labour, it won’t go on much longer that way. The fact is though that hardly anyone seems that bothered if any of them did or they didn’t.
Under Blair Britain has let go. We were an uptight lot who were restricted in our aspirations by our class backgrounds, and an inability to show and express emotions. Think all the way back to John Major and Neil kinnock – even William Hague – and you find a totally different world that does not exist any more.
Within that context, Gordon Brown is a dinosaur who has not moved into the modern age. He is locked up in a past with an inability to express emotions, and still defined by his class background. Blair’s legacy is that he has told Britain that we can now be whatever we want to be, and that nothing need hold us back. How suitable that John Reid, a similarly cocky aspirant but from another background completely, seems a natural follow-on to Blair.
Political leadership now has little to do with policy, little to do with where you come from and all to do with charisma. Before Blair and after Blair are different. That’s his legacy – not the appalling state of the country which will need a Conservative government to get it going again. Cameron is tuned in to where Blair has lead. We are an amazingly open-minded society now. Blair has cracked Britain’s class history and blown it to pieces. Cameron will be the one to get it working properly, but it was Blair who made Cameron possible.