(16a) Mr Tony Blair - The past


Mr Tony Blair, such an imposing figure. Just over twenty years ago he rose to power and became one of the most celebrated politicians in the UK, that is until the Iraq war destroyed his legacy for many people. Here, I list what I remember that were his important achievements but also his present work and why I think people no longer like him and how he could response by becoming a low-key but still important figure. However, some defend his good policies.

The past and his achievements

After becoming New Labour leader, Tony Blair won three elections and for a good reason: he had good ideas and came after a long period with the Tories in power (and their time in power was so disastrous that even after more than a decade in opposition they still didn't manage to regain a majority and had to form a coalition government). Only because someone wanted his job, PM Blair had to stop being the elected British PM (although maybe there was a secret deal that needed to be honoured). And then the crisis started.

Tony Blair, I remember him being elected as PM in 1997 (probably from repeats). Such an energy and always with a smile that showed a person who believed he could change society for the better. And often did, together with his team, as he had a large majority in Parliament because people wanted him while he didn't waste time implementing his promised changes. (Compare with President Obama who was wanted while people elected his opponents for Congress and thus people didn't get much changes).

Before him, waiting lists to see doctors in the health system were long, even for those who needed them urgently; he managed to improve this so people were able to see a doctor sooner. Also hospitals as well as health sciences received large investments so there was large progress and as a result people love the NHS (although it is still not perfect). As wages of doctors increased, more people wanted to become doctor and thus the shortage decreased, while also oversea health professionals got a chance (and while this depletes poor countries from skilful people, luckily many white doctors and nurses were prepared to work in those poorer countries while some people returned to their home country after gaining experience in modern medicine). It is not Mr Blair's fault some doctors became greedy although many are not and really work in the health sector to cure the ill. Now that the Tories are in power, it seems there is a return to the pre-Blair years with less investments in health systems and research and more talk of privatisation (the latter doesn't necessarily need to be bad).

The education system improved as it received large investments: many old buildings were restored or even replaced with new ones, failing (public) schools were improved so they became good schools while wages of teachers started to increase so more people were willing to become teacher although the system started to become more expensive (here PM Blair's weakness is his love for money so he allowed that certain (head)teachers started earning too much). Still, it is not Mr Blair's fault some (head)teachers became greedy although many are not and really work in education to ensure children have a future. Of course, the system was not perfect yet when he left office as he had to rebuild most of it after the major reduction in investment during the Thatcher years (and thus too little investments during one period will result in having over-the-top investments in the following period).

He defended Peter Mandelson, despised by a certain section of the media and politicians because he is gay but also clever (although I think he likes a little too much the powerful). Gay rights in general improved under his premiership after the years under PM Thatcher. For this he was recently nominated as a gay icon by a gay magazine. E.g. he removed section 28 that made life miserable for many gays and lesbians but also for those who were suspected of being gay or lesbian while he introduced equal age of consent and gay civil partnership, all steps forward towards a society where everyone is equal unless they misbehave. Also women rights improved much and even people from humble backgrounds were able to 'climb the ladder'. In general, a society that respects gay rights also respects other rights and vice versa.

He set his government the target to eradiate poverty in his own country and worldwide. And although of course he didn't manage to complete this task, poverty declined while the current government has no ambition at all of doing this as they claim it can't be achieved. PM Blair and Chancellor Brown set this goal publicly so the government was forced to try to achieve it or people would remember their failure while having no goal will assure there will be no failure but certainly also no achievement. For his efforts to eradiate poverty he received recently an award from 'Save the Children' (although many even in the charity opposed this while the person who does nothing mocks him). Ironically, because of his love for money and rich people, inequality could increase to such an extent that the progress many made is now undone by the increase in prices of products (such as house prices) because, as people earned more, they could pay ever higher prices to get the products they desire and sellers think they can increase prices as people can pay. Indeed, this crisis thought us that increases (in wages) need to be controlled to prevent they get out of control and result in an unfair society. Because even many of those who knew poverty as a child but became rich in later life have often not much mercy for the poor and often are even worse in denying them any benefits for fear their own past poverty becomes known.

On Europe he was very different from his most famous predecessor PM Thatcher. Indeed, as a rich country but also one that wants to lead, he accepted the UK has to take its responsibilities and thus he allowed some reduction of the rebate (= reduction on UK's 'membership' contribution) that the UK received since PM Thatcher (the rebate was a sign of goodwill from the other EU countries to have the UK in the EU) while many British are still angry the rebate was reduced. Mr Blair also tried to reach compromises with the other countries that resulted in the Treaty of Lisbon although there were moments he blocked the EU such as vetoing the person with a vision about the future of the EU and who most countries wanted as their leader. He was also in favour of extending the EU (but this can also be interpreted as weakening the EU because more countries result in more difficult reforms) while he was in favour of joining the Euro (blocked by chancellor Brown). The Treaty of Lisbon also resulted in fewer areas where countries can block decisions that are favoured by a majority of countries such as vetoing a person to become leader of Europe. Other British leaders may not have allowed this although maybe the pressure on the UK became too big not to accept these changes. As a consequence, the UK couldn't block the current leader, Mr Juncker. The Tories now demand new reforms to increase the benefits for the UK, not to benefit the EU as a whole.

Also on immigration did he have open ideas but that subject is too complicated to write in a few words. Still, he regarded people coming from the rest of Europe and the world as something positive for the country (to do jobs the British didn't like to do but also to have skilful people for specific jobs) while the current Tory government mostly preaches the negative of it (except when it concerns the very rich who further increase prices of products such as houses). An example is mentioned higher about foreign healthcare workers that can cause understanding between cultures but can also create tensions when the foreigners don't always understand the people in the host countries (proof that countries should demand people learn the language of their chosen country or region). Still, also people from the UK move to other places. But, although he was open, he could be harsh for those who refused our way of life (i.e. democracy) but equally he could be harsh for British who didn't respect others (e.g. disturb neighbours) by introducing ASBO's (= anti-social behaviour orders) (that are now also introduced in other countries although of course this can be abused when the wrong people are in power). Nevertheless, too much immigration in too short a period always causes troubles, for the newcomers as well as the originals as it changes societies and thus people.

The civil war in Northern Ireland came to an end under his premiership because he allowed self-rule (= devolution) in the province (and other parts such as Scotland and Wales) although there are always some lunatics who prefer fighting and not peace. Still, even for bringing peace to that region it seems he is now under attack while probably each side has blood on their hands. But devolution is also partly to blame for the recently held Scottish referendum on independence as people got a taste how certain things can be done much better locally than from the capital, certainly when the capital can only worship the rich who steal from the rest of society. And as I predicted years ago, parties such as Labour are starting to fall apart due to internal disagreements about how to solve certain issues.

One of the reasons why many people liked but others didn't like Mr Blair is because he increased control of society by society, including on the old powers such as churches, schools, hospitals, media, police, ... while punished misbehaving individuals with ASBOs. As a consequence, many errors of the past became visible such as abuse of children (within media, churches, schools, ...) or bad treatment of patients in certain hospitals. The numbers of police increased but also the importance of the Independent Police Complains Commission (IPCC, founded in 2004) so policemen were forced to behave properly while also include people of all colours to represent society. Another example is the Office of Communications (Ofcom, founded in 2001) that in 2011 took control in stopping Mr Murdoch's takeover bid of BSkyB after it became public that people's phones were hacked by part (all?) of Mr Murdoch's News Corporation. Indeed, independent control organisations are good (the Fourth Power) to check governments, private sector and even jurisdiction as long as they represent all sections of society. These Offices and Commissions should control and remain independent and thus be financed by Parliament. This means they are not part of the systems but include interested people and independent specialists while representatives of what is checked should be obliged to be present so they can explain the actions of their organisations. As a consequence, I think Mr Blair made many enemies who may not like his return unless he would promise to stop those control agencies. These systems of action and control can keep each other in balance if well used. For instance parking wards can receive bonuses when they exceed a certain number of tickets so they work hard but it may stimulate abuse of power, certainly when people start behaving better and no longer break rules and thus fewer penalties can be handed out. When control agencies exist, people can complain about some wards and thus this system can prevent abuse of powers when the agency can refer abusers to the jurisdiction (that itself is checked by another agency). Equally, wards can complain when they are forced to abuse their powers but equally the control agency may force a company that wants to fire people to do this fairly (e.g. when there are too many wards while everyone behaves). Then private companies can take over certain responsibilities of society without us having to fear abuse. But the Tories warn, even before coming into power, that the proliferation of these 'quangos' should be stopped while they represent real democracy (if both specialists and citizens are involved) although of course the need for some can change over time. The financial sector was able to escape the control by a really independent 'quango' with disastrous consequences. But I also remember that PM Blair was often frustrated by the obstructions by Mr Brown, his finance minister and responsible for the financial sector which Mr Brown (probably with agreement by PM Blair) allowed more independence (e.g. the Bank of England was allowed to independently set monetary policies (a bank, for god sake) and thus ignore political decisions if it wishes to do). Still, the moment PM Blair was out of office, this sector turned their back towards PM Brown so the Tories could gain power. The main thing we should now understand but many don't want to understand is that there should not only be a minimum wage for every worker in a country but also a cap on what certain people can earn when they work for companies that need to look after the property of others, certainly when misbehaviour can destroy the world economy. And independent Financial Agencies should check whether rules are implemented. Of course, people should have more freedom to pay themselves well when it concerns their own company on condition all debts are paid. Still, even then employees should be paid at least the minimum wage.

More towards the end of his premiership he started to behave slightly odd such as allowing mega casinos while people were talking about too many gamblers or changing the closing times of pubs towards longer opening times while experts were talking about a wrong drinking culture with too much binge drinking. Still, education can change the behaviour towards more social gambling or drinking while longer opening times for pubs or clubs in office areas or under railways should be possible as any noise there will not keep people awake. But it showed his growing love for everything big that can destroy the small as a mega casino will be in competition with small gamble shops. I also found it very strange that he befriended Mr Murdoch, a person with ideas that are often diagonally opposite to those of Mr Blair as the articles published in newspapers such as 'The Sun' and 'News of the World' or the news channel 'Fox News' demonstrate but who supports the politician he likes but breaks the one he dislikes. But this may proof what many claim: he can be ruthless in his pursue of power. Still, he founded Ofcom (see below), maybe even against the 'advise' of Mr Murdoch. But also current politicians admire Mr Murdoch and may not have founded Ofcom to assure his support. He also banned fox hunting and thus angered many powerful, even up to these days, claiming it has all to do with class war and not animal wellfare.

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