Saturday, May 19, 2007

The People's Prime Minister

I am not at all familiar with the way British politics works, so I suppose it's quite possible that I may someday find that I am here paying tribute to the wrong man politically. But in any case, on the gut level I have found much in the leadership of the Right Honorable Tony Blair that is honorable and right. Gordon Brown will have a tough act to follow this June.

I watched The Queen last night, a film by Stephen Frears released earlier this year, which, by the way, is well worth your time. Helen Mirren's portrayal of Elizabeth II and her struggle with Mr. Blair over the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana is magnificent. (To whet your appetite, click here to view the trailer.) What I also took from the film was a reminder of just how much I have grown to admire Mr. Blair over the years. It was he who first coined the phrase "the People's Princess" with respect to Diana, and it was also he who best interpreted the pulse of the British people in that tragic hour.

To be sure, much about the life of Diana was less than pure, and there was, I recall, a certain warped irony about the way the world doted on her while largely ignoring Mother Teresa who also died that summer of 1997. Nevertheless Diana was larger than life. She was an icon. She was the lovely princess of everyone's childhood fairy tale, and she was a real live person. The paparazzi not only played a central role in causing her death; they also sought to ruin that image England and the world saw in the Princess. It did not matter that she and the Prince were divorced; in fact, since it was in the public view the Prince's fault, she became all the more loved for it. Mr. Blair likely understood all this, so in the hour of her death it was he who was able first to say the right thing at the right time.

And we Americans dare never forget how he stood shoulder to shoulder with us after September 11, 2001, and has not flinched in his loyalty since. Everyone in the world seemed to call himself an American for the next few weeks, but he sank his teeth into that alliance. He dedicated his government's troops to stand beside ours in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and he never wavered in the face of sometimes fierce opposition. You think President Bush has received bad press for Iraq? Mr. Blair's enemies are ten times as vitriolic. But he has always worn his determination on his sleeve, and in being a friend to our President he has been a friend to all Americans, pro- and anti- war alike. I remember reading in National Review shortly after 9-11 an editorial which brought a lump to my throat. It was a grateful American's response to Mr. Blair's staunch support: "We will not forget this, sir." Count me as one who has not forgotten.

So he was a socialist at heart; so he was labor; so he was progressive, whatever all that means. This man has acted with a well-informed conscience in his public life. History should and probably will look on his legacy more kindly than current public opinion does. For the measure of a true leader must be understood in the end to be a measure of leadership, rather than of following public opinion. That is what the people will ultimatly respect and admire. It's why Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan were the 20th century giants they were. Would that all public officials would learn to be so governed by a sense of what is the right thing to do, ever regardless of public opinion.


Fr. Matthew J. Uttenreither said...

Amen! History will show that Bush and Blair were correct in their defense of Western Society against a enemy that is hate and not peace.
When will the progressives wake up and realize that to the Muslims we live in the Dar al Harb (House of War-that is Muslims living in a land ruled by infidels) and the only way Islam will become a House of Peace is when all become Muslims or we are killed?
Sorry about the tone, I've been reading to much about Islam of late

Lawrence said...

"So he was a socialist at heart; so he was labor; so he was progressive, whatever all that means."

Ironically, Blair was always under fire for being too conservative.

And, yes, Blair reall is a class act.

Pr. H. R. said...

All the Brits over at National Review Online think differently - at least about his domestic policy. His changes to the British Constitution (a true living document since it isn't a document!) were radical and his insults to personal liberty (no hunting, the almost total ban of firearms) were boundless. And these NR guys see him pushing Britain away from the Special Relationship and much more toward Europe.

But he did get One Thing Right: the War on Islamia abroad. But he got one major thing wrong: he allowed the War on Islamia at Home. His multi-culti policies were certainly a contributing cultural factor to the Tube bombings.

Plus, word on the street is that when he leaves office he'll be joining his wife in the Pope's Church.


BlairSupporter said...

I agree entirely with your article and I'm British living in the UK.

Blair is a good man as well as am empathetic politician. I think he will go on to prove this in a wider arena (than just my brainwashed / brain dead country). Hopefully in the Middle East which has so far defeated all other 'peacemakers'.

As to whether he is socialist or liberal or conservative - I think this misses the point on Blair. He's actually ALL three, SOME of the time! Confusing and leading to him being called "all things to all men". But one of the reasons he appealed right across the board in three general elections, breaking all records for the Labour party.

I'm reading Paddy Ashdown's (former leader of the Liberal Democrats - our 3rd party) Diaries 1997-1999. It's clear that he and Blair worked tirelessly for as much as five years to re-align the political landscape here. They failed in the end, mainly due to Labour tribalism. So much for "Blair the Control Freak".

The three parties' existence had resulted under the voting system in the Tories becoming elected more often than Labour in the 20th century, despite natural centrist voter majorities. Convergence, coalition or even merger was on Blair's and Ashdown's minds.

They had worked quietly at this from Blair's party leadership in 1994. WHY? Because their policies were VERY similar and they saw the Tories as out on the Right, especially regarding social concerns and Europe. Blair's Cabinet even referred to him as "The Liberal".

I'd guess that if the Lib Dems had been 'way out to the Left of Labour, and the Tories had been naturally more pro-Europe, Blair might well have worked with them too.

Blair is a pragmatist in the art of the possible.

Of course the Liberal Democrats stood firmly against Iraq, which they may not have done so easily under Ashdown but who knows? They are instinctively largely anti-war and I'm not quite sure what Ashdown would have recommended anyway since he thought Blair and Clinton were too slow on military action on Iraq and on Kosovo.

Blair saw what was brewing here in the UK with islamist terrorism but was not permitted or politically strong enough at the end to voice his concerns.

So if we in the UK go down to Sharia Law, we can't blame Blair. It'll be the fault of Gordon Brown, for turning his "blind eye". (Sorry, you'll have to look that one up!)

I have a blog, started after the disgraceful "coup", cutely titled Keep Tony Blair For PM. Sorry, can't change the url. Please visit to see the GOOD stuff about this outstanding politician.

Father Eckardt said...

Thanks for the tip.