Young Servicemen in Iraq
History, suggested `The Prime Minister` following the collision of two more helicopters and the deaths of two more young servicemen in Iraq, would judge that his foreign policy and counter-terrorism objectives were correct.
Setting aside the fact that those policies were constructed not in 10 Downing Street but, largely, at Camp David and in the White House I would respectfully suggest to Mr. Blair, in the dying weeks of his third mediocre term in office, that "history" is something that emerges after the passage of at least a couple of generations, not in a couple of weeks. Notwithstanding the consent of the Secretary of State for Defence to permit `contemporary history` to be sold to The Sun and The Mirror for thirty pieces of silver there is, I fear, a harsher judgement awaiting this first `New Labour` Prime Minister.
When, after several miles of doorstep canvassing or a particularly arduous spell behind spade or shovel I find that I begin to creak I take comfort by reminding myself that I am still not a lot more than half the age of some of my most senior citizens! They can remember rather more Prime Ministers than my own brief post-war recollection permits but I doubt if any of us, old or younger, can recall a predecessor in Downing Street so self-obsessed with his or her "legacy".
As Mr Blair heads towards the Exit door we can reflect upon a decade that has seen the triumph of spin over substance, of expedience over honour and of the triumph of Executive decree over parliamentary democracy. This "most successful Labour Prime Minister ever" will be remembered, chiefly, for the "dodgy dossier" that led us, ill-equipped and under-manned, into the present conflict in the Middle East.
I do not, these days, admire much in American politics but there is, perhaps, a case to suggest that we should emulate our cousins across the Atlantic and limit our premierships to a maximum of two terms only. Blair's third term, founded on hubris, arrogance and downright dishonesty, has been worse than his first two and my political opponents would no doubt suggest equally that Margaret Thatcher's third term was not as distinguished as her first two.
While those of us down at the grass roots, on both sides of the House, are able to keep our feet firmly planted in the reality of close contact with our constituents it looks as though up in the Whitehall stratosphere our political system demands a sabbatical parliament in opposition to refresh dedication, determination and imaginative thought before any team of embryonic Ministers should be allowed to return to government. That might prevent a repetition of the grim political experience and prolonged swan song to which our Country is now being subjected.
The hand of destiny is not, Mr. Blair, upon your shoulder but upon the handle of the executioner's axe.