Despite big errors we can’t ignore his successes: STEPHEN DAISLEY argues that Tony Blair deserves his knighthood
This day was always going to come. Convention dictates that all prime ministers eventually join the Order of the Garter – even the ones, like James Callaghan, that nobody actually voted for.
And let me be clear that I have no loyalty to the Labour Party: I’m a political centrist who believes ministers should let us hold on to most of our money and generally keep the ship of state afloat.
There are aspects of Tony Blair’s behaviour that I find objectionable: his toe-curling money-grubbing from dodgy dictators after leaving office; his refusal to accept the Brexit result.
But despite that, there is also much to admire. He was the Labour leader who understood the concerns of Middle Britain, instead of dismissing them – as the Left so often does – with a sneer.
His open-minded, pluralistic approach allowed him to sell liberal policies to an essentially conservative nation
This open-minded, pluralistic approach allowed him to sell liberal policies to an essentially conservative nation.
Old Labour redistributed wealth through vicious taxation, especially on the middle classes. New Labour focused on growing the economy. Prosperity, this business-friendly party understood, increased revenue.
Instead of demonising aspiration, Blair celebrated it. He promised to be ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’. Police numbers rose 12 per cent during his premiership.
But equally he recognised that crime would never fall unless he also tackled deprivation and hopelessness.
Where Blair truly stood out was in foreign policy. Few young people today understand how, before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the spectre of Irish republican terrorism hung over the streets of Belfast and London alike.
I continue to believe Britain did the right thing in overthrowing Saddam Hussein. True leadership seldom wins friends
After 9/11, Blair saw Islamism for the threat to liberal democracy it was, cracking down on domestic extremists and asserting abroad the British values of freedom, tolerance and the rule of law.
There are many who disagree with him on Iraq. I respect their principles but I continue to believe Britain did the right thing in overthrowing Saddam Hussein. True leadership seldom wins friends.
More recently, he has been a voice of reason on the pandemic. He was an early advocate of mass-testing and for the vaccinated to be exempt from lockdown. Many lives – and businesses – might have been saved had ministers listened.
Tony Blair created a fairer, more tolerant country at home and stood up for desperate people overseas. Whatever his flaws and mistakes, that is the legacy of a statesman. It is right that his achievements be so recognised.