Wednesday, June 27, 2007

15 days and a new Prime Minister

For me, it was just a normal day at work, but for Tony and Gordon, everything changed. It's been ten years and two months for Tony as no.1 and Gordon as no.2, and now Tony is stepping down to be a Middle East peace envoy, and Gordon is stepping up to be no.1 at no.10

I remember the 1st May 1997 very clearly. We were staying with my sister in Worcester, and Felicity and I were so excited by the prospect of a radical change in the government that we stayed up all night to watch the results come in. We watched the Blairs enter no.10 on the morning of the 2nd May and we heard "Things can only get better" by M People blasting from the speakers at the Labour Party headquarters in London. There was a very real mood of elation and optimism and the whole country, even the true blue Tories, was in agreement that change was long overdue.

But did things get better?

On balance, I think they did. Blair's impromptu speech on my 27th birthday, the day that Princess Diana died, and my first day in Africa, set the tone for a more relaxed and informal style of government, with frank and open discussions contrasted with the Conservative's more stiff upper lip approach. The soundbytes such as "the people's princess" came thick and fast. However, it didn't take long for the spin doctoring excesses to spoil the mood.

Most would agree that Blair's finest hour was the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland, and today's lasting peace there is his legacy, closely followed by winning the Olympic bid for London in 2012 and being a key advocate for the raft of debt relief for third world countries that have been unveiled over the last two years. Most would also agree that the current mess in Iraq, and Britain's part in it, is a legacy of his determination to put American interests at the front of his foreign policy.

Having lived abroad as an ex-patriate for six of those ten years, I would say that Britain is a far better place now than it was on the 1st May 1997. It is in great condition economically (thanks Gordon), and at last it seems that racism is being eradicated from the national psyche. However, it also seems to be groaning under the weight of red tape and needless state interference in the lives of it's citizens, a National Health Service in need of real reform, and an education system where standards have slipped despite more testing of kids than ever before and where teachers are swamped with paperwork and procedure that prevent the best ones from teaching creatively, and obscure the poor performance of the worst ones.

So my whole life has been defined by the politics of two people; Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair. The big question is, will Gordon have the same kind of impact?

1 comment:

TPF said...