We shall miss him when he is gone. It has become the fashion, both at Westminster and in what used to be known as Fleet Street, to assume that Tony Blair has entered the twilight of his premiership. One of the most promising of the younger Labour backbenchers, who would like a job in government but has failed to show the unremitting servility which would have enabled him to obtain one, remarked this week that ‘not having been promoted towards the end of the discredited Blair regime’ could well prove, in careerist terms, a blessing in disguise. Meanwhile the most highminded of the Guardian’s columnists had already detected, in Mr Blair, ‘a tipping point from leader-as-navigator to leader-as-man-of-self-pleasuring-hubris’. The phrase conjured up a picture of Hugo Young patrolling the dormitories at night with a flashlight, determined to detect any boy who might be giving way to self-pleasuring hubris, and finding to his horror that Blair of all people — Blair who used to set an example to the whole school — had succumbed to this revolting vice.
But it was also a phrase which illustrates the extraordinary condescension with which the Left regards Mr Blair. A great part of the Labour party actually hates him. This feeling goes far beyond the normal, healthy desire of the free-born Englishman to bring a successful man down a peg or two. There is a widespread belief that Mr Blair is an alien interloper who has betrayed the party and is every bit as bad as Margaret Thatcher, whose legacy he preserved. Hence the collapse in Labour membership, and the capture by the extreme Left of one trade union after another.
As a Tory, who wanted Mrs Thatcher’s legacy to be preserved, one is forced to congratulate Mr Blair on his tight control of his own party.