Arise Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Yes, that should give a fair few people a more punishing than usual New Year’s Day hangover. Britain’s most successful Labour leader, despised by all the worst aspects of the British character, honoured at last.
Blair made three great mistakes as prime minister: he introduced devolution, he set a target for 50 per cent of young people to attend university, and he didn’t sack Gordon Brown. For some these will render him unworthy of his knighthood. For others it will be his decision to join the United States in overthrowing Saddam Hussein, who, it transpired, no longer had stockpiles of WMDs.
There is a small thinking that afflicts Blair’s haters — a man like him doesn’t attract mere critics — and it undermines reasonable cases against him. Yes, he was unduly presidential, contemptuous of Cabinet government and scornful of Parliament. Yes, his New Labour project spun the country dizzy, disillusioned some who had stored their hopes in it, and gave birth to a ferocious new cynicism about politics. He left too much on the surface, put too much faith in language, and seldom encountered a problem he didn’t think could be solved by setting up a new quango and putting a politically on-message technocrat in charge of it.
All are sound critiques which can be buttressed with reference to his political and policy follies. But Blair Derangement Syndrome will not allow the sufferer to be quite so equanimous. The man must be a war criminal, a mass murderer, Bliar, Bush’s poodle, a bloodthirsty neocon, a Europhile traitor and the monster who introduced lying to the noble vocation of politics.