Just listened to an excellent program on our local national public radio station about Tony Blair's resignation and what his legacy would be. The guests included an American chap living in the UK and an English man.
The American chap said Blair was instrumental in investing in and building up some of Britain's ailing quasi-governmental institutions including the National Health Service. He added the nugget that he sends his daughter to NHS doctors and hospitals and has found the service and experience very good in general. That surprised me and "tell that to my mother" ran through my mind. Wait times for appointments are horrid, so horrid Americans would find them unacceptable.
Blair deserves much credit for some successes and I think many Brits are just so angry with him over his support of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq that they overlook the good he has done for the country in general. The passage of time will rectify that in his favor. Britain's economy is doing well, I believe. He had staying power when it came to getting the two sides to talk and form a government in Northern Ireland. He ended the absurd system of privilege in the House of Lords by ending the right of hereditary peers to sit in the upper chamber of Westminster--apparently 92 hereditary peers are sitting currently but, when they die, their offspring cannot take their seats as before. It was time for modern Britain to end that sort of undemocratic crap.
His moniker as 'Bush's poodle' was discussed in the context of his unshakable belief that Britain has a 'special relationship' with the United States. It was pointed out that benefits of this 'special relationship' ran only one way, namely to America, during the Bush presidency.
Very illuminating for me was the fact that America considers and trumps up a 'special relationship' with no less than nine countries, including Japan--which it must actually articulate every time an American head of state visits Japan because they expect to hear it--as well as Poland, etc. In other words, the United States does not consider itself to have a 'special relationship' with Britain that is more unique, more valuable, more critical than any other countries enjoying such a title. An administration currently in power--whether Democrat or Republican--is perfectly happy when a country such as Britain asserts it has a 'special relationship' because there is no obligation or downside for America.
The conclusion seemed to be that this is where Blair did make a huge mistake; he was so driven to maintain this 'special relationship' that he was prepared to ignore the wishes of his constituency, namely the British people, and go along with the actions and policies of the Bush administration who, quite simply, did not care whether he agreed or disagreed with their decisions. In the end, Blair got only to influence America in a mere two instances--one being to do with Palestine/Israeli issues--as a result of this perceived self-sustaining duty to keep the 'special relationship' on track and thereby give Britain prestige.
It seems to me the next British Priminister should spend his time working with the European Union because that is where Britain's destiny and power is truly tied. That is where they can truly be effective. (Gordon Smith is apparently not a huge fan of Europe and is a bit of an Americanophile--loves the Boston Redsox, vacationing on Martha's vineyard (who doesn't?) and our economy, though is not hot on Mr. Bush.) Because, only when Europe speaks to an American administration regardless as to who is in power with one consistent and powerful voice will a 'special relationship' be acknowledged.