Just days before he goes from No.10 altogether (probably late next week, according to Norman Smith on 'Today' today), the debate about whether Tony Blair offered us a significant new political ideology, or a brilliantly restructured version of an old one, is starting to get going. After all, Thatcher has Thatcherism, so what about Blairism?
What indeed. Read that new Clause 4 again and decide whether or not someone who could authorise such a woolly load of nonsense really deserves any credibility as a political thinker. Blair has been a remarkable Prime Minister, there is no doubt. His instinctive feel for the popular mood (especially after Diana's death crash), his brilliant and ruthless re-casting of the Labour Party, his unprecedented majorities in three successive elections - these mark him out. As, of course, on the debit side, does his notorious, self-destructive, vainglorious decision for war in Iraq. This is a man whose decade-long premiership will certainly be pored over, analysed, criticised and praised for many more decades to come. Good or bad, Blair matters. But the fact that he matters shouldn't lull us into believing he has some sort of ideological depth. The jury is still out on Thatcher, in fact, with some political scientists claiming that she, too, was no ideological innovator - and whatever the conclusion there, I would certainly argyue that she has a greater claim to her 'ism' than Blair does to one of his own.
Simon Jenkins, former 'Times' editor, and current political columnist, argues against awarding Blair such credit in this recent article here. Jenkins, of course, has recently authored 'Sons of Thatcher', counting Blair as one of them (alongside the more obvious Tory leaders). In reply, more briefly, political scientist and textbook author Bill Jones outlines the case for giving more credit to Blair on his blog here. Read, join the debate, make up your minds.
[Image courtesy of andy at www.magnificentoctopus.com]