Wednesday, June 27, 2007

End of an Era

Well, he's gone at last. Tony Blair is once again just another backbench MP, whilst Gordon Brown settles into Ten Downing Street as the new Prime Minister. When all is said and done, have the last ten years of Blairism really been that bad? The problem is that, for their latter half, they have been overshadowed by the War in Iraq, the so-called 'War on Terror' and non-scandals like the cash-for-honours nonsense. A lot of Blair's problems stemmed from his desire to try and move the Labour party away from its traditional roots and support, and his tendency to replace ideology with religious conviction as a guiding principle. However, whilst I vehemently opposed the War in Iraq, ID cards and attempts to restrict civil liberties, I can't forget the positive aspects of his time in office: increases in NHS spending, the extension of equal rights for minority groups, the Freedom of Information Act and the Human Rights Act, to name but a few. These latter two, whilst never entirely embraced by Blair, were highly unlikely to have been introduced by a Tory government.

On an entirely personal level, the passing of the Blair administration marks another brutal reminder of the passing of the years. You see, I was on Downing Street on the day he took office, I heard his speech, I didn't quite manage to shake hands with him. I find it hard to believe that all that euphoria, hope and optimism was ten years ago now! Actually, whilst on the subject of that day, I feel I need to set the record straight, Once again today I heard a TV reporter asserting that it was all stage managed, that everybody there was a party employee and that those flags were handed out by officials. Completely untrue. Like just about everybody else there that day, I was just a member of the public who'd gone to Downing Street out of curiosity during their lunch hour (I was working in Whitehall at the time). As the new PM's arrival became imminent, the public were actually allowed onto Downing Street, I was one of the lucky ones who managed to squeeze through the gates before it filled up. The people who were waving flags, well they already had them before the gates were opened. Believe me, it was all spontaneous. I know that cynical political hacks find that hard to believe and want to rewrite history to reflect their own prejudices, but, unlike them, I was there. I know what really happened. For once in my life, I was a witness to history.

I was sad to see that today the public weren't allowed onto Downing Street when Brown arrived. I know that, in part, this is down to security concerns and, in part, is doubtless part of Brown's lower-key approach to the job. But I still think it was a pity that only the press and their soul-less cameras were there to witness history today.

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