July 26, 2004 | Jeff Wall

Tony Blair, 10 years on – high praise from an unlikely source.

THE Right Honourable Anthony Charles Lynton Blair last week celebrated 10 years as Leader of the UK Labour Party. To mark the occasion, he has received very high marks on his service as Prime Minister from about as impeccable a source as it would be possible to find.
Lord Bill Deedes is able to judge the Blair premiership from a perspective that is almost certainly unique in the history of England. Better known as W F Deedes, Lord Deedes has written about, worked for, or against, every UK Prime Minister since 1937 – and that makes 15 of them, starting with Neville Chamberlain!
Since 1937, the UK has had some great Prime Ministers – Churchill, Attlee and Thatcher among them.
And where does Lord Deedes rate Tony Blair? In the top four of the 15 he has known. A high mark indeed.
But what makes the mark even more special for Tony Blair is the man who gave it to him.
Lord Deedes is perhaps the finest UK newspaperman of the last fifty years or more. He continues to write with clarity and integrity – 67 years after he became the political corespondent for the “Morning Post” in 1937. He has pointed out that apart from the 15 Prime Ministers who he has written about, he also knew Lloyd George, Ramsay MacDonald and Stanley Baldwin!
But Lord Deedes also has an impeccable Tory pedigree. He was a Tory MP from 1950 to 1970, a Minister in several Tory Governments, and a mentor to Tory Leaders including Margaret Thatcher.
He believes that Tony Blair’s robust leadership and bold sense of mission have made him a winner.
He holds the view that one of the key qualities that make a good Prime Minister is “mental robustness”………..and he says that Tony Blair has it in good measure.
Now Lord Deedes is not uncritical of Tony Blair’s premiership. He says Blair suffers from Harold Wilson’s defect of “trotting out instant and ill-considered solutions to problems which newspapers or colleagues have drawn to his attention”.
But, Lord Deedes says that though he “mistrusts his politics” he puts Tony Blair in the top quarter of those who have occupied No 10 in his time. Not a bad recommendation.
Interestingly, the article by Lord Deedes was written before Tony Blair appointed his closest political friend, Peter Mandelson, to the “plum” job of Britain’s European Commissioner – necessitating another by election. This appointment has caused a predictable media, and community, outcry – led by the left wing of his own party.
Not only will Tony Blair see through the outcry, he and his family will fly out to the Bahamas this week for a three week holiday!
Some will call it arrogance, Lord Deedes calls it “mental robustness”.
Tony Blair also shows absolutely no signs of leaving the political scene, much to the angst of his Chancellor, Gordon Brown, not to mention the Labour left wing.
Why should be consider quitting? The latest opinion polls point to a very divided electorate, but every poll I have seen also comes to one other conclusion – the Tories simply cannot win the next election. Labour might be forced to depend on the Liberal/Democrats to win a third term…….but the higher the Lib/Dem vote gets, then the weaker the Tory position becomes.
As an observer of UK politics from a great distance, I have come to admire Tony Blair’s toughness under great pressure, and the fact that his Government, unlike conservative regimes here and in the US, has had the courage to make the really hard decisions when it comes to issues like education reform and even law and order, and stick with them.
There is a view, of course, that his close alliance with George W Bush is one of convenience – and on the decline.
I think not. During the long walk down the aisle of the National Cathedral in Washington during Ronald Reagan’s State Funeral, George and Laura Bush walked past the whole of the Congress, Cabinets past and present, World leaders, and the elite of US society.
Laura Bush stopped to acknowledge just one person – Tony Blair. You don’t do that if your association is a phoney one, or on the decline!
Tony Blair has been through tough times. I think he will be around for a long time to come.

Posted by Jeff Wall at 9:57 am | Comments Off on Tony Blair, 10 years on – high praise from an unlikely source. |
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