I’m not a particularly big fan of Blair, whose style tends to grate, but I should get over that. The main praise that comes to mind is that he’s done a great job of keeping the Tories out, which is a bit negative. But when you consider how bad things were under the Tories and how much worse they’d be (given that they’re now even wackier than before) keeping the Tories out is a big deal. And he’s hit them so hard that ‘Conservative values’ tend to be expressed hysterically (think Daily Mail) and are generally regarded as the products of elderly eccentricities or thinly disguised racism, misogyny and homophobia.
On the positives, it’s generally hard to fault Blair’s intentions but delivery constantly disappoints and there’s a tendency to panic, particularly on terrorism and liberty, that causes the government to forget the bigger picture and drop principle. Where the government has done well, it’s easy to credit Gordon Brown and I’d welcome a Brown administration. I don’t reckon he’d be that different from Blair, but I’d expect a bit more coherence and for government to raise its game in terms of delivery.
But what’s the hurry? The next general election is unlikely to be before 2009 and the electorate, with its famously short memory, will base its decision on events from 2007 onwards. So much of the opposition to government has been personalised (think Backing Blair) that Blair’s retirement (once he’s beaten Thatcher’s record, perhaps) will take the wind (breeze?) out of many opponents’ sails. For this same reason it doesn’t really matter that the Tories are currently leaderless. The soap opera’s going to have to take a back seat, despite Brown giving an heir apparent’s speech to conference.