|A guide to|
|God Save the Queen?|
Tony "Bliar" Blair was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. When elected, he was the youngest Prime Minister since 1812 and the first Prime Minister from outside of the Conservative Party since Jim Callaghan in 1979. He was very popular before the Iraq War, with his legislative achievements ranging from a national minimum wage to a right for gay couples to seek a civil partnership.
Unfortunately, he then cuddled up to George W. Bush and took the British armed forces into Iraq. He then got all deranged and began a series of illiberal legislative programmes to fight terrorism and crime, leading to literally thousands of new crimes, attempts to force people to carry identity cards, sweeping new powers for councils and unelected bodies to snoop on people and enter their homes and his programme to cover Britain in CCTV cameras. Years later, all of the good stuff is forgotten, but nobody will ever forget the sleaze, the scandals, the Iraq War... and that spot on Bush's lap that he got to sit on for his compliance.
 New Labour
When the leader of the Labour Party, John Smith (slated as the next Prime Minister), died in 1994, Tony Blair began his 'New Labour' campaign - distancing Labour from the Trade Unions, amending the Labour Party constitution to end the goal of ownership of the means of production. While 'New Labour' wasn't the champion of the working man or particularly left-wing, it became electable by accepting the post-Thatcher consensus. While their goals were noble, Labour simply couldn't be elected when they had an agenda of large-scale nationalisations.
 Reasons to love him
- Independence for the Bank of England - The Tories' constant fiddling with the interest rates had been a political tool and a failure. Allowing a body of experts to set the interest rate was an important move that in no way, shape or form contributed to a housing bubble.
- Good Friday Agreement - Blair was absolutely crucial in bringing peace to Northern Ireland and was even polite enough to wait until leaving office before announcing he was a Catholic.
- Devolution - Blair gave power to Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland to make some (or all) of their own laws. The populations wanted this, and it was (and still is) very successful.
- Gay rights - Blair's government lowered the age of consent for homosexual sex in line with heterosexual sex. They removed all bars on gay people serving openly in the military. Gays were given the right to a civil partnership, protection from hate crimes, protection from discrimination in the workplace and the right to adopt.
- Schools & hospital building programmes - From 1997, spending on rebuilding schools and hospitals increased enormously, and a decade-long rebuilding programme was begun.
- Minimum Wage Act - Despite massive opposition, he stood for and forced through his plans of a national minimum wage, now £6.19/hour ($10.00, December 2012).
- Education spending - Large increases in education spending has improved exams results at 14, 16 & 18, and has significantly increased literacy and numeracy levels. Britain has achieved the stunning position of 20th in the OECD rankings of educational systems.
- Third World debt write-offs - The British Government wrote off a whole load of debts from really poor nations.
 Reasons to like him
- Climate change policy - Could've done better, but set Britain on its way to achieving her Kyoto targets.
- Gift Aid - Allowed higher-rate taxpayers to donate to charity, and get the tax added back to their donation. Worth nearly £1bn to UK charities.
- Winter fuel payments - Giving fuel payments to pensioners saved lives and made people a lot more comfortable.
- Animal testing - Banned testing of cosmetic products on animals while resisting calls for controls on medical testing on animals.
- Free entry to national museums and galleries - Well, that was nice of him.
 Good intentions, but not entirely successful
- Human Rights Act 1998 - A wonderful step forward, but the Human Rights Act's application has, in many quarters, seemed bloated and stupid. "Criminals' rights" are criticised greatly.
- House of Lords Act 1999 - Removing many hereditary peers in favour of appointed members of the House of Lords was a fantastic step, but the House of Lords reform has packed the Upper House with Labour Peers. Political appointment of the upper house has led to multiple accusations of 'Cash for Honours' and 'Loans for Honours'. However good it is to decrease heredity peers, if you replace them with people who gave you money for the favour, you kind of lose all credit.
- London Assembly, since the UK was already one of the most overcentralised states in Europe, giving London more power and money seems a mixed blessing.
- English regional devolution, attempts to provide devolution in Northern England failed. This was arguably worthy, but also equated Scotland and Wales with English regions. Cornwall which actually has some demand for an assembly was ignored.
 Reasons to dislike him
- The spin & sleaze of New Labour - Giving political advisor Alistair Campbell the authority to order civil servants around, courting Rupert Murdoch and fudging the tobacco advertising ban for his supporters. Supporting his ministers through various mortgage scandals, dodgy loans and being caught with their pants down.
- Presidentialism - Blair was likely the most Presidential Prime Minister the United Kingdom has ever had, and his legislative agenda involved transferring a shitload of power to the Executive. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004, despite massive opposition in the House of Lords, allowed the Prime Minister to suspend ANY law (except the Human Rights Act) for 21 days. He wanted to take the country to war without a vote in Parliament, too.
- Identity cards - Stupid, stupid, stupid. Massively against public opinion, passed legislation to begin an ID Card programme, with large contracts awarded despite Tory warnings it would be cut as soon as they got into power.
- 42-day detention - Unnecessary erosion of civil liberties in the name of 'counter-terrorism', typical of Blair's government's later years.
- Labour Party reform, New Labour still rankles with many traditional supporters. While it was argued he made the Labour party electable, this was perhaps to southern England. His shift to the right, reduced voter choice, and ha made Labour and Tories indistinguishable in some areas.
 Reasons to hate him
- Faith-school programmes - After getting used to power, Blair saw fit to start publically funding faith schools whilst allowing them greater autonomy from standard curriculum in the wake of Labour's multiculturalism policies. Opposed very heavily by any secularist worth his or her weight in the land, Richard Dawkins fronted the opposition, to the point of making the Faith School Menace? documentary detailing the horrors against reason that have manifested as a result of this policy.
- Iraq - Blair would've been the hero of so many lefties, marginalized by the Thatcher years. But despite all of the achievements above, this war - without the support of the British public - is still deeply resented in many circles today. The fact that he utterly lied about the evidence for WMDs doesn't help.
- Relationship with Dubya - Separate from the fact that Britain entered the war in Iraq is the fact that we did it because Bush wanted it, and Blair is perceived to have been his poodle.
- Becoming a green-eyed monster - Blair started out so fresh and nice, and then aged 25 years in about 10, then went on a massive crusade around the world to get super-rich, appearing on television once in a while to defend the Iraq War. Nobody, in 1997 or after Kosovo, would have imagined him as a warmongering, authoritarian nutjob flying around the world to make as much money as he possibly could!
- Relationship with Gaddafi - Recent documents found in Tripoli demonstrated that Blair advocated releasing the Lockerbie bomber due to personal business interests in Libya. He was flown twice to Tripoli on Gaddafi's private jets to negotiate with the then-dictator. He also had sent British SAS troops to train Gaddafi's secret police and had helped Gaddafi's late son write his PhD thesis.
- Being a British chickenhawk - Not just Iraq, but also Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. In contrast, Maggie Thatcher and John Major, his two immediate predecessors were involved in only one war each.
- ↑ Article on increased number of crimes under New Labour in the Daily Telegraph. January, 2010.
- ↑ Council plans to listen in on street life, The Telegraph, May 4, 2005
- ↑ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8771192/Libya-Tony-Blair-and-Col-Gaddafis-secret-meetings.html