Monday, May 07, 2007

today : I hang back from declaring a judgement

When Tony Blair finally retires as PM this week there will be lots of talk about legacy. In fact, there been lots of talk about it already: since he announced his intentions a couple of years ago the journalistas and commentatistas have seen almost everything in the light of it.

In fact, the documentaries have already been made and the satirical dramas will have already been written and pre-produced. We'll have the documentary about Blair's move from bright eyed Bambi to Bush's poodle. We'll have examinations of just how tough on the causes of crime he has actually been.There will be a fantasy satire on the lead up to Iraq, reruns of the David Kelly thing, a serious thing about The Good Friday Agreement like the thing about Bosnia with all the important players apearing in highly appointed Leo-style offices, and a 'frothy' pieces about the baby, the drunken son, the life-coach and the Blairs' house-buying habits. I even hope they'll replay my favourite bit of Blair footage which happened at his first EU summit in 97. Remember? Blair beating Chancellor Kohl in a bicycle race. Sheer hilarity and much better than beating the Germans 5-1 away.

But the fact is that legacy is a pretty vaporous concept. If we look a certain way (awry, perhaps), The Autobahns are a legacy of Nazism, The Cold War a legacy of Churchill, Droughts in California a legacy of FDR's New Deal.

Blair's legacy is unknown, as yet. People are too keen to interpret and conclude from history before it has happened and declare their interpretations and conclusions. It's as if they think their interpretations and conclusions matter. Even commentators have an eye on their own legacy.

Politicians are transient beings, connected to the past and the future. The best ones do the best job they can at the time - making decisions day to day in the hope that they are correct. Good leaders tend to make more good decisions than bad. Bad leaders are often focussed on their legacy rather than their day to day responsibilities; with an inflated sense of their own importance in the drift of history. All those prime ministers and presidents whose names we forget, I suspect did something right.

Whether Blair was one or the other - we'll have to wait.

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