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Europe diary: Blair's friends

10 May 2007

BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell on how you can learn a lot about Tony Blair, and spot the difference between Blairism and New Labour, by looking at his friends in Europe.

The diary is published every Thursday. To see the latest edition, please click here.

DEFINING MOMENT

They are just ships that pass in the night, one captain climbing into the lifeboat, looking back not at his almost mutinous crew but blowing kisses across to another vessel where a new man is at the helm. But Tony Blair's attitude towards the election of Nicolas Sarkozy is more than a gracious and diplomatic gesture. It is Mr Blair defining Blairism.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair
Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair: Affection and respect

Downing Street are very excited that the Prime Minister has his own Youtube stream: at least until he hands that too over to Gordon. The very first message on it was a rather gushing welcome, in French and English, to Mr Sarkozy.

He tells the French that change is never easy but can't be avoided and their new president understands that one can be faithful to values but still change the way they are put into practice. In English he says, "I like him very much. I respect him."

Incidentally, this ceaseless quest for new means of communication, preferably unmediated by the traditional media, is very Blairite, but that's about tactics not principles.

CHANGE AS A VIRTUE

Downing Street insiders are keen to point out this message is much more than some formal welcome to the Western Leader club.

Indeed, they argue that Mr Blair has for a while stuck his neck out by embracing the new man of French politics, going against not only the advice of the Foreign Office and the Labour Party but also the pleas of President Chirac.

You could also argue that Mr Blair can afford to stick his neck out as it's about to be cut off anyway, but I think his admiration is revealing.

Sarkozy has been a member of the right-wing government that has ruled France for the last 11 years but he has promised to veer much further to the right and, although he doesn't use the word, "modernise" the country.

New Labour was determined not to duck challenges the left traditionally sought to avoid. Mr Blair went one stage further with a restless, almost Trotskyist, desire for permanent revolution, defining change itself as a virtue.

LOVE FOR THE POWERFUL

It is another defining feature of Blair and Blairism that he has never forged an alliance with a left-of-centre leader in Europe.

The Labour Party, not unnaturally, wanted the Labour prime minister to support the Socialist candidate in France. Although Mr Blair's friends accept Segolene Royal was and is trying to move the French Socialist party away from what they define as "worse than Benn-ite" policies, they've long identified her as a loser who's done too little too late.

Francois Fillon
France's next prime minister, and the first with a British wife

The Foreign Office was worried about backing the wrong horse and breaching protocol. This latter point was forcefully backed up by President Chirac, who took Mr Blair to one side at a summit and urged him not to get cosy with Sarkozy. He argued it would be demeaning for a head of government to meet a mere minister of the interior.

Blair compromised on that occasion and met his buddy for a quiet drink at a London hotel rather than risk Downing Street. An unprecedented gesture of support, insiders say.

It was also no surprise to Mr Blair when Mr Sarkozy told him Francois Fillon was to be his prime minister. They had already met in London. Mr Sarkozy phoned Tony Blair about an hour after his election was announced and during their chat handed the phone to Mr Fillon.

He pointed out that he'd be the first French prime minister with a British wife. (Penelope Fillon is Welsh, born and brought up in the village of Llanover, near Abergavenny.) Mr Blair not only loves power himself, he loves others who have it.

CHRISTIAN DEMOCRACY

I have always rejected the argument that "Blair is just a conservative" that is so common on the left.

It is rather inane, because clearly his desire for constant change, lack of respect for age-old institutions and his belief in an enabling state funded by higher taxation clearly distinguish him from most British Conservatives. Whether they mark him as very different from "Dave" is still a moot point.

But from the continent things look rather different. On the continent, Mr Blair would certainly be a Christian Democrat, and not just because he is attracted to Catholicism, and I would guess, some of its prescriptions on social justice. If he was to join Germany's CDU, for instance, he would feel comfortable with its combination of enthusiasm for some liberal economic reforms and its unquestioning perception of the state as a protector and provider.

It's true that some of his new comrades might be alarmed by the extent of his pro-Americanism, but even in the Gaullist UMP Sarkozy is not alone in wanting a better relationship with the USA. At any rate, without any exception that I can think of, Europe's right-wing parties are friendlier to the States that those on the left. And without fail, Mr Blair is friendlier to the US than Labour's sister parties.

SHOCKING VIEWS

This is partly because the centre ground of politics in Europe is several degrees to the left of that in Britain. So a UK party that's to the left in Britain would be in the centre in much of the rest of Europe.

Silvio Berlusconi, Cherie Blair and Tony Blair
Tony Blair loved being seen with Silvio Berlusconi (left)

But look a little deeper into Blair's relationship with the European right and you get to the heart of the difference between "Blairism" and the New Labour party which he helped create with Gordon Brown.

It's not just that Blair has friendlier relationships with politicians of the right. I'm sure he gets on fine with the mild-mannered Mrs Merkel, but it's no love-in.

He's suspicious of Romano Prodi, who was a Christian Democrat but leads a wide coalition ranging from the centre to the hard left. A onetime big buddy was Jose Maria Aznar, who was prime minister of Spain until three years ago. He was intent on shaking up his country, an enthusiast for the Iraq war and pugnacious.

But the man he loved being seen with was Silvio Berlusconi. Although a far less serious figure than Sarkozy, they share a taste for shocking with their right-wing views, dominating the media, and being generally larger than life. Berlusconi has the advantage of being a flamboyant multi-millionaire.

PALE PINK

For this is what Blair has done for, or to, the British left. The instinct of most people on the left is to occasionally kick the shins of the rich and powerful. New Labour's purpose was to persuade both the elite and those who might aspire to it, that the Number 10 boots would stay firmly on the ground.

Many a good crustacean gave its life to convince the City boys that New Labour did not hate the wealthy. John Smith and Gordon Brown toured what was known as the "prawn cocktail circuit" to persuade bankers and dealers that their party was both economically literate and not vindictive towards wealth creators.

Even the mildest of social democrats within New Labour would agree that one defining purpose of the modern left was to stop the wealthy using their money to exercise political power

It was a strategically key moment. For them to win and hold power people had to be persuaded there were no reds under the bed, and that pale pink was quite appropriate for the best-dressed drawing room. But even the mildest of social democrats within New Labour would agree that one defining purpose of the modern left was to stop the wealthy using their money to exercise political power, and to stop the politically powerful using their office to increase their wealth.

But the latest man to prove Enoch Powell's dictum that all political careers end in failure does not make this distinction.

Mr Blair said of the accusation that he went to war because he was following Bush something like, "It's worse than that, I actually believe in it." The same could be said of his relationship with the rich and powerful, which goes a step beyond New Labour's desire to look safe and not punish success.

RHETORIC OF THE RIGHT

Neil Kinnock claims that Tony Blair is too impressed by the powerful, the rich and the uniformed. Although even Mr Berlusconi resisted the Italian proclivity for dressing up, Blair's flaunting of their unpopular friendship rather supports the argument.

But perhaps his support for Sarkozy is even more indicative, as Sarkozy instinctively sought to sap the power of forces further to the right by adopting some of its rhetoric on immigration and nationalism.

That may be another way to distinguish Blairism from New Labour.

I am tempted to say that Sarkozy is currently the most successful Blairite around, but given the way the Labour Party feels it's been almost mocked by Mr Blair, maybe it's more appropriate to suggest that the essence of Blairism is Sark-asm.

Please use the post form below to comment on any of the issues raised in the diary.


Mr. Blair's contribution to Europe and Northern Ireland has been both dedicated and exceptional. He portrayed himself to be an outspoken, strong-willed and a PM history would have judged to have been a true statesman...that is until he allowed himself to be taken under Bush's wing: a lap dog to the U.S. president and his Iraq disgrace will be the legacy he leaves behind.
Martin, Dublin, Ireland

As an Irishman living in Boston, I just have to say I never thought I would admire an English politician. However, Mr. Blair has been a fantastic leader. He has done a lot for N. Ireland and deserves credit were credit is due. The world is a better place with people like him in it. I wish him and his family all the best for the future.
Tim Curran, boston, U.S.A.

Like all other Sierra Leoneans, I am grateful for his efforts in ending the war in our country. This is not to say that we have forgotten the contribution of ECOMOG, particularly the Nigerian contigent in bringing peace to Salone. I duff my hat to him.
SAMUEL J SEPHA, Lagos, Nigeria

When have we British NEVER complained about our PM? I'm a Conservative, but even I recognize that Blair presided over Britain's most prosperous era post Empire. Britain is internationally known as a nation of whingers.
Terry White, Los Angeles (Ex-pat)

It is depressing to hear how negative we have become: sarcastic and short sighted we must criticise the wealth and hard work of others. It is not a sin to go on holiday, get wealthy, have an education, and become contributing members of our society. Blair accomplished wonderful thigns for the working class and the country. He made it possible for everyone. He will certainly be remembered as a charismatic leader.
J., London, currently in Germany

Its only in a country with Prime Ministerships going back some 270 years(Sir Robert Walpole was the first in the 1730's) that you can have a graduate from Oxford stacking shelves in Barker's Kensington one day and Prime Minister the next.It is the more impressive when you realise the man made it almost one his own, propelled by his own own energy,confidence and vision to be in my opinion the most effective and non-racist(e.g.Damilola Taylor case ) Prime Minister UK 's ever had.I've watched them all when I first came as a penniless student from Malaysia to London in 1961,- Macmillan, Hume, Wilson, Callaghan, Heath, Thatcher, Major- none of them has the breadth of vision and courage of conviction to act as Tony Blair has.With more than thanks to Tony Blair,I have my own house, educated all my children to University and often stand in amazement looking at the little terrace house in Edith Road, West London where it is said Tony Blair used to house share.Only in England-as they used to say.
liong, Malaysia

I think we have taken Victor Meldrew too much to our hearts, for what a misrable and ungreatful lot the British people have become. Tony has procided over one of the greatest periods of prosperity in British history and we still complain. Yes he has made mistakes, but who has not. In the immortal words of a famous leader, "let he who has not sinned cast the first stone".
Davel, Brussels, Belgium

The most striking comment in the article is about how Blair likes to be around powerful people. This is what defines his legacy. He always did things to make himself feel good. In the process, he became almost a puppet of the more powerful leaders. He is one of the biggest fakes around. I would certainly not call him a leader - May be to his countrymen, but certainly not in the international scene.
Chat, Waterloo, Canada

Remember that Blair was in power the day after 9/11 and had to make decisions. He was still in power the day after the 7/7 bombings in london and had to make a decision. it's easy to sit on our couches with 6 years of hindsight following 9/11 and criticise Blair - but what decisons would you have made had you been in power during a bad time in world politics and terrorist activities?
peter, ann arbor, usa

One of the best politician gone through the toughest time and he did best over the 10 years. I always remeber Mr Blair as one the FIRST World Leader had a Baby while he was in such position.
Saju John, Bolton, UK

I have so much respect for Mr. Blair. He stood up with our country and gladly fought (and is still fighting for that matter) beside us in the war on terror. Britain is certainly, as Bush has already stated, America's most trusted ally. Blair was a genuine caring leader and he always did what he thought was right for his people. Surely his actions will be looked upon with more respect in the future, as is found with many leaders dealing with the toughest of issues.
Kim Pittman, MD USA

Blair, in his eloquent Sedgefield speech today, claimed far too much credit for himself when speaking of the domestic economy. He is merely the third of three consecutive conservative prime ministers, the first of whom turned around what was as close to a "failed state" as it is possible to get in the First World. Blair (and Brown) nurtured the Thatcherite reforms, subtracting nothing of substance and adding very little that was not a natural evolution.
John, Bangkok, Thailand

A sad day indeed. America truly has no greater friend than the United Kingdom. Tony Blair sacrificed his career to do what he believed was in Britain's interest - an exceedingly rare quality among politicians of any stripe. Like Churchill, Blair will long and fondly be remembered in the hearts and minds of Americans.
William McMahan, Westport, Kentucky

Tony Blair ,was simply brilliant,an authouritative PM, who said what he thought was right. We will miss him on world stage. I wish well and well done job.
L;AWRENCE LOMURIA, Lodwar,Kenya

Mr Blair might have been successful in domestic policies he will however be remembered as one of the architect of the Irak war. The fact the he advocate front of the whole world, that Irak was an imminent danger is probabily the reason why other countries joined the coalition. He was respected by ordinary citizens around the world and considered as intelligent and very capable. He misused this trust. Bush and his administration have never enjoyed such trust with world citizens
Thierno Diallo, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

A politician's success is not determined by what he closes during his period, but what he opens up as politics is a long term process and the benefits or sins of predecessors are reaped by successors. Now Judge Blair..
Balajee Rajaram, Chennai, India

Fascinating - virtually all the comments from outside of the UK are pro Blair and the vast majority of those from within the UK are negative. What better evidence for the old saying "familiarity breeds contempt" could one ask for? The sooner he goes the beter for all of us - and that includes Blair himself. I only hope that we don't end up suffering more of him through some high profile internatonal appointment.
Simon W, London

It's unfortunate that the majority don't realise the complex compromising of politics. It's not true that a leader can decide and deliver his own ideals. I think it'll only be when Blair has gone that people will realise what a good job he did, not unlike Thatcher. Good boy Tony, you have led a great country and a great people, and believed in them. You upheld your position with the worst possible criticism a leader could befall. Thanks that you showed everyone what a real Englishman looks like and best wishes for your future. I'm sure we'll hear more from you. This has been an extraordinary time with a very strong, determined bunch of world leaders. It'll take some time for us to replace them.
Vanessa Taylor, Trento, Italy

A man who has done a lot for his country and has stood firm against the loony left around the world.
Spike Kennedy, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I have a great deal of respect for Blair. He`s an excellent orator much like Clinton and Chirac. It`s a pleasure to listen to him speak. I`m an economic liberal and Blair legitimised the left for me - he "deidiologised" social democracy. My biggest regret is that he stayed too long, much like Chretien in Canada. A personal desire to be a longest-serving PM drove his choice and not the interests of his party or the nation. Pity.
Hanno Jaan Niidas, Divonne les Bains, France

Tony Blair has been a great leader, one of the best and a positive agent for change. He occupied the political centre, and that is where the majority of people can be found. But when a great man falters there is an almost irresistable human need to pull him down. Remember what happened to Churchill at the end of WWII. I believe that history will look at Tony Blair more kindly than his current crop of critics.
John Barrington, Sydney, Australia

I like this guy. You can call him whatever you want but you can not find such a good speaker and leader any where in the world. He believed in something and did it. Only time can tell whether he was wrong. It would be too early to judge him. Tell me a leader on world stage today who can match him?
Dharmesh Bhardwaj, UAE

It is not very nice to hear, that British PM is going to leave the post. However, it is lesson learn as Russian president as well as others. Such a veteran leader will be missed in the future for European Politics.
Neelakantha, Nepal

I admire Tony Blair because he took an unpoplar decision to take us into war believing it was right thus putting his conscience before his popularlity. I also thought he handled with dignity all the abuse he got for this especially when terrorists excecuted a Bristish citizen and the anti-war people blamed Blair for it
Mark McCormick, Repof MOldova

I think Tony Blair did a pretty good job on the whole. As for Iraq, given the "special relationship" I believe that any prime minister in power at the time would have done exactly the same thing. At least Tony tried to temper things with the hawkish G W Bush.
Anant,

A good PM for two terms just as margret was. sarko has already seen the danger of staying that bit too long and will introduce a max two term policy for the president,i just wish we would do the same for the PM. Having said that Tony was the right man for the time (and I am a conservative)
john fisher, argenvieres france

PM Blair is one of the most outspoken politicians in the world and i admire him for the courage and the way he took the iraq war and aslo the way he is fighting for the war on climate change.
lenny isaac, accra,ghana

My main criticism of Blair (and I have many!) is that he has presided over a significant erosion in the UK of parliamentary democracy.
Nigel, Petersfield, UK

I really think its a shame that Tony Blair is leaving as PM, I really think his only downfall was following our President George Bush. Its hard enough for we Americans to follow George, if anyone should leave office its our president.
Joyce McElfresh, Jacksonville, Florida, USA

Perish thethought that the the trad. type Labourites, or the condescending conservatives acheive ascendency after the demonstration of the middle way. Good or bad or whatever, the only way for this country to avoid the pre Blair "sick man of Europe" label is to ensure that the crazy class structure here continues to be consigned to history.
ron reece, blackmore essex

On one level, Tony Blair is one of the most gifted politicians of his time. Unfortunately however, all this is overshadowed by his one big failing, namely if he told us it was raining outside, I would have to go and check. And when you simply cannot believe anything a politician says, it doesn¿t matter how talented they are, they are no good.
Paul V. Greenall, Liverpool, England.

End of the day, Tony Blair has been a good Prime Minister. His actions in Serbia were outstanding and i believe he should be remembered for this. His mistake for sending our troops to a dodgy war can be forgiven because our next prime minister can learn from them. Tony Blair has set an example of what a Prime Minister should be. Remember, we're all human and we all make mistakes!
Riaz Osman, Peterborough UK

There's an Irish poem about a drunk that falls in the gutter with his pig and it includes these lines: "Till a lady, passing by, did chance to say: "You can tell a man that boozes by the company he chooses," Then the pig got up and slowly walked away." By their friends shall you know them.
Gerard Mulholland, Paris, France

Blair makes friends in europe by caving in to their demands rather than sticking up for our country. For example, our EU rebate - he gave a billion pound chunk of it away in exchange for nothing more than vague promises. This is spinelessness not a powerful leader. Blair is just a patsy for foreign powers!
Simon Ward, Watford, UK

Tone craved the title of Prime Minister. This overcame any principles or loyalty to the vehicle that he needed to ride to get him there which in Tone's case just happened to be Old Labour. Old Labour was in 1995 in such a mess that anything was better than nothing. The Tories were in the same position in 2002, Dave saw his chance and they obliged. At least he has not got the cheek to call his mates "New" but has been a bit strong on "Different". Both have the same marketing approach as a dodgy Estate Agent - but people do buy overpriced and inferior houses!
John Y, Oxford UK

I think that history will be kind to Mr. Blair. He has transformed Britain (see Scottish and Welsh devolution, power-sharing in NI, reform of the House of Lords, Freedom of Information Act, Human Rights Act) and has made his mark on European political thought by demonstrating that a benevolent, non dogmatic government can improve the lives of rich and poor alike. When the War in Iraq becomes a distant memory, Mr. Blair's achievements will be more widely appreciated. Mr. Blair's misfortune was to be the prime minister of the most (wonderfully) iconoclastic nation in the world.
Alexandros Gavrielides, Nicosia, Cyprus

It seems the celebrity phenomenon is now even affecting politicians. Stories of Blair's lavish holidays with other leaders are like something from Hello magazine! Tony Blair has successfully played up to the new craze of personality politics because that is all many voters today can relate to. Poor Gordon Brown will have to get his Fendi handbag with attached lapdog to keep up
H, Birmingham,

Tony Blair opened up opportunities for immigrants like myself who landed at Heathrow 10yrs with nothing but hope. Under Blair we went to university, got good jobs, bought houses on the open market and a long the way l was blessed with 2 beautiful children and we're now all proud to British citizens. Such a thing wouldn't have happened under the conservatives.
Norman Gariwa, Southend-on-sea

For the past ten years we have had to endure the worst Tory party that even Thatcher could not equal in unpopularity and discontentment. It is no longer important who he sides with as he is over at last and his announcement today will be welcome words of relief to the many UK citizens that have had to put up with his presidential style.
Simon, Peterborough UK

Mark Mandell's use of the word "Europe" clearly shows that Britain is not in Europe as yet. As far as I'm concerned, it will only be fully in the day Menwith Hill is closed, something that David Owen unsuccessfully tried to do when he was foreign secretary
john s, brussels belgium

They say you can always judge a man (especially a politician) by the company he keeps. Blair will therefore go down in history as the friend of every right-wing politician and self-serving corporate fat-cat in the world, and especially those of the equally self-serving USA. Clearly a hero to anti-Union lefty-bashers everywhere, he has presided over his party losing more than half its membership and much of its support. What a success, eh?
Neil Breward, Nottingham, UK

Blair has been a disaster for the human race. His foreign policies ( N.Ireland was a J. Major success) has condemned generations of the worlds population to a future of needless warfare, death and destruction. He is a failure as a Politician and as a human being. Blair is a mediocre man, a mediocre politician, and history will dismiss him as a total failure.
Enda Farrell, Kendal

I notice Mark Mardell doesn't point out that Gordon Brown has just as close a relationship with Sarkozy as Tony Blair. Is this going to define 'Brownism'? Mardell's distinction between 'Blairism' and 'New Labour' (in a clear attempt to insulate Brown's reputation) is merely a matter of style and not of substance.
Oscar Miller,

Tony was a good leader when he started off, but lost his way when he sent in the troops to fight the dubious war on terror. After that he was just a mute spectator of President Bush. The President neither had a clear idea nor a goal and this reflected on Tony's leadership. We will always remember his days of leadership as a mute leader whose decission made by the President of other country.
Reuben, Bangalore - India

It is always difficult to find an explanation why your country should participate in military campaign. Mr. Blair gave us a proof that Great Britain is traditional and reliable US ally in Europe although he paid for this with popularity and political support. Despite all this I encounter him among one of the most if not the most charismatic Prime ministers. I think that Labour Party was greatly helped by him to emerge as modern and progressive party in voltures ten years ago. For some people in Czech republic Tony Blair is mostly right wing politician and they also oppose his close relationship with George Bush and US foreign policy.For me he is a man of tough decidions, brilliant speeches and political vision far more visible than former conservative prime ministers.During his period he has enough time to raise his successors and to choose right time to live.
Ji?í ján, Brno, Czech republic

Making friends with the rich is not a sin, neither is wealth. It is what you do with that wealth that counts. I hope that Tony Blair's friendship with such people will lead them to seeing the virtues in using their wealth more constructively, like improving the life of the less privileged individuals around them. What a great influence that would be and I hope that that is what he is trying to do. What some see as 'being impressed by power and wealth', could actually just be a desire to influence the rich for good. After all, no world leader has worked as hard to cancel dept in Africa as him.
L Robb, Edinburgh

Mr Blair said of the accusation that he went to war because he was following Bush something like, "It's worse than that, I actually believe in it." One of the many ironies of Blair's premiership is his desire to go down in history as the man who promoted diplomacy above violence in Ireland. He then ignored the lessons from that insane period and invaded Iraq.
John Winchurch, Bodmin UK

Mr Blair is a good leader, the UK will miss him. They dont know how lucky they are to have a leader well liked world wide. Imagine a Conservative government replacing him, freightening thought.
Colin, Brisbane Australia

T Blair and N Sarkozy are both part of the next generation of politicians and have the same approach concerning politics : focus on main issues, realism, common sense and no dogmatism concerning changes to be initiated. Both seemed to be convinced economic performance is a prerequisite to social welfare. Except concerning Iraq crisis, T Blair's achievements are really impressive.
Jean-Paul, Bratislava

History will judge Tony Blair better than current commentators. He is currently loathed equally by them and political activists of all three (or five, including Plaid and SNP) main parties because he made the Labour party, for a while, the natural party of government.
Richard Powell, Southampton

The parrallels go further - I think that the public disenchantment with Blair was also fuelled by his lack of politicala sensitivity in not realsising that his oppulent annual holidays with the Berlusconi's et al alienated the average guy in the street. Sarkozy has gone one stage further by taking his post election luxury yacht cruise with one of his millionaire friends at the very time when he should have been sending "centreist" signals to the 47% of the French population who wanted a Socialist president. He has lost a huge amount of potential goodwill even from those who did not vote for him by showing that he is from the same school of thought as Blair.
Joe Fleming, Hebden Bridge, UK

Mr Sarkozy preaches he will improve the lot of the working people but clearly prefers NOT to lead by example as he spent his election night in a 10,000 Euro A NIGHT hotel suite on the Champs-Élysées! Seems like a meeting of two 'Gravy Train' merchants to me with M Sarkozy being the apprentice!
Kavanagh, Balsall Common in England

Power simply went to Blair's head. His fawning over the rich and powerful is indicative of the kind of man he clearly wants to be. But instead of ending up like an elderly statesman he will finish his days like the rich pop star he wanted to be when he was young. What a pity!
simpson,william, geneva, Switzerland

Mr Blair has achieved much through the weight of his personality, a sort of personal colonialism as reflected in your article. This will be missed especially by the labour party who seem to be going ¿back to the coal mines¿. Mr. Brown the self professed successor will have it tough politically to exist in such a shadow. From royalty to Cromwellism.
Terebce Hale, Zandvoort Holland

Blair and Sarkozy could almost be political brothers, given their prizing of spin and image over policy and substance. We all know about Teflon Tony's handling of the media and brass neck, but Sarkozy is following in his footsteps: after campaigning on improving the situation of "those who get up early to work", espousing "working more to earn more" whilst requiring of them a good amount of effort and sacrifices for necessary reforms to stuff like the pension system, etc., his first reform will be to cut wealth tax, a favour to friends and family amongst France's wealthy (his brother is one of the top dogs in the MEDEF, the French employers' association). What's more, the poster above forgot to mention that after his lavish hotel stay, Sarkozy backed up his 'commitment' to the workers by brazenly displaying his links to the Gallic jet set in taking a private jet to Malta to stay on a luxury yacht, both belonging to influential French businessman and jet setter Vincent Bollor é. Sarko combines the worst of Blairite spin and Thatcherite policies. Blair disillusioned me with the Labour party by taking it too far to the centre/right. My fear is that Sarkozy is going to drag France even further right.
Roland Marshall, Brit ex-pat near Bordeaux

France desperately needed a Blair-like President to sort out the lefties that have ruined France economy. He might not be very popular, but neither was Thatcher when she took on the hardliners of the UK Unions. The French also voted for what Blair beleives should be the way forward in Iraq, therefore the UK have another ally in the war against terrorism. There will be strikes and a lot of scuffles with the riot police on French street in the months to come, but the majority of the French have had enough of these kind of people. What is surprising with Sarkozy, is that after his victory he went to spend two days on a friend's yacht near the Island of Malta. I am informed that he has apologised to the Maltese Govt. for omitting to include Malta during his campaign, with regards to his idea of a Mediterranean Union, which I hope would also include North Africa.
Albert , Cheshire

Colin - Brisbane. Why don't you live here in the UK if you think Blair is so good? And if Blair cares so much for Africa, why couldn't he sort out poverty and equality in Britain? I hope Tony and Cherie enjoy their 'retirement' in their swanky multi-million pound Kensington home.
Nadeem Qureshi, North Wales,UK

But above all he is a war criminal as defined by the Geneva covention - now disregarded. He also helped with " the greatest triumph of the Iraq war...to destroy the evil of international law" as Richard Perle put it. All these half-witted platitudes to a man who contributed to the deaths of 600,000 is plainly obscene. But I'm sure they will continue from a media so obviously sycophantic and servile. One day it would be nice if the media could get off its knees, it is obviously not today.
T Jenkins,

He was trusted by middle England; but he put deceit at the very heart of government. He wasted huge amounts of money through incompetence; he spent huge amounts of money on public services. He facilitated peace in Northern Ireland and murder and mayhem in Iraq. We could go on weighing it up like this forever. In the end, I doubt the scales will come down one way or the other and assessments of him will simply reflect the views of his assessors. He was so many things to so many different people that perhaps, in the end, he defies objective assessment; and perhaps also, as a postmodern man, that is how he would want it to be.
JB, London

Will all the tiresome marxist idiots who want to live in a workers' paradise please decamp to Venezuela and leave the rest of us alone? Blair at least understood that the key public policy issue today is how to make government do its job more efficiently. Significant parts of the continental left, meanwhile, still cling to the sad and irrelevant rhetoric of class war and offer nothing more than tax-and-spend policies.
David Pritchard,

He put deceit at the heart of government? Have you ANY memory of the conservative government that came before? Deceit has always been at the heart of politics - and it always will be. Blair strikes me as a statesman who put what he believed to be the right course of action ahead of what he believed to be the popular course of action. That alone puts the lie to half of what the malcontents here are saying.
Iain Howe, Haarlem, Netherlands

nadeem- you dont like Blair because he has a big house and riches that you envy! grow up!
akbar, london

It's very interesting that most of the positive comments on Tony Blair come from non-UK citizens, while the Brits are almost unanimous in their disparagement of the man. I think that, with the exception of Iraq, his line on foreign policy has been a success. I also think that we Brits are extremely lucky to live in a progressive free-market democracy, seen as a model by many other countries. Personally though, I can't stand Blair and his lies, cover-ups and unswerving dedication to following American policy. While I accept that the UK-US 'special relationship' is important, Blair made it rather too one-way, highlighted by the snub Mr. Bush gave him recently. That really was the only time when I have ever felt sorry for Blair and perfectly demonstrated that, despite alienating many other EU countries in our efforts to support the USA, we really aren't very much appreciated by Bush or in an equal alliance.
Amy, Hove, UK

Mr. Blair did almost everything right as required for the times until he went into bed with Bush in Iraq. His biggest contribution in my opinion was erasure of a sharp ideological divide between the left and the right and rather focussing on what was right for UK. This will mean that the future politicians instead of mouthing mumbo jumbo's in the name of vague ideological garbage would be more hard pressed to explain their agenda in terms of clear policies and their impact on the daily life of an average person in order to seek the electorate's mandate. And more importantly, socialism might have lost its identity forever. Post Blair, it will always be capitalism with various degrees of humane measures as demanded by the crisis of the moment and accomodated by the economy.
Som DasGupta, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

Blair will be remembered for his vision of a Labour Party in power! Most Labour Blair bashers have forgotten the lost years. And if Blair had not reformed the Party, there would have been no years in power. Power matters as it is the platform for getting things done. Blair has been the instrument for change, both in the lives of UK citizens and in the Labour Party. I shall miss him however he has positioned the Labour Party well for another 10 years of leadership. Some of Blair's opposition need to acquire some of the same leadership skills as him.
Paul Strohm, Angelton, Texas

Mr. Blair was a breath of fresh air. He stood up for his convictions, loved his people and his country and tried to do what he felt was in their best interest... for both the short and long term. Sometimes these decisions are not popular, but they are the right thing to do. It is easy to criticize from our own comfortable chairs, but politics is a complicated affair and things aren't always what they seem. I believe history will show that he was a remarkable leader, not unlike Churchill and Thatcher. May his legacy continue to bless your nation. And may God bless him and his family!
Lisa Tobias, Loudoun County Virginia, USA

I believe that Tony knows and feel guilty over wrong decisions he made, especially, joining US for waging war against Iraq. It was the most terrible mistake he made and he was totally shattered inside. Truly speaking, he had been going through lot of stress (as you can see his long face) for waging war with Iraq for pleaseing George. He has been suffring since then and now he needs rest after big blow to his party in the parliment. Hope he will repent for his acts of war with Afghanistan and Iraq and I dont know if God and those killed will forgive him.
Azhar ,

One point I would like to raise about Blair is what his Government has done for equality. Lest we not forget Thatchers moral crusades against abortions, ironically working mothers and Homosexuals with section 28. Under Blair and the labour party we have seen the most representive party of the population ever, not to mention Blairs babes when he entered government. Other hugely succesful policies that need to be mentioned are Devolution, Reopening of Stormont in NI, Independence for the bank of England, 'overall' improovement in NHS (though lil shakey), better education, Strong economy, On target to meet Kyoto emissions cuts, Doubling of aid to Africa, signing up to the human rights convention and Lords reform. Obviously things wern't going to be perfect but I think overall his ten years represent an improovement.
Sam Jenkinson, Glasgow, UK

I think Mr Blair can leave No.10 secure in the knowledge that his decade as premier made a positive and meaningful contribution to a great many lives both domestically and internationally. Whilst Iraq could not be regarded as a foreign affairs triumph, we all forget too easily his successes in Sierra Leone and most notably Kosovo. From a personal perspective, I will always remember Mr Blair for his unwavering support for the Northern Ireland peace process without which we certainly would not have seen the truly momentous events of Tuesday, 8th of May. Conflict in Ireland dates back not just to the 1960s but has arguably been ongoing for over 800 years. Laying to rest the centuries-old 'Irish Question' and removing the blight of discord which has marred our islands for so long is no mean feat. No other British Prime Minister has kept faith with the people of Northern Ireland in the way Mr Blair has and happily, for him and for us, it has reaped unimaginable dividends. As a young person who still remembers the dark days of bombings and shootings, I can now look to a future that is peaceful and prosperous. Many have played their part in bringing us to the place we are at now, but none more so than Mr Blair. Those in the UK who fail to acknowledge this does their Prime Minister a great disservice and betrays perhaps that same indifference to the people of Northern Ireland that contributed to conflict in the first place. Whatever of his failings in other areas, one success for which he deserves to be amply lauded is his no small part in brining peace to Ireland.
Dominic, County Down, Northern Ireland

Tony Blair leadership has been charismatic both to his country and to some extent to Africa by supporting writting off debts.British people should be proud of their strong cultural values for which Mr Blair has helped to triumph in his leardership tenure.I will miss Tony Blair as a prime Minister because he atleast showed remorse to us as Rwandans after 1994 genocide,Cherie Blair was in our country twice. Tony leadership put more values in peoples'lives,and he showed compassion and social responsiveness to communities,not only to his country,but to poor people in Africa.Regarding Iraq war,to me it was important that Britain remained a strong historical ally to America,why not anyway,and using Europe to counter balance American economic power would not help Africa either.Most commentators have described Mr Sarkozy & Blair as political brothers,part of next generation of politicians,or/,Mr Sarkozy as a successful Blairite,as a citizen of Rwandan,i witnessed the role of France in the 1994 Rwandan genocide,which the whole world is aware.The legacy of Blair should remain,i saw in Blair what i would never or have never seen in any French government official.Whoever succeds Tony should continue to support the relative good strong,humane cultural values with British people.
Fidel,MUGARURA, KIGALI, RWANDA

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