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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Five years of Blair: What were the key events for you?
Tony Blair and New Labour marked five years in office on 2 May. During this time the public has observed some of his best and worst moments as Prime Minister.
Labour swept to power in a landslide victory in 1997 promising a "new dawn".
The eve of the new Millennium and the forty-something Blairs' joy at the birth of their fourth child, Leo, in May 2000 were among the high points for the Prime Minister during his five year tenure.
But despite the presence of New Labour's spin machine, the PM has suffered some embarrassing moments.
Ecclestone, Mandelson, the Millennium Dome, the icy cold slow clap at the Women's Institute, a drunken Euan Blair in Leicester Square and that Prescott punch have all made his job that bit harder.
How do you think he has coped? What event stands out most for you from Blair's five years in office? Were you there? If not, do you wish you had been?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Politics went into a very dull patch at the end of Major's reign and along came Blair to rescue everything. Well that's what we thought. I supported the Labour party in 1997 but feel totally let down. The government is a fraud and Blair's a conman. He's like a robber who sweet talks you at the door while his yes men rob you from the back entrance. The Labour party has stabbed all the people who elected them in the back; at least the Conservatives stabbed us in the front. Why don't we do what John Prescott said in 1997? Keep him and the party to his word that transport will be better in five years. Well, the deadline has passed and so has the people's trust in Blair. The Conservatives should be given the chance to show the people they care and want a greater country for all.
The fuel protest was the turning point for me - that was when it became clear that, far from being a breath of fresh air, he was just a slight rearrangement of the stale old fumes we'd had before.
Alex, United Kingdom
The fact about Blair's invention called New Labour is that, back in 1997 the majority of British people voted for the Labour party, not New Labour. New Labour came along, after the Labour part was voted in. The voters have been double crossed.
It's fine to say that Labour have achieved 79% of their '97 election promises, but how many of these would have happened anyway - youth unemployment, the economy etc?
And how many have been fiddled with (hospital waiting lists)?
Am I right in believing that this BBC 'research' is meant to obscure the fact that this government has failed to deliver?
On the whole, not too bad. However, I feel that help is needed for the single people where employment is concerned, and help for students is also necessary. Bring back grants!
The man is a menace. He and his party are a disgrace. He thinks nothing of democracy. He was elected on a minority of the votes, by a minority of the electorate, yet seems to think that this is a mandate to ignore clear logic in debates. If he is being measured on the election promises, then the magnitude of the failures easily outweighs the minor achievements.
To be fair he is better than any Tory PM (not hard I know). At least he does seem to be trying his best to get the country on its feet again. He needs to be more hard-line and start to clamp down on youth yobs, drug users/suppliers and very heavily on immigration.
Most of you lot are so pessimistic. In the UK we have the lowest unemployment rate in the G7, less than half of what it is in Germany, France and Italy. More people go to university, more people use the train network, overall crime is down, there has been no major disaster (e.g. winter of discontent, Suez crisis, getting kicked out of the ERM, or negative equity). Britain's economy is still growing, we have a tolerant society. His record on public services isn't too good, but jeez, we've had 18 years of underinvestment - you cant turnaround the NHS with a workforce of 300,000 in five years.
I have not been impressed by the first five years of Tony Blair. Labour are supposed to help the poorest in society and they have certainly failed to do that. The thing that stands out for me is coming over to England only to experience the dreadful state of our nation's trains, Tony Blair should be ashamed of himself.
I was unfortunate enough to have been a teenager in the mid-to-late 80s under the Thatcher government. The climate of insecurity - in relation to jobs and the position of minorities (to name but a few) - and the 'divide and rule' policies that that government ruthlessly pursued, left many people feeling helpless and without hope. While I do not contend that this Labour government is perfect - nor that any government could be - it is infinitely better than the previous Conservative administrations of the 80s.
Blair has done ok. His government should call a referendum on proportional representation thought. The problem in general with politics today is that no one cares anymore, because they feel they are voting for the worst of all evils, and don't feel and more importantly are not empowered to bring about change in the community and country.
It will all end in tears. Every government does. That is a political fact. Blair may appear to be impregnable now, but cast our minds back 15 years and people felt the same with Mrs T! Things never last forever but this government seemed to be arrogantly assured that they can never lose. The mounting levels of public discontent show that such arrogance is increasingly misplaced.
Ed Fletcher, UK
I've been a supporter of the left all my life, until now. I hate this government and Blair in particular. He inherited a very benign economic situation and has done nothing else. Where is the freedom of information act, the reform of the House Of Lords to a democratic institution? The waste of public money has meant that all of us have to pay vast sums of money to the government just to shore up there incompetence, frankly if the Tories weren't even worse I'd vote for them.
The one thing that affects us all: tax. Blair said that Labour wouldn't put up taxes - well they have both direct and indirect on rich or poor. For this blatant lie they should be cast out for another 20 years. Meet New Labour - absolutely no difference to old Labour!
It has to be said that there never was a harder job than being a "socialist" prime minister after 18 years of Thatcherism. A lot of hardliners in the Labour party have been disappointed with Blair, but remember that he has had to convince and win over a nation obsessed with low taxation and jingoism to New Labour's vision.
"No judgements were made on the quality of what the government has delivered - or the value of individual pledges".
Oh I see! What a wonderful study, clearly a bit like New Labours pledges, don't you think?
I moved to New York over 20 years ago and I am pleased to see Tony Blair and New Labour become the mainstream party. But it needed Mr Blair as a catalyst to bring the "new" party to embrace the centre. I believe Britain is finally changing towards a new constitution that will rework/replace old institutions (House of Lords, the monarchy) to fit into a modern framework of utilizing the private sector but maintaining core social values (education, health system, public transport, full employment) as the higher goal. Cool Britannia continue!
I will never forget Blair's dizzy smile when he learned that he would now be pulling the levers. Since the Diana show went "pear-shaped" he has become the only show in town. To refer to his government as Labour or new labour is an obvious oxymoron. The man is more right wing than Major ever was. He has changed English politics from a debate on issues and Parliamentary accountability into an American-style presidency, where Parliament is ignored and policy is controlled by cronies and wonks.
Not only was Tony Blair the greatest prime minister of the 20th century, he will probably be the greatest of the 21st.
We will never have a man of his calibre and ability in charge again. Stop whinging you losers and rejoice
In the article "What a difference five years make" there is talk about buying PCs and mobile phones. The increase in people with mobile phones and the cost of PCs is down to technology advancement and advertising and not government policy.
Richard Ford, Great Britain
Why no mention of the outrageous politicisation of the BBC? The BBC has been reduced to nothing more than a mouth organ for the Labour party. It will pay the price for compromising its neutrality when a Conservative government is re-elected. The BBC is living on borrowed time!
Blair and his cronies are arrogant beyond belief. It is very much a case of "what we say goes" obviously thanks to the large commons majority. Loads of spin but little substance sums up life under Labour so far with our prime minister more concerned about his image in the eyes of our European and world neighbours than anything that may be happening in the country he is supposedly governing.
We have had five years of Tony Blair.
Do you wonder why the guy is going grey? Five years of trying to rebuild a country "that woman" and her cronies destroyed. In his five years Blair has met 3/4 of the pledges he made , I'd say that was pretty good going - wouldn't you?
I was 17 when Labour came to power in 1997 and remember staying up with my brother to watch the results. For the first time in my life I felt I lived in a true democracy because I experienced change. However, five years down the line and I think Major was a better prime minister. Blair is Machiavellian in everything he does. He will U-turn at every opportunity to ensure he looks good.
Chris Briggs, UK
The best PM since Clem Atlee.
Huge social progress has been made over the past five years and in spite of his mistakes, he has delivered in making this a better and more optimistic place to live.
Has it been five years? It feels like a lifetime. Things have gone awfully wrong with this government. There were the fuel protests, rising house prices, scandals and muck-ups, destruction of the rail network, craziness in the transport department, burying of important news during sensitive moments; just to name a few.
Mike Young, England
Tony Blair smiles like a disgraced TV evangelist. He pauses and gestures at moments that are designed to make him appear sincere, but actually show his speeches to be polished, practiced prattling. Every single time that there has been pressure on this government to act (petrol, education, law and order, health, taxation, spending, transportation, Europe, monetary policy, SteelGate, Passport-Gate, individual corruption, corporate corruption) he has shown that not only is he leading a government with no ideas or direction, but that he himself is unwilling to stick his head or his reputation on the line by saying "Well actually, we did get that wrong, it was our fault, and this is what we're doing to fix it." No, when the going gets tough, Tony gets going... on another plane out of the country. Well, here's hoping that come the next election, Tony, you do get going.... out of office.
Roger Sayer, USA
Although I never had a great deal of praise for the Conservatives, I have to say that New Labour and Mr Blair have an attitude that really gets up my nose. Every promise of something good hides a sneaky bad point. The one thing that stands out most is that Mr Blair keeps wanting to bail out private firms with public money! He wants the nation to gamble. Railtrack go into administration (which I think was right), but he wants to pay off shareholders with my money? Sorry people, but taking shares is a gamble and a risk, some win, some lose. Then there is the budget issue. How can anyone justify to me getting rid of tax on "luxuries" such as betting and bingo - then put my National Insurance Tax up?
The one incident that sticks in my mind is the fuel protests of 2000. I think the government's stance was admirable and it was during this time that Mr Blair really went up in my estimations. This country needs a strong leader that will not bow down to intimidation of that nature.
Well done Mr Blair! Some people are never satisfied - it seems to be a past time to moan about the weather or the NHS and have forgotten what it was like in the early 90s! Keep going Tony.
I am 16 so have really no recollection of the previous government, but from what I have seen of this government, it is my thought that this government is awful and has no idea of what real people want, or even if they do they do not have the courage to stand up and say what they actually believe. They just sit on the fence making long speeches so that everyone listening gets so bored that they just end up agreeing
When he decided to announce the general election during a school visit publicity stunt it confirmed to me that he was more interested in publicity than the elected parliament.
I always think back to that song, Things Can Only Get Better that New Labour adopted during their 1997 election campaign. Five years on it would appear that Three Wheels On My Wagon would have been more appropriate.
Several things spring to mind:
The world would like to express its gratitude to Tony Blair for his full-fledged support to the US in its fight against terrorism, a problem that has engulfed many parts of our globe today. We cannot forget his diplomatic missions to garner support from many of the Asian nations who were vehemently opposed to any military action against the Taleban regime that sheltered the dreaded al-Qaeda networks on Afghanistan's soil. The world will ever remember Blair for his wisdom and timely decisions that has driven Britain to become a mighty force against such challenges. I have no business to comment on the domestic issues, which may have landed him in trouble at times, but know for sure that he has been one of the most successful prime ministers of Britain.
Tony Blair and New Labour may not be perfect and spotless, they may not have achieved all they set out to do and they may not even be capable of the reforms they are proposing, but at the end of the day I'd sooner have them in power than the self serving Tories. Any day.
He's a fantastic prime minister. Much better than the short-sighted Conservative governments Britain used to have. Long may he rule!
Devolution for Scotland and Wales, progress in NI, more money re-distributed to less well off people, handing over interest rate control to the Bank of England, managing the economy well, closing the loophole on people such as IT contractors who didn't pay their way, putting money into public services whilst trying to ensure value for money are my achievement pluses for the government.
Joanna Meyer, UK
I think Mr Blair has created a new, dynamic Britain for the new Millennium, for the many and not for the few.
The government's sheer arrogance during the petrol dispute and the highly questionable bail-out of Railtrack top my list. Despite all their many problems they are still far more efficient than any Tory government I have known.
The incident that stands out, or rather the first one that stood out, was when Mr Blair after less than a week in power, without consulting Parliament decided to reduce Prime Minster's question time to 30 minutes a week rather than two 15 minutes slots. This spoke volumes about the person he was, and a taster of things to come! Now after five years in office, he follows the same arrogant and undemocratic methodology. Although one has to give him credit, he started as meant to go on!
Tracey Haines, England
The event that stands out most for me was when the home secretary was caught driving at 100 mph on the motorway and was allowed to keep his job. That speaks volumes about how much he really cares about law and order.
I can honestly say that every single moment of the Labour government's five years in office has been better than any from the previous 18 years under the Tories.
He is much more corrupt than I thought he would be. He is cosying up to big business in the same way an American Republican politician would.
I wish we could have honest, common sense politicians - but I suppose that's a contradiction in terms.
I don't agree with everything that Blair's government has done. They have an extremely irritating penchant for Students Union type political correctness, and a rather tiresome habit of promoting resentment for success on the basis that it constitutes "elitism". Having said that, as far as Blair's government's management of the economy is concerned, I can only say one thing: Excellent.
What they should now concentrate on is doing what they genuinely believe is best for the future of this country, rather than constantly trying to placate Joe Public. Constantly trying to do what Joe Public wants, even though they know it is not in the long-term best interest will be this government's downfall.
Blair has done reasonably well for
a Labour prime minister, but his
policies didn't create the booming
economy. He's good, but he's
no Margaret Thatcher.
Jon Cooper, UK
Shouldn't it be a case of "How have five years of Labour been?" Or are we really in the undemocratic dictatorial lair of Blair, as it appears?
Tony Blair, the new man of the world. A man who wants to push aside tradition, as tradition appears to have no place in the future. He is a man who destroys what has been built, preferring instead to build his own "throne" of democracy without the hindrance of opposition. He wants to dismantle the House of Lords and do away with British rights (the Greece saga is a classic example). Guess what I will vote next time - again.
Selling out Gibraltar and Northern Ireland will be his biggest mistakes.
I think it's fascinating that the only people from the other side of the Atlantic that ever criticise Britain and the government are British ex-pats. As for Blair's past five years he hasn't done particularly well, but then has anybody got a viable alternative?
It's been a terrible catalogue of lies, sleaze, non-delivery, arrogance and spin doctoring. At last there are signs that everyone else is coming out from the mist and the spell of that grin so maybe this nightmare will end at the next election. If only there was a credible alternative as I feel the country would go wild if there was a box for none of the above next time round!
Taxes going up, up, up and public services going down, down, down. Just like the last Labour government in the 1970s. A leopard never changes its spots!
Shaun, Teignmouth UK
What can I say? A complete destruction of personal privacy. The evil of the RIP bill. Taxes on IT contractors. The massive swing to the right, erosion of employee rights, tax breaks to the bi-multinationals while at the same time putting up personal taxes. The refusal to sort out house prices so that now first time buyers are priced out of the market completely. The bombing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan. Do I need to continue?
huge immigration problems,
I think Blair has done pretty bad so far. Get rid of him and get in a government that knows what the people want and runs this country our way.
I imagine it's like being trapped in a car with a mad, bad, drunk driver.
How do I feel? Profound disappointment, I guess. Like many, I voted for Blair for the first time to get the Tories out and to see a real difference in the standard of government. Although it's clearly costing much more, I see little sign of improvement in any area of public services in areas that would affect me, regardless of the statistics. I really don't know who to vote for next time.
Guy Chapman, UK
Tuition fees for students. U-turn on the promises the Labour party made regarding education, and other parts of their manifesto. Don't start me on the NHS!
That's why I vote Conservative.
Robert Rogers, UK
Blair has done very well for the past five years, with the exception of a few minor slip-ups. For example, the NHS is a farce, education is a shambles, the law and order system is a sick joke and fewer people than ever even bother to cast their vote. Our armed forces are overstretched yet still committed to more and more open-ended overseas missions, and government corruption is worse than at the height of the Tories. Apart from that, he's done a great job.
Last year my father (a humanist and I would say a long-standing socialist) died during election week, hence voting was not on my list of priorities as well as being away from my Edinburgh home. I do remember my father being very disappointed with New Labour. For the first time in his life he said that he would not vote for Labour as they had moved too far from any socialist (and therefore human) values. How sad this is in my opinion. As an artist I feel no benefit from this government but with
the Tories I felt even more oppressed
as one who believes in self-expression, equality and a distribution of wealth. People are still greedy and Labour does nothing
much to promote a more fair and equal society.
Robert Crosby, Nottingham, UK
As with every budget, election and new era, the plans these parties make are 3-5 or 10 years ahead. Just like 10 years funding for the NHS.
Blair and his lot are now facing the plans (failures) the Tories left when they were still in power. Only now can things look better. Look at the Dome. Labour didn't plan it, Major did. Fair enough, Labour didn't make it what the public wanted, but half the money was spent on it before Labour got in.
Blair has been a good leader on the world stage. He has helped keep the US from diving in to heavily in to a war with an elusive enemy. He has tried to steer Europe in a way that is better for Britain, in the long run. He ensured Serbia was dealt with by a firm hand when it stepped out of place in Kosovo.
On the home front his party are making reasonable progress. The thing with the Tories was that you didn't have a very good health service, but you didn't pay for it either. His only problem is that he does not believe he can do anything wrong, and he will not listen to anyone who has a differing view no matter if they are right.
More jobs, low interest and inflation rates. Prices in shops are stable or falling, investment rises, and a PM who is respected throughout out the world. Those harping on about Tony's failings are just sour grape Tories who cannot cope with the fact that a Labour government has performed better than any Conservative administration.
Blair is good for the world. Because the US respects Britain so much, Blair is a powerful voice of reason for this unilateral US administration.
Tony Blair has led Britain very well in foreign policy. Under Blair the UK has taken commendable action in the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. He is a bright man and speaks very well. I think the amount of spin coming out of the government has hurt Blair, and he needs to get a hold on this. The same sleaze that was present under the Conservatives is still there, but that shouldn't be a surprise! We are dealing with politicians after all.
I have a lot of respect for Mr Blair, and I think he's an excellent statesman, especially on the international stage. I'm glad he's doing what's right. Having said that, I think the country is worse off after the last five years. Apart from the usual crime and health issues, I feel that the situation for students is diabolical. My younger brother is at university and can expect to finish with a debt of about £18,000. He's gone to university between the end of grants and whatever is brought back in to replace loans. I want to know if students from the last four years will be reimbursed through whichever scheme is brought in next. Frankly, whichever party comes up with a "yes" will get my vote. Tony Blair has asked everyone to vote for the mainstream parties. I ask him to lead a party worthy of being voted for.
New Labour, Old Labour, doesn't make any difference. They are, and always will be, a bunch of intellectuals who aspire to find an economic theory that will guide us all, via mounds of Bills, Acts and reforms, to the uplands of happiness and prosperity. Their equations, however, never account for the human factor. Hence disruption in health, schools, railways, the post office, police, the tube and everything they try to manipulate with their master plan. I remember a truism issued by Harold McMillan, "How could anyone plan for The Beatles reviving the clothing industry?" A government's heart must beat with the people which it can't do if its principals are aloof acedemics.
How has it been? Awful. That's the word I would use to describe Mr Blair's five years in power. He has handed over more and more of our country's rights to Europe and has done absolutely nothing about crime and asylum seekers.
He's bought in stupid laws like the human rights law which means that our courts no longer have the powers they should have to lock offenders away. If he stays in power much longer I fear for the future of this once proud nation, I really do.
Tony Blair is a charismatic leader with genuine concern for the world's poor, the environment, sustainable development and conflict resolution. He's shown courage of conviction on principles when he committed British forces abroad. I wish him well in his resolve to improve the NHS, fight crime and building the nation's infrastructure.
Andy, Nottingham, UK
Things can only get better they said. If things don't improve in five years, sack me said Prescott. Well it certainly got better for the cronies didn't it? The transport infrastructure is a mess and Prescott hasn't resigned. The IRA will disarm, they will not be allowed into government until they do. Well we know what that meant.
Greg Jones, Wales
I think that Mr Blair is treading dangerous water by becoming embroiled in George Bush's campaign of world domination. I feel that it is a case of the blind leading the blind. We could find ourselves caught up in a conflict with no obvious end in sight.
To James in England: How is it that the US fight on terrorism is viewed by so many in the UK as a quest for world domination? Tony Blair is a brilliant diplomat and is well-respected by most in the United States. He is right for helping us and we're very grateful for that.
To Susan, US: Where was your fight on terrorism when the IRA was bombing the UK?
Josie, Cheltenham UK
I must congratulate Tony Blair and his cronies for reviving my interest in politics.
Never have I been so keen to see a PM voted out of office!
"Things can only get better?"
It still applies.
Whilst I may only be one humble voter, I believe that Labour are no better than the Tories and they have let down every person who voted for them, including myself. The only reason they got back in was because the Tories are just rubbish. The standard of education is now disgusting, our postal system is ruined and further education is now for the rich only, is this really the left wing party?
Sat Philora, UK
How has Tony Blair coped with various events within five years, or how have we coped with him within these five years? I believe he's trying to make Britain just another star in the US flag! Do I need to say more?
To Jennifer Ethington, US: On the contrary I hear many condescending and cruel comments against the UK made by Americans when debating with them across the web. It works both ways.
To Arthur, England: So if Blair decides to integrate the UK fully into the EU, does that mean we Americans can expect an end to the condescending and even cruel comments we keep hearing from your side of the Atlantic?
We're told things are better, but it's not clear to me that they really are. And Britain viewed from outside presents a sad and sometimes embarrassing picture. Blair's baffling crush on the present incumbent of the White House mystifies most Americans, so goodness knows what my fellow Brits think about it at home.
Chris Ware, UK lists Labour "failures" which already applied to the 2001 general elections that returned a landslide majority for Labour. And may I remind him that apart from Labour and Tories, there's also the Liberal Democrats. Time to give them a chance?
Chris Ware, UK
No modern PM has surely promised more and delivered less. To Blair and dominated Labour party I say never was so much owed by so few to so many.
I think that the Labour government have been successful during the past five years. After 18 years of the Tories tearing the country apart, the Blair government had a huge job to do and too many people expected too much too soon. Key services - education, NHS and transport were left in such a state that they had to be brought to a satisfactory level before we can hope to reach the standards of our European friends. Obviously they have made their mistakes but people must be careful that they know the facts before they comment - i.e. the Millennium Dome - was it not the Conservative government that initiated this plan and came up with the visitor projection figures which were the crooks of the fall of the Dome?
Is it only five years? It feels a lot longer. Nothing Blair's government has done stands out as an enduring memory: incompetence has become routine and one shade of grey is much the same as another. The New Dawn is a long time coming...
My strongest memory is of the PM on the Frost show saying that UK health spending would rise to the European average. I shouted up the stairs in joy to my wife - this was what doctors had been demanding for years.
The next week, presumably after a dressing down from the Chancellor, he started backing off from the promise, downgrading it to an "aspiration".
The penny dropped - "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss..."
David Szondy, US (British)
To David Szondy,
How has it been? Infinitely better than the previous years of Major/Thatcher.
What stands out in my mind is the lowering of disabled person's benefits. The day I really lost all respect for Tony Blair and his party. Spin wise it was a marvellous cover up as well. Does anyone remember it? His justification of it was despicable.
It is not enough to live on.
After five years in power, there is more sleaze, lower standards of education and health care, more crime, less homes for the elderly and higher taxes and council tax - need I say more?
Lewis - there may well be an extra million jobs (I haven't counted), but how many of these are civil-service penpushers generating nothing for the economy? What did the Labour Government do to help the workers at the Luton Vauxhall plant? Nothing. As for pensioners all receiving the winter fuel allowance - why should others have to pay for Mr Rich Pensioner to heat his mansion? Blair has achieved nothing. The only decent thing this government has done is granting independence to the Bank of England. Labour and the LibDems keep going on about what a mess the Tories left the country in, but that was five years ago - I think we should expect at least some results by now. All I see is a bigger tax bill, more crime, worse roads and a government that seems incapable of action.
Lewis, figures can be distorted to fit the required picture, I based my comments on what I see: classes of 35+ at my sons infant school, nearby homes for the elderly being shut, longer waiting lists for the NHS, pensioners worse off than 5 years ago...
Lewis Atkinson, UK
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