20 years from the introduction of the minimum wage, Blair still remains one of the most divisive Prime Ministers. He is remembered fondly by some as a leader in better times, but a pariah to others, especially on the left. So, what is the true legacy of Tony Blair?
The main issue that always comes up when discussing Blair today is the Iraq War. Anything else Blair might have done is massively overshadowed by this controversial and drawn out conflict. But this is a mistake.
Whatever your views on the legality, effectiveness, or morality of the Iraq War, it is sheer senselessness to view it as the only thing worth considering when remembering Blair’s policies. It’s easier to judge his actions in hindsight, with the knowledge of how the war has dragged on and the rise of ISIS and other troubles in the region.
Yet international intervention is always an impossibly complicated issue. History judges both action and inaction badly. The failure of the international community to act in Rwanda, or the appeasement of Hitler are rightfully condemned; but so is intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Blair is now calling for intervention in Syria. Now, regardless of whether that is a wise move or not, it should not be dismissed simply because Blair is the one suggesting it.
With that major issue out of the way, allow me to remind people of some of the good work done by Blair that is often overlooked today. The introduction of minimum wage, sure, a true living wage is still not available, but this was the first step in the right direction. Reducing child and pensioner poverty, helping those most unable to help themselves, surely a core tenant of Labour’s philosophy. Greater investment in Education and Healthcare, and the creation of Sure Start to help families with children. The introduction of Civil Partnerships, again, not as much as might have been hoped, but still better than anything before, a major step forward.
So why do we not remember this? Perhaps because Blair was in power so long we simply became used to it and forgot how different things could be. Now, with a Conservative government, we might realise just how much Blair made possible. To my mind, he was the best Prime Minister we’d had since John Major.