July 10, 2005

The State of Tony

After the most dramatic week of his eight year PM-ship--whipsawing from the jubilation surrounding the 2012 Olympic Games venue decision to the horrific terror attacks of 7/7 in London--Tony Blair remains ascendant. Here are some of the reasons why. Excerpt:

In May, in spite of winning a third election victory, Mr Blair seemed to be in the evening of his premiership. His Commons majority had been slashed. He had been vilified over the Iraq war in the election campaign. He was under mounting pressure to fulfil his pledge to stand down before Britain next went to the polls.

But the opening two months of his third term in power have given him a mission. He has the gravity to face down the terror threat. He has shown the enthusiasm to help secure London’s Olympic bid. After the European constitution’s collapse, he is leading the debate on Europe’s economic future. His pledge to serve a full third term – staying to 2008 or beyond – is now seriously credible.

Three things have reminded us why he remains one of the world’s most arresting figures.

First, there is the range of his register as a political performer. On Wednesday, he grasped the excitement of London’s Olympic victory with the right tone. He expressed an almost boyish jubilation at London’s victory over Paris – but one that was contained so as not to humiliate Jacques Chirac, the French president.

After the bombings, his condemnation of terror was grim and powerful. But it was fused with a message that Britons must distinguish Islamist terrorists from the mass of decent and law-abiding Muslims.

Second is his ability to position himself strategically. Ever since September 11, he has given his government a tough image, advocating tough anti-terror laws and identity cards. Libertarians have assailed him with the argument that the terror threat is exaggerated. This week, Mr Blair found himself on the right side of the argument.

That strategic vision mixes with a third quality: an instinct to react quickly when events change, to take a risk. On the Olympic bid, Mr Blair gambled, flying to Singapore to lobby the International Olympic Committee when many would have feared emerging a loser. Then, after the bombings, he flew straight to London from Gleneagles. The instinctive reaction will evoke parallels with how, after the New York and Madrid attacks, others faltered...

...But at the end of this week–of all weeks–political pundits should beware of predicting more than a few hours into the future. Better, perhaps, to reflect on where things stand now. Two months ago, Tony Blair looked close to being finished politically. Today, he is once again becoming the master of his fate.

Blair may well be the most compelling leader on the world stage today. Capable of rock-ribbed conviction like Bush on critical matters like the war on terror, he is also more eloquent and intellectually nimble than his American counterpart. There are extremely few world leaders on the international scene today that might merit the moniker of statesman. Blair, all told, probably comes closest.

UPDATE: Some Britons beg to disagree: "Tosh. I'm amazed how Americans keep falling for this phony. Blair's a puffed-up toad riding on Mrs Thatcher's hard work and Major's success in securing Thatcher's work. Statesman my arse."

Tosh! I like that...is this some form of Tory-speak?

Posted by Gregory at July 10, 2005 10:22 PM | TrackBack (1)

Several of the many reasons that I've often said that, Constitution be damned, he should move here and run for President. If wishing made it so...

Posted by: NYCmoderate at July 10, 2005 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tosh. I'm amazed how Americans keep falling for this phony. Blair's a puffed-up toad riding on Mrs Thatcher's hard work and Major's success in securing Thatcher's work. Statesman my arse.

Posted by: True Brit at July 10, 2005 11:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That may be the first time I've ever seen John Major praised anywhere, US or UK.

Posted by: Linkmeister at July 11, 2005 07:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

C'mon Greg,

All you need is a disctionary.

Main Entry: 4tosh Pronunciation Guide
Pronunciation: "
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): -es
Etymology: origin unknown
: sheer nonsense : BOSH, TWADDLE -- often used interjectionally to express disapproval or disbelief

Posted by: RiverRat at July 11, 2005 10:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good morning from Middle England! First of all, I suggest you read Matthew Parris in The Times today.  To which I add another bit overheard in the pub on the day: definite mention of 'stirring up the hornet's nest'.

Tosh? How long did you live in Britain? It's a bit old-fashioned, but still quite common.

Posted by: DavidP at July 11, 2005 12:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Personally I see the similarities between Blair's approach to foreign policy and Thatcher's as evidence of his maturity and wisdom. I'm not sure another Labor politician would have been as resolute against terrorism or as skilled at driving issues his way. And considering how glad the leading Conservatives were to get rid of Thatcher in 1990 claims that her legacy belongs to that party cannot be made without a lot of nerve.

Posted by: JEB at July 11, 2005 06:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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