I’m talking about the overall costs, not just the cost of the farewell bonanza, which I would find hilarious, if it wasn’t for the bad taste, the arrogance, the cost to the country in conception terms and the financial costs also. I have never heard of a politician going on a farewell trip round the world, while still in office, with high responsibilities, two wars in progress, and an infrastructure in chaos. Of course, if one is no longer in office, the protocols in the visited countries will be much lower grade. I think that covers it.
For the two years after Tony Blair took office, I like a lot of people thought we were seeing a new approach to politics, which of course we were, but in our innocence, we didn’t recognise it for what it was – and then we began to. There were rumblings. in the media that the members of. the Cabinet were being overruled, even if they were actually consulted. Then we had the spin doctors, some falling from grace, the bully boys who kept the rest of the backbench toeing the line, and brow beating any public reaction to legislation. This then was followed by some of the more responsible members of the frontbench, resigning their posts. What we were finding was probably something that had always been there, the Prime Minister’s belief in his own omniscience, his incredible ego, and an insatiable desire for applause. I cannot believe that educated people, filling the ranks of the front bench, would normally have allowed so many trial legislations, or trial proposals that had to be abandoned, or subjected to a U-turn, unless their voices were totally unheard.
The high point of the ego was the desire to be aligned with Bush in a venture that on the face of it would be over in a short space of time, with the added advantage of the adulation this would produce. The fact that this was coupled with a venture into Afghanistan only aggravated a total misjudgement. In spite of warnings from cooler heads in Parliament and the Armed Forces, the war went ahead with no planning for the future, to arrive where we are today. It always amazed me that when the might of the Russian army, with its ruthless approach, failled to subdue the Cali ban in Afghanistan, how Bush and Blair believed that we would do it in short order.
I can best demonstrate the different effects change can have in different circumstances, by using design procedures. Take the design of a bridge across a navigable river. To go back to the beginning one must assume a tree crossing a stream. With time each design has been, copied, and modified to suit the circumstances of a particular location, and only rarely have bridges been so modified and so original a concept that they are virtually a new breed, as in the case for the Tacoma Straights bridge disaster. When one is faced with the design of a totally new concept, it is necessary to go through many stages of trial and error before both the design itself, and the method of construction can be relied upon to be perfect. Prior to 1946 change was relatively slow which gave time to modify products and routines in the light of experience, in the certain knowledge that those changes would not be disastrous or expensive. This approach brought us to where we were in 1939, stable, confident, and only a few with overwhelming ambition.
When the whole regime, such as local government, or nationwide ministerial control, are suddenly changed, almost overnight and something different put in its place, the loss is unimaginable. Whole properties are vacated,, new ones either built or leased, interiors are changed, new equipment and furniture purchased, and the paperwork requires new headings and a totally new filing system. Add to this the effect, the loss of history, records and valuable staff, and it is like starting from scratch. This has been happening a lot over the past 10 years. The greatest example, of course, is a Child Support Agency, which I believe was a totally new concept because different demands were being made both by those seeking restitution, and those from whom it was being sought. This was not like banking, or tax collection, it is a two-way aggravation with an ordinarily civil servant in the middle. If there was something that should have been tried on a small-scale this was it. As one who has been taken over from a job that he enjoyed, to become a civil servant, was an eye opening experience, and one I would not wish on anyone else. In the same way the U turns must have created chaos, uncertainty and confusion.
From where I sit I believe Tony Blair has little to be proud of