Tony Blair's last day
In case this wasn't top-of-mind, I wanted people to know that today is Tony Blair's last day as Britain's prime minister. Yesterday, he welcomed Arnold Schwarzenegger to No. 10 Downing Street. This morning, he will participate in the weekly parliamentary question time, when members try to hurl zingers at the prime minister. Then right afterward, at 12:30, he resigns. At 1:30, Gordon Brown forms a government. It came out this morning that Blair will also resign his seat in Parliament, which is apparently something of a surprise.
Americans not surprisingly associate Blair, one way or another, with support for President Bush's Iraq policy. So, of course, do many Brits. I am a Blair admirer myself, not because of Iraq but because of his 10-year commitment to improving the quality of public service delivery in the United Kingdom, which has been really admirable. For the last five years -- including during tough times surrounding Iraq -- he's made time for periodic meetings, called "stocktakes," with ministers in charge of the major areas of public service delivery (health, run by the government's National Health Service; crime; and education). He gets and discusses reports, sort of like a CEO dealing with divisional vice presidents, about what progress their organizations have been making toward meeting performance improvement targets. Very impressive, in my opinion.
Many of those I know in the U.K. are Blairites, some of whom are in government and about to be on their way out as Gordon Brown, Blair's Labour Party friend/rival, comes in. I was at a small dinner on Sunday with a bunch of senior Blairites, including a minister who didn't know yet whether he would survive the Brown ministerial shakeup. (Didn't sound positive to me that he had no info!) But conversations with Blairite acquaintances and colleagues display little sniping at Brown, who has had a recent bounce in the polls -- not bad considering that Labour has now been in power for 10 years.
This morning's Guardian leads with the news of a Conservative member of Parliament defecting to the Labour Party. Stay tuned.
Posted by Steve Kelman on Jun 27, 2007 at 12:08 PM