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Leaving with the crowds wanting more...

When I mused that Tony Blair needed to leave Downing Street with the crowds wanting more I did not envisage that David Cameron would actually be leading the applause from across the Dispatch Box. But that is what happened yesterday, as Mr Blair left the House of Commons with the cheers of MPs from all parties ringing in his ears. As he made the short walk back to his office behind the Speaker’s Chair I hope he reflected not only on the way his government transformed Britain, making it fairer and more prosperous, but also on the fact that no other Prime Minister in modern times has left office on such a positive note.

The memo I drafted last Spring was never presented to the Prime Minister, the closest he got to it was half a dozen bland bullet points that were presented to him at a Chequers away-day in April 2006. At the time it was becoming clear that he was likely to leave office the following summer and that his team needed to develop a plan to ensure that his major policy commitments were met.

Since that meeting across every single area of Whitehall remarkable progress has been made: new welfare and pension plans established; the NHS well on its way to guaranteeing a maximum wait of 18 weeks waiting from first GP appointment to treatment; the Academies and Trust schools programme embedded across our education system; a new ministry of justice established to re-balance the criminal justice system; a more sophisticated approach to tackling social exclusion; plans in place to ensure energy security and tackle climate change, and much much more.

The meeting did touch on how we would “project” the Prime Minister out of office. And on that front he was just as successful: delivering a series of lectures which saw Mr Blair travel throughout the UK focusing on the challenges to come, and acknowledged even by his critics as important contributions; a completely upgraded web operation in No 10 with Downing Street now recognized across the world as running the best website of any head of government; and of course some lighter media opportunities, appearances on both Blue Peter and a podcast with Chris Evans, as set out in the memo. Though the plans to work with non-news media was best illustrated through his appearance with Catherine Tate on Comic Relief, which set a new high watermark for a politician engaging with popular culture, and not one which any of his successors will ever be able to match.

The memo was never written for public consumption. It was caused me a few awkward moments in No 10, most of all explaining its genesis to the Prime Minister on the phone early on the morning which it appeared in the Press last September. But looking back, nearly all of what it predicted has been achieved to a lesser or greater degree. And how you might ask has this been done? Because Mr Blair decided last year that he was not going to be forced out of office. He was going to leave on his terms, leaving his party in a winning position and the country even stronger. He has achieved that. And has he enjoys this morning his first breakfast in 13 years out of front line politics he should be very proud indeed.

Comments

(Anonymous)

Please post more

I see that the incohate rage of the right in the blogosphere reaches to here as well. Are these people who come on to the various right wing blogs and swear away about the latest conspiracies all 15 year olds or 41 year olds on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Would be interesting to know.

Anyway, please post more - would be good to get your perspective. Hope the weather in Moscow is better than here.

(Anonymous)

Re: Please post more

Bemjamin - you've deleted all the comments except your own.

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/open_thread/2007/02/benjamin_weggprosser_prat_or_p.html

Re: Please post more

Comments will on the whole be deleted if they are anonymous. Signing up for a LiveJournal account is easy and as I am sure you already know, the most popular blogging service in the whole of the former USSR.

Interesting to see the Comment is Free thing on the e-petitions hoo-haa, the Guardian took that post down and apologised to me for starting it. When I have more time I will set out my own views on how Comment is Free should develop, LiveJournal in fact provides many valuable lessons for it. Comment is Free at the moment is in need to serious surgery.

October 2009

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