Leading article: What a way to go

Share

It was never meant to end like this. Tony Blair's dream, expressed in a staffer's cringe-making memo last year, of leaving office with applause ringing in his ears and "the crowds wanting more", vanished four years ago in the sands of Iraq. Yet the vindictive fantasy of some opponents of that war, of making him pay for that error of judgement, also disappeared when the British people delivered their verdict in the election of 2005. Constitutionally, whatever one thinks of our out-dated electoral system, Mr Blair was entitled to serve as Prime Minister until 2010. But such were the pressures on him within his own party that he was forced, last September, to put a 12-month limit on his time.

The drama being played out in the last few months of that long goodbye has plainly wounded Mr Blair's pride - "I am not going to beg for my character". Yet he is largely to blame for the tarnishing of his reputation by the cash-for-honours scandal. He was entitled to claim, as he did in his radio interview on Friday, that he should not be driven out of office by a police investigation that has not reached its conclusion. Indeed, he must think that he is forced to stay because to stand down now might look like an admission of guilt.

That is why it was unstatesmanlike of David Cameron, the Conservative leader, to call for him to go. Mr Cameron has tried to stand back from the loans-for-lordships furore, because the Conservatives are implicated in it too. But that left him demanding Mr Blair's resignation on the grounds that a short-term prime minister cannot deal with the country's long-term challenges. This is nonsense. Many countries work well with fixed terms for their elected leaders. It makes particularly little sense when all the big policy decisions are being thrashed out between Mr Blair and his likely successor.

The larger truth, however, is that Mr Blair's legacy has already been poisoned by his attempt, first reported by this newspaper, to ennoble four men who had secretly lent Labour £5m. Whether Mr Blair stands down this month or in June will not make any difference to the judgement of posterity on his 10 years - slightly more or slightly less - at No 10.

In that judgement, he will be given due credit for prosperity with social justice, for peace in Northern Ireland and for paving the way to global action on climate change. Before he overreached himself in Iraq, he had begun to advance a doctrine of liberal interventionism in Sierra Leone and Kosovo that was admirable. He still wins standing ovations, in Davos last weekend and in Telford on Thursday. But his legacy will for ever be marked by the disaster of Iraq and tainted, whether or not the law was actually broken, by the correlation between cash and peerages. What a way to go.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Ventilation Cleaning Operative

£15600 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the battle of the election videos, and a robot sarcasm detector

John Rentoul
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping child abuse taking place right now

Mary Dejevsky
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower