OK so maybe not everyone hates Tony Blair – but numerous recent polls have ranked him one of the least popular UK Prime Ministers ever. Contrary to what many think though, he was very popular at the time: In 1997 and 2001 Blair won over 60% of the seats in the Commons (huge victories), and by 2005 he still controlled over 55% of Commons seats; 3 landslide election victories. So if Blair was such a great Prime Minister, why don’t people like him now? I’ve got 2 possible explanations.
1. The economy
When Tony Blair was PM, broadly speaking, the UK economy did well. Much of this was down to the work of his Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Brown’s main achievements were economic growth and a reduction in unemployment rates. The benefits of these were felt by the British people and, at the time, Blair’s government was popular. (There is an argument to be made though that this popularity was really just down to Brown’s achievements.)
In 2007 Brown replaced Blair as Prime Minister. To begin with his time as PM was reasonably successful but by 2009 things began to take a different turn. By this time the UK was in the middle of a huge recession. While this was mainly as result of the world financial crisis Brown was criticised for his inability to deal with it and minimise the impact. During the next election campaign in 2010, the Conservatives frequently pointed out how some countries such as Canada did not feel the impact of the crisis anywhere near as badly as the UK did as evidence that the UK’s financial problems were the fault of Labour and Brown.
Looking back, even during last year’s election, Labour frequently got blamed for the recession and financial crisis. Even though Blair was not in power at the time, many still see him as the face of Labour during that period and say that he left the economy vulnerable, indicating that he was the reason that the UK was left in such a bad state following the financial crisis. For me, I think that this is pretty unfair.
2. The Iraq War
Now this is something different entirely. In 2004, the UK joined the USA in an invasion of Iraq, aimed at destroying its supposed store of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and overthrowing dictator Saddam Hussein. The invasion was opposed by the United Nations but Tony Blair still authorised the invasion. He has been criticised for his involvement in the war ever since.
Last month there was a long-awaited inquiry into the UK’s involvement in the conflict. Led by Sir John Chilcot, it took 7 years to write and was finally published last month. It confirmed that the war that killed over 150 UK soldiers never should have taken place and was illegal. Tony Blair was highly criticised in the Chilcot Inquiry and amongst other things it stated that Blair did not have proof that Iraq had WMD (in the end the nation didn’t), he did not adequately prepare for the war nor the war’s aftermath and that before invading the UK should have had UN approval.
Blair has always been blamed by many for the Iraq War and those who were killed in it; last month this blame was proved justified. Whilst some want him to be prosecuted in court, this is unlikely. However, his image has been greatly harmed and Britain will most definitely learn from the conflict now. Blair has continued to deny that he was in the wrong.
Tony Blair is an extremely interesting figure in UK politics as although he won three elections with huge victories he is widely disliked now. These two explanations for why this is the case are vastly different and although the economic crisis that followed his tenure as PM is a significant reason for many disliking him, he will be remembered for his catastrophic failures in the Iraq War. That is the real reason that Blair will be hated by the British public forever.