Blair characterised by ‘wasted opportunity’

Tony Blair’s premiership has been a decade of waste, his critics claim, and unusually one of his closest confidantes agrees.

Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, admits Mr Blair missed the opportunity to push for radical reforms in public services in the years immediately following his landslide election victory.

In an interview with the Guardian to mark Mr Blair’s ten years as prime minister, Lord Falconer said: “One of Tony’s big regrets, I think, would be that we didn’t realise quick enough that if you genuinely wanted to change the way the public service delivered for the public you needed to embark upon a process of cultural change.”

This left Mr Blair pushing for his more controversial reforms amid the declining popularity of his second and third terms.

A new poll for the Daily Telegraph underscores how much the prime minister has lost public support since his 1997 victory.

The invasion of Iraq, a reputation for “spin” and a perception that economic prosperity achieved at the expense of social and moral decline have all harmed the reputation of a man once seen as one of the UK’s most popular politicians, the Gallup poll found.

Nearly a third of the electorate now view Mr Blair as an ineffectual prime minister, compared to the three-quarters that predicted he would be effective in 1997. The number who judge him as competent and caring has also dropped dramatically from more than 80 per cent to just under 40 per cent.

Mr Blair is widely expected to announce his resignation next week and is now urging voters to judge the past ten years generously as he shapes his legacy. However, the latest poll finds the vast majority of Britons think history will judge Mr Blair as mediocre at best.

Also speaking to the Guardian his former Cabinet colleague David Blunkett strongly rejected these criticisms and claimed it was too early for voters to appreciate Mr Blair’s legacy.

“Tony will be appreciated and will be recognised in 10, 15, 20 years time in a way that isn’t possible now. It is almost as though we can never have a prophet in our own country,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have published their own dossier on Mr Blair’s record, concluding his government will be remembered for “waste and war”.

The State They’ve Put Us In awards the government four out of ten for its record on crime, health, education and environment, concluding that achievement has not been universal.

Echoing the Gallup findings, Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell observed that a government that was elected with so much hope had left with so much disappointment.

“This government has wasted its opportunities and wasted your money,” claimed Sir Menzies.

He continued: “They have invested in health and education but lacked the courage and principles that would have enabled them to spend it effectively.

“They wasted their opportunity to build a fairer society and instead inequality has increased and social mobility fallen. Labour is still the party of redistribution but in the wrong direction.”

Above all Mr Blair will be remembered for Iraq, Sir Menzies predicted.

The Conservatives have published their own dossier on Labour’s alleged NHS failings, also concluding Mr Blair has presided over a decade of missed opportunities and wasted money.

Speaking today, Mr Blair agreed with Lord Falconer that the government had been too slow to enact some of its more radical reforms, but strongly refuted claims the past decade has been a failure for the Labour government.

The health service has massively improved, he insisted today, urging voters to take a long-term perspective and consider how much has changed over the past decade.