27 June 2007

A remarkable day

Reflecting on the departure of Tony Blair as PM is extraordinary – it’s one of those days which I‘ve known is coming, which I thought I had adjusted to … and yet now it has happened, it seems so strange!

I remember how strange it was, back in May 1997, to hear him referred to as “the Prime Minister”, after 17 years during which that had inevitably meant a Tory, and usually Margaret Thatcher. And now “the Prime Minister” is Gordon Brown, or as Nick Robinson of the BBC called him this afternoon – even after he had gone into Number 10 to begin forming his government – “the Chancellor”! It’s not just me who will have difficulty adjusting!

A strange day, too, in that – as happens all too rarely – it revealed the human side of our political life. You can’t help but reflect what it must be like for Tony Blair and his family, leaving the pressurised and surreal world they have inhabited for so long. You can’t help but wonder at Gordon Brown’s feelings, as the moment he must have thought about for so long finally arrived. And those remarkable scenes in Parliament!

Were those indeed heartfelt and generous tributes? Did they – just for a few moments – put aside the pantomime roles and recognise the service Mr Blair has rendered to the country, and what it has cost him and his family? I think so. It certainly seemed like it!

If only our public life would continue in that vein! But probably not ...[!] Days like today are rare exceptions. But they are just a glimpse, a mere suggestion, that behind it all, there are genuine people, struggling to do their best in public service. Didn’t the (former) Prime Minister say as much, as he left the despatch box for the last time?

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