14 May 2007

Blair's legacy: taking the Michael

A good many trees have been pulped to pass sentence on the passing of Tony Blair from top political office by the fourth estate. The double-edged sword of personifying a political movement means you can gather its plaudits, but also risk taking flak for things that were probably beyond your control. But whatever the rights and wrongs of ten years of New Labour, we'll always have Enfield South.

In 2007, as a re-invented writer and broadcaster, and acceptable face of contrite, 21st century conservatism, Michael Portillo now seems a benign character, cuddling up to Diane Abbott on the sofa for Westminster TV chit-chat. It's easy to forget what a repugnant, oleaginously self-aggrandising little turd he really was. Like Grand Admiral Durnirtz at the end of World War Two he was the last defender of the Poll Tax who talked with an SAS swagger and combined hatchet-faced, New Right thinking with a peculiarly charmless charisma. When the Major government fell, he would be the man to lead the Conservative party back to the promised land.

For those of us who had reached a quarter century without being able to remember another party in power, May 1997 was a giddy time. I was probably one of a large number of people who couldn't quite believe the Conservative party would ever be out of government, in the same way you can't quite ever believe you will leave school as a child. I can still remember at about 3a.m. on election night, when the results for Enfield South were beamed across the country, the collective roar of the country when Stephen Twigg was elected ahead of the Heir Apparent.

Of course dreams turn to ashes, and promises are forgotten like sweet nothings in a debutante's ear. Money is wasted, expectations are disappointed, hopes are dashed and we all grow older. The jury may be out on Tony Blair's true achievements. But do you remember the look on Portillo's face?

14 comments:

PW said...

Yes, Portillo was surely living proof that Who Dares Loses. Stephen Twigg's victory was well deserved and a great added bonus on that heady night in 1997.

On the other hand, give me Portillo any day over Peter Lilley. Or John Redwood. Or half a dozen of the other scary misfits that inhabited the Tory frontbench at the time.

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