Blair’s Short Goodbye – The Last Day
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THE END OF THE LONG SHORT GOODBYE
When the day finally came it was FAR too short for me.
One minute the Prime Minister was dominating Parliament in his unique way, telling us he had, “from first to last” always feared the place. Next, or so it seemed, the former prime minister was standing on a railway platform with his wife on the way to his constituency, awaiting the car to take him to Sedgefield to resign for the second time in one historic day.
With a peculiarly British, cruel suddenness, and an almost mind-boggling carelessness, he and his wife were left hanging about for several minutes on the platform at their train’s destination waiting for their car.
Then, when two cars arrived, there was a mix-up as to which car was theirs. Mrs Blair went to get into the better car, naturally. It was the wrong choice. My reaction was, unlike the mocking triumphalist cries of some, that we were being unforgivably cavalier with the care of our recently dearly and nearly departed prime minister.
IS THIS ABOUT AS SECURE AS IT GETS?
I certainly hope not! Little did we know that 36 hours later there would be three terror attempts in this country.
WHAT THE HELL WERE HIS MINDERS UP TO?
OK, having looked at some of the pictures and videos, it seems there were security people around. Presumably he and his wife were still under the same protection that they would have had a couple of hours earlier, though the bag carrying, late car arrival and confusion as to just which vehicle to get into didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence.
It all seemed kind of careless.
I DO despair at this. Yes, once you’re out of office, you’re out of office, but … COME ON!
Mr Blair is in the top handful of terrorist targets in the world and likely to remain thus for years. Whilst not wishing him to be locked away from public eyes, nor advocating that we should change our behaviour as a result of terrorism, we, or the security services, should be ashamed at our evident laxity. As Alastair Campbell said on the last programme of his Diary series, “we might say we will not let terrorists change how we behave, but that’s not realistic”.
Completely unrealistic to treat a just resigned PM like the rest of us. Apart from anything else, was it not the case that there had been an Al Qaeda warning of an attack at the “changeover” of power? Wasn’t this train journey part of the changeover?
While some papers laughed out loud that Mr Blair carried his own suitcase at the London departure station, I didn’t. I wondered how he would defend himself with one hand, if a rabid knifer rushed him.
RANT over! Since the London and Glasgow bomb efforts, the security services seem to have had a re-think, as referred to here the other day.
PLEASE take good care of him. To many of us he is deserving of nothing less than our best.
So, back to the last day for Tony Blair as PM and MP.
On his last emotional day as the longest serving Labour Prime Minister of the UK, reports were generally good. How COULD they have been anything other? Even The Independent was largely generous.
Excerpt from The Independent
BLAIR says, “Sorry”;
BLAIRITE MP says, “What have we done?”
In the Commons, Iraq also loomed large. A packed chamber fell silent when a sombre Mr Blair paid his weekly tribute to the latest servicemen to die in Iraq and Afghanistan. He went further, praising the dedication of Britain’s armed forces.
“I have never come across people of such sustained dedication, courage and commitment,” he said. And, using a word we have not heard him say often, he added:
“I am truly sorry about the dangers they face today in Iraq and Afghanistan.”But the overall mood was favourable to Mr Blair. Mr Cameron paid a generous tribute to him and wished his family well. “That’s nice,” said Cherie Blair, sitting in a gallery high above the chamber with her four children, including seven-year-old Leo.
“That is that, the end,” an emotional Mr Blair said as he concluded a brief farewell statement at the end of Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Brown patted Mr Blair on the back and led an unprecedented two-minute standing ovation by Labour MPs. Only a few Tories joined it at first but Mr Cameron waved his troops to their feet.
The standing ovation continued long after Mr Blair left the chamber for the last time. As he walked through Portcullis House on his way back to No 10 to say a final farewell to his staff, a group of schoolchildren and visitors broke into spontaneous applause. It seemed that Mr Blair had achieved the objective of an embarrassing leaked memo about his long goodbye – to bow out with ” the crowds wanting more”.
As they left the Commons chamber, several women Labour MPs were in tears, including Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, and Jacqui Smith, the Chief Whip. So was Phil Woolas, the Local Government minister. “It was like a wedding and a funeral rolled into one,” one minister said.
[Pictures: L-R: Margaret Beckett; Blair, Brown & Beckett; Jacqui Smith; Phil Woolas.]
A diehard ultra-Blairite added: “What have we done? We will miss him.” ‘
A bit late now to think of that, don’t you think?