Snapshot of Britain on Blair's last day

Last updated at 09:01 09 July 2007


History will remember Tony Blair as the most accomplished actor-politician of modern times - the man who made Labour electable after 18 years and went on to win three victories in a row.

Nothing can take that (or the Northern Ireland settlement) away from him.

But he will also be remembered as the Prime Minister who squandered all his opportunities and brought the governance of Britain - through breathtaking incompetence, spin and deceit - into disarray and disrepute. Abroad, in vast areas of the globe, our reputation lies in tatters.

What follows is a snapshot of the Britain Mr Blair has left us - not a comprehensive review of his decade in power, but a handful of news items from his final two days. It makes deeply unsettling reading.

On migration, a report from the OECD finds the number of people living in Britain who were born overseas has shot up to some ten per cent of the population (and that's not allowing for the huge number of illegal immigrants). Only now are ministers voicing concern over the impact on our public services and social cohesion.

On public health, the UN finds Britain is the drugs capital of Europe. Meanwhile it emerges that drink-related hospital admissions have doubled under Labour, increasing most sharply after the decision to allow round-the-clock drinking.

Elsewhere, a leaked document reveals more than 4,000 specialist training positions for young medics remain unfilled after the junior doctor recruitment fiasco - one of a long line of disasters in NHS management.

On law and order, a survey finds formfilling is keeping a fifth of our police off the beat. Three-quarters of commanders say they feel Whitehall targets undermine their ability to do their job.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands more criminals are to escape jail, under desperate plans to ease overcrowding, while millions of crimes are being deliberately omitted from the figures.

On education, a study concludes that A-levels have become a full grade easier under Mr Blair, as new figures show record numbers of pupils suspended for violence and drugs.

A separate report finds Labour's school reforms have failed our poorest children, giving them the worst chance in the developed world of improving themselves.

As for the elderly, a report from Age Concern finds that more than 60,000 in desperate need will miss out on free help under a Government shake-up in care home funding. Meanwhile a lawsuit continues over ministers' disgraceful refusal to back £2.50-a-day Alzheimer's drugs on the NHS.

In Brussels, further details emerge of Mr Blair's surrender of British sovereignty to the EU. In Afghanistan, the opium crops are at record levels - and most tragically of all, of course, the death toll there and in Iraq continues to mount...

These are only two days' worth of news items, remember. They say nothing of the constitutional damage Mr Blair has done to the Lords and the Union with Scotland, nothing of his assault on civil liberties, his failure to reform the welfare system or his destruction - under the malign aegis of his chief propagandist, Alastair Campbell - of all trust between the Government and the governed.

But they encapsulate a story of hopes dashed and promise unfulfilled in a decade of unparalleled prosperity - the work of Gordon Brown, not Mr Blair - in which so much could have been achieved.

How fitting that Mr Blair's last day should be spent with that other actorpolitician, Arnold Schwarzenegger. No, we are not sorry to see him go. Today the rebuilding can begin.

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