Gill-igan’s Island

Sunday’s NY Times printed a couple of Op-Ed essays from prominent Brits, examining Tony Blair’s legacy. A. A. Gill, in discussing why Blair leaves office “loathed, mocked and despised,” turned his into a scathing attack on the British public…

Hatred of authority figures and rule-makers might all be an amusing part of the national character, the collective DNA — a Falstaffian, trenchant, robust skepticism to be admired, if it hadn’t grown so destructive and so intimidating.

This national knee-jerk abhorrence debilitates. Hate numbs the judgment, paralyzes the vitals of democracy. Revulsion leads to cynicism, which salts the field of open government. Nothing grows out of cynicism. This isn’t the same as the apathy that afflicts all rich, fat world democracies. Apathy can be turned; cynicism is implacable.

The other Op-Ed takes an essentially more positive view on the Britain that Blair leaves behind…

…In some ways Britain does feel a better place now. Mr. Blair has largely chased away homophobia, and civil partnership ceremonies between gays are now everyday events. Differences in skin color matter less than ever, which is remarkable given the July 2005 terrorist attacks on London. Britain is highly attractive to entrepreneurs, oligarchs and migrants. The country has become more cosmopolitan, fueled by cheap flights, and Britons no longer feel resentfully that France and Germany are doing better.

The author? Michael Portillo, Minister for Defence in John Major’s Tory Government, the one that Blair put out of power. Draw your own conclusions….

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