Friday, January 21, 2011

How Tony Blair's foreign policy adventures caused our current economic problems

At some point in the middle of his premiership (and 9/11 is as good a date to choose as any) Tony Blair lost interest in domestic policy. Modernising the constitution and reforming public services suddenly seemed tame to him when set beside geopolitics.

This had two effects.

First, he loosened Gordon Brown's reins and allowed him to divorce Prudence and spend, spend, spend. With results we see all around us today. Even if you blame all of the current deficit on the bankers, you have to accept that this increased public spending severely limited the government's room for manoeuvre once the crisis hit.

Second, his foreign adventures soon made Blair and his government unpopular. When it came to setting the policies on which Labour would fight the 2005 general election (and scrape a third term) he had to endorse Brown's spending because the public no longer had much trust in him. They wanted jam today because they did not trust him to provide more tomorrow if they waited.

So did Tony Blair's foreign policy adventures cause our current economic problems?

Well, it's a theory.


dreamingspire said...

My experience was that he suddenly lost interest at the end of 2004, and that his interest earlier was anyway without grunt, i.e. didn't deliver. After the 2005 election it seemed that Treasury took control - in the name of Brown, but I wasn't convinced, despite facilitating a small team of ICT industry people to get close to some of that Treasury-powered drive for value for money. But up to the end of 2004 it may just have been momentum after Blair had turned towards other things as you, Jonathan, suggest - the momentum that I saw was for regenerating certain Whitehall depts, and we seem to have the wheel gone full circle again today. The wheel was brought to an abrupt halt at end 2004 (the juice, i.e. the money tap, was turned off). Will it keep moving this time?

Frank Little said...

But the 2004 budget was the one where Brown really went wild.

dreamingspire said...

The view of a few people who I have asked is that Blair stopped the regeneration of certain Whitehall Depts (particularly of their IT, i.e. stopped the plan to get them to use IT as an integral part of management, not just as a replacement for pen and paper and calculators). And the reason put forward is that he wanted to concentrate on winning the 2005 election, and to have at the same time a potentially alienated clutch of mandarins was seen as too risky.