Retrospects of Tony Blair

Image of Tony Blair set on a dark background
What matters is what works

“The first rule in politics is that there are no rules, at least not in the sense of inevitable defeats or inevitable victories. If you have the right policy and the right strategy, you always have a chance of winning. Without them, you can lose no matter how certain the victory seems.”
Tony Blair, A Journey: My Political Life

Tony Blair came to power as Prime Minister with strong support and huge parliamentary vote in 1997 because of his aspirations and commitments in the public service, serving as the longest Prime Minister of Labour Party through two consecutive terms. However, with lack of experience on vision and goals as a leader, Blair was an impulsive decision-maker to commit in agreements while his fellow politicians disagreed with the idea. His leadership followed through in small core groups as he believed the team should be small to make effective decisions without polarization. His leadership style was similar like Margaret Thatcher, focused on maintaining and keeping the control of his convictions and taking radical changes without support from his small council. However, we can argue that having the small council benefited Blair’s position well, as he was seen as a committed strong leader with high self-confidence winning him three consecutive terms.  His eagerness to commit to US invasion of Iraq by sending British troops faced strong criticism in Britain and in the international community (United Nations) because Britain did not face any threat from Iraq at the time. Blair pushed too quickly in an agreement with US, who was invading Iraq for its own reasons and proved to be a follower rather than the leader of Britain. Another contradicting fact was his risk seeking style, gambling on his views and perceptions rather than taking decisions based on facts and expert opinions, which increased radical threats to Britain later.

Blair’s “need for power require greater personal control and involvement in policy, and have an increased concern that the policy output reflect their preference, rather than be a consensual group decision” (Dyson 2006).

His leadership lacked collective thinking and decision-making and Blair influenced his powers on cabinet and secretary of states, by restructuring “inner-inner circles” so he could discuss his decisions and keep control at the same time. He was known as a great persuader and aiming to over-achieve at every situation. Blair’s persuasion to use soft powers to win the mind and hearts of Britain’s and political alliances were considered a necessity at the time. He believed in aspiring people by alluring their emotions, countering people with better opportunities as a the path to maximize social welfare and leadership desires.

Blair’s interpretations of “policymaking style invariably stress his focus upon fundamental principles over detail, his limited information search, and his lack of receptivity to information which does not accord with his existing beliefs” (Dyson 2006).

Blair’s conceptual complexity and capability of discerning different dimensions and scenarios of the Iraq invasion was biased when the council opposed and polarized in the decision making. This was also due to the “distrusting” personality of Blair that he was in doubt and wariness about others, and his belief that he should be the control and center of decision making due to this strong feeling of nationalism and honor for Britain. Another factor that blurred Blair’s focus was his need for power and concern on gaining, keeping and restoring powers over others as he was absorbed with his personal self-confidence image.  If he welcomed diverse views of collective thinking from his team on the risks and chances of success, he would have shaped the operation differently and could have calculated the stakes of his assumptions.

Blair’s “ proactive policy stance and a relatively low weighting of the environmental constraints to political action in his decision calculus” (Dyson 2006), distorted his objective reality and the extent to which he would challenge constraints.

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