Most of the retrospectives on Tony Blair, prompted by the 20th anniversary of his becoming Labour leader strike me as missing something.
He governed with the grain of history, nudging it along from time to time, but never upending a country that was functioning well enough.
By the 1990s, Britons wanted their market economy to come with better public services, and Mr Blair gave them some approximation of that settlement. They had grown liberal on cultural questions and he reflected this.
For me, though, he had one massive failing which is largely overlooked. It's his managerialist ideology, as evidenced by: his endless guff about leadership; his belief in a "modernity" which only an elite could discern; his belief that the right technocratic policies could overcome tradeoffs between equality and efficiency; and his overconfidence about the powers of government.
It's this faith in leadership and elites that has helped to sustain the ideology (and narcissism) which underpins the increasing wealth of the 1%.
I suspect it was this ideology that also gave us the Iraq war. In some respects, this was much like that other catastrophic decision of the 00s - RBS's takeover of ABN Amro. Both were risky decisions made by small groups of men on the basis of limited and ambiguous information whose overconfidence had been inflated by earlier successes: the Sierra Leone and Kosovo interventions in Blair's case and the Natwest takeover in Goodwin's.
I say this as a counterweight to a common view on the left, expressed by the Guardian, which seems to think there are two Blairs: the mildly benign domestic one and the unleasher of carnage in Iraq. But the two are the same man; the same confidence in government that increased public spending also gave us the Iraq war.
Herein, though, lies something else that's overlooked. For all his talk of leadership and modernity, productivity in the public services stagnated under Blair. In this sense, his managerialism failed at home as well as abroad.
I don't say this to wholly condemn him. Janan is wrong in one respect where Blair deserves credit; he was more open to immigration than the voters.
Herein, though, lies a minor tragedy. Blair's successors (in both main parties) seem to be inheriting his managerialism whilst ditching his cosmopolitanism. As Antony said of Julius Caesar:
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.