Guest blog from Jenine Langrish
Three parties, three leaders: Tony Blair; Nick Clegg; and David Cameron. How will history remember them?
Tony Blair united the Labour party and led them to their biggest ever majority and three consecutive election victories. His government oversaw the introduction of a national minimum wage; freedom of information; devolution; and the signing of the Good Friday agreement.
And yet…if you ask the man in the street, he’s remembered for just one thing: his misguided decision to support George Bush’s invasion of Iraq, justified by the claim that Saddam Hussein had ‘weapons of mass destruction’.
That single policy decision has led to mass vilification in the media and ensures that he will forever be remembered as “Tony B-liar”.
Under Nick Clegg’s leadership the Lib Dems soared in popularity and surprised everyone by securing enough votes to hold the balance of power following 2010’s election. For the first time since the days of Asquith and Lloyd George, the political party in the centre of politics held real power. They can claim credit for a number of policies in the coalition government, notably raising the tax threshold to take over 3 million low earners out of the income tax system; introducing the pupil premium; and creating the Green Investment Bank.
And yet…once again, if you ask the man in the street, Clegg is remembered for just one thing: breaking his promise on student tuition fees.
That single concession in the coalition agreement discussions led to highly personal attacks in the media and to his party’s vote being decimated in the last election.
Which brings me to David Cameron. He can claim credit for having overseen the recovery from the financial crisis; bringing the deficit under control; and generally keeping his party’s divisions on Europe under control.
But how will he be remembered in ten years time? The lesson from Tony Blair and Nick Clegg is that the public have little tolerance if they believe politicians have lied or broken high profile promises. Part of the reason for Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise ascendancy appears to be that Labour’s grass roots supporters saw him as an honest man who’d do what he said he would.
David Cameron’s highest profile promise is of course ‘No ifs, no buts, no third runway’. As he appears to stand on the brink of an about turn on Heathrow he would do well to reflect on the lessons of Tony Blair and Nick Clegg.
Dave – how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be judged on your policies or simply remembered as the latest in a line of political leaders who broke their promises. The choice is yours.