Tony Blair has announced that he will step down as Prime Minister in Britain. This was long expected. His support has sunk lower than President Bush's. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor to the Exchequer (finance minister) will likely succeed Blair as Prime Minister.
My closest British friends are leaders in the Liberal Democratic Party, the third party of British politics for which there is no American equivalent. I have done door-to-door canvassing -- "knocking up" in the wonderful British expression -- for the Lib Dems.
Nonetheless, I have always appreciated Tony Blair for bringing the great Labour Party, the counterpart of my Democratic Party, back to the center (that is, the centre). New Labour, as Blair calls it, broke the socialist stagnation into which Labour had fallen, and shook off the persistent Loony Left.
Reagan had an excellent counterpart in Thatcher. Bush One, the sequel to Reagan, was matched in many ways by Major, the sequel to Thatcher. Clinton and Blair were so well matched in their style, their approach to party leadership, and their finding a middle way between the left and right of the moment that it was eerie.
Then came the election of 2000, which broke the pattern. Blair and Bush don't match. Yes, Blair has been a strong war ally (leader, really) for Bush Two, but they do not match in any other way. If Gore had won the 2000 election (as I think he did in all but the crucial technical sense), then the balance would have been maintained. And with dour and wonky Al Gore in the White House, perhaps Tony Blair would have given way to dour and wonky Gordon Brown five years ago. Blair would have preserved his legacy, Labour would be in a stronger position than it is now, the balance between Mother Country and Eldest Child would have been maintained. Oh, and the United States and Britain would be leading the world in fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, instead of fighting alone in someone else's civil war in Iraq.