Blair's Bloody Legacy: Iraq

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Independent/UK

Blair's Bloody Legacy: Iraq

by
Andrew Grice

LONDON - On the 10th anniversary of Tony Blair's election as Prime Minister, an exclusive poll reveals 69 per cent of Britons believe that, when he leaves office, his enduring legacy will be the bloody conflict in IraqSeven out of 10 people believe that Iraq will prove to be Tony Blair's most enduring legacy, according to an opinion poll for The Independent to mark the 10th anniversary today of the election victory that brought him to power.

0501 03As the Prime Minister prepares to announce his resignation next week, the survey by CommunicateResearch reveals that 69 per cent of the British public believe he will be remembered most for the Iraq war. Remarkably, his next highest "legacy rating" - just 9 per cent - is for his relationship with the American President, George Bush.

Four years after the US-led invasion, Iraq still dwarfs all other issues. Only 6 per cent of voters believe Mr Blair will be remembered most for the Northern Ireland peace process, which he will hail as an important part of his legacy when self-government is restored in the province a week today.

Just 3 per cent think the Prime Minister will be remembered most for the cash-for-honours affair, with the same proportion citing the introduction of the national minimum wage and being associated with "spin".

A tiny 2 per cent of people believe Mr Blair's legacy will be his central goal to improve public services, one he put in the spotlight yesterday when he claimed he had achieved the mission he set out exactly 10 years ago to "save the NHS". Only 1 per cent of people believe he will be remembered most for his three general election victories, with the same proportion citing Scottish and Welsh devolution.

But there is some positive news for Mr Blair. Despite public hostility over Iraq, 61 per cent of people believe that he has been a good Prime Minister overall, with only 36 per cent thinking he has been a bad one.

Only one in 10 Labour supporters say he has been a bad Prime Minister, while 89 per cent regard him as having been a good one.

The poll suggests there is strong respect for Mr Blair across the political spectrum. A majority (62 per cent) of Liberal Democrat supporters think he has been a good Prime Minister, while only 36 per cent of them regard him as a bad one. Almost half (45 per cent) of Tory voters believe he has been a good Prime Minister, while 53 per cent judge him a bad one.

Mr Blair hopes that history will cast a different light on his support for the invasion of Iraq. But the poll confirms what his close allies have known for some time: that the continuing problems in Iraq will overshadow other issues when he announces his departure timetable.

Even Labour supporters believe that Iraq will define his legacy: 58 per cent of them think he will be most remembered for the war, and a further 10 per cent for his relationship with President Bush. Only 14 per cent of Labour voters cite Northern Ireland, 8 per cent improving public services and 3 per cent his hat-trick of election victories.

Iraq and Mr Blair's close links to the US President are regarded as "legacy issues" by more women than men, while 18 to 24-year-olds are more likely to think Mr Blair will be remembered for his relationship with President Bush than people in other age groups.

Some 75 per cent of people in the top AB social class group think the Prime Minister will be remembered most for Iraq, a figure that falls to 58 per cent among the bottom DE group.

Older people have a less favourable opinion of Mr Blair. Those aged 65 and over are the only age group with a negative overall view, with 47 per cent thinking he has been a good Prime Minister and 49 per cent a bad one. His best net rating is among 45 to 54-year-olds, 68 per cent of whom think he has been a good Prime Minister and 28 per cent a bad one.

Even in Scotland, where Labour faces its first defeat in a major election for 50 years in Thursday's Scottish Parliament elections, a majority (63 per cent) of people think he has been a good Prime Minister and only 36 per cent a bad one.

Yesterday, Mr Blair predicted that his health reforms would be vindicated and that no future government would reverse them. Addressing the King's Fund think-tank, he conceded his government had made mistakes, had had too many reorganisations and that the pace of reform should have been quicker during Labour's first years in power.

He was sceptical about setting up an independent NHS board to take politicians out of the day-to-day control of the service, an idea being considered by Gordon Brown, who is expected to succeed him as Prime Minister at the end of next month.

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary and a Blairite, endorsed Mr Brown last night and called for an end to the "tribalism" inside New Labour. She told the Progress think-tank that there should be "no more Blairites and Brownites", adding: "Too much of our present political approach - too much of our conversation and argument - has been focussed on personalities and a debate in code that reinforces that tribalism."

The Tories said Mr Blair had presided over "10 wasted years" in which the NHS had gone on "a circular - and wasteful - journey back towards the policies and structures of the last Conservative government" that had cost the taxpayer £3bn in shake-ups.

CommunicateResearch telephoned 1,001 British adults between 27 and 29 April. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of all adults. CommunicateResearch is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables are available for viewing at www.communicateresearch.com

© 2007 Independent News and Media Limited

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