“Blairism won power with a smile and platitude but in the end, he left the voter dissatisfied”

Firstly, Labours manifesto was directly aimed at trying to satisfy the general public as it promised to clean up politics ending sleaze, remove hereditary peers, forward devolution and remove clause IV. This question refers to voters however, being dissatisfied which suggests voters were left unhappy by Blair’s government. Dissatisfied basically is the feeling of disappointment whereas if the voters were to be unsatisfied, they would be expecting or longing for more and not receiving it. This difference in definition in regards to satisfaction shows how Simon Jenkins believed the voters were left disappointed with the results of what Blair produced not what he could have produced.

The statement which declares Blair won power with a “smile and platitude” suggests how superficial his government was and that it was just the new image and good image which won him into power such as from help by spin doctors who portrayed him as the man/government people would want, especially playing on the downfall and negative aspects of the previous/current conservative government at the time.

Socially, something dramatic which happened was the death of Princess Diana in 1997. The royal family was hugely criticised for its reserve during a time when there was an unprecedented national outpouring of grief and Blair instead made a speech which fuelled the public’s satisfaction and gained him popularity at a time the ‘whole’ country needed to mourn together.

In regards to political factors, it can be argued that voters were not dissatisfied and were in fact satisfied as many saw Blair as being a political celebrity due to his image and youthful approach and style of leadership he brought with him to the government. He abandoned clause IV which was the commitment to nationalisation which gained access to middle class voters which arguably appealed to them, leaving them satisfied. He furthermore avoided using terms such as ‘socialist’ to moreover implement his ‘new’ image and emphasise needed change. He also ensured legal restrictions in place on trade unions were maintained which was put in place by Thatcher while introducing the cult of Blair ‘inclusiveness’, ‘stakeholder society’ and ‘forces of conservatism’ .

Despite this however, voters were arguably dissatisfied due to various corruption. For example the ‘Cash for honours’ implicated the prime minister himself. There was public dismay at parliament’s voting itself good pensions as ordinary pensioners were seeing a sharp decline in the value of their contributions which basically had the same effect as sleaze in the Major years. This contradicts Blair’s promise of low taxation as they instead made financial adjustments which were basically in practise, taxation such as raising National Insurance contributions, removing tax relief on mortgage payments, reducing the level of tax-free savings under schemes such as TESSAs and PEPs. This effected voters and more than likely left many dissatisfied and more so angered as in 1999 the untaxed amount an individual could save was �12000 but by 200 that had been reduced to �7000.

Northern Ireland arguably was a foreign affair which left voters satisfied as there is the successful outcome of the peace process in Northern Ireland 1998 which was personal triumph for Blair as prime minister and he devoted a lot of his time to it, seeing that the issue was very much alive within public opinion which would have easily influenced their extent of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Labour’s Manifesto promised the voters “There will be as great a priority attached to seeing that process through with Labour as under the Conservatives, in co-operation with the Irish government and the Northern Ireland parties.” Labour fulfilled its manifesto promise to the voters with the Good Friday Agreement, leaving them satisfied that social problems in Ireland would no longer be a threat and worry for the British public; the British voters.

In contrast, something Blair is most famously remembered for is the negative move of Iraq- “The war on Terror” which became the single biggest problem in all of his 10 years in office. Andrew Marr even stated that “Many see this war as the single worst mistake made by a British government in 60 years”. Blair’s government was accused of indiscriminate bombing in Iraq and there was information from Iraqi exiles which encouraged fears of the threat Saddam might represent to the west; the biggest fear was that Iraq might develop WMD. Blair quoted from a dossier, the ‘dodgy dossier, which claimed to have evidence that Saddam’s WPD programme was “active, detailed and growing” which provided the justification for invading Iraq. The controversy over the ‘Iraq Dossier’ was mentioned frequently in the government’s conflict with the BBC over the claim in the ‘September Dossier’ that Iraq could deploy biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so, and the controversy surrounding the death of Doctor David Kelly. The claims contained in the ‘September’ and ‘Iraq’ Dossiers were called into question when weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq, and the dossiers were encompassed by House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee inquiry. The Committee subsequently reported that the sources should have been credited, and that the dossier should have been checked by ministers before being released. The dossier had only been reviewed by a group of civil servants operating under Alastair Campbell. The whole event of Iraq left, and still leaves voters extremely dissatisfied with the Blair government, the fact that there has been no real reason for Britain to be involved, causing unnecessary causalities for all countries involved. The controversy of the invasion still remains today with British troops still in Iraq and people very much against the whole thing. Likewise, the first Gulf war 1990-1 had defeated Saddam Hussein but not removed him from power which gave reason for voters to be dissatisfied. Saddam Hussein had expelled UN weapons inspection teams in 1997 and seemed to be hiding something which influenced Blair, keeping with his ‘Blair Doctrine’ in 2002, to explain why it was essential that Saddam Hussein after all this time, be brought down.

The prospering economy seemed to have left voters far from dissatisfied considering when Blair took office in 1997-2001 the economy appeared to be flourishing, Gordon Brown developed a reputation for restricting inflation and building up Britain’s financial reserves. When the Conservatives went out of office, inflation rate was 2.6 per cent, 10 years later it was 4.8 per cent. At this stage, Brown was tightly controlling expenditure and employment rose to 29 million, 2.5 million more than in 1997. Whether it be due to the conservatives or circumstance, Labour in its first term was driving a dominant and successful economy, the people had cheap and easy credit and employment was rising, the people were satisfied. The problems which arose was people were buying new things such as new technological advances, but not with money earned, with money borrowed from the easy credit. There was also The Chancellor’s misjudgements such as when Gordon Brown got dubbed as ‘Golden Brown’ because, between 1992 and 2002, British government sold off 13 million ounces of gold, nearly half of its gold reserves which consequently meant that by 2005, Britain found this had lost �3 billion whereas China, who had bought up 7 billion ounces, had doubled its money. This major economic misjudgement left various voters dissatisfied and Blair’s Smile and platitude didn’t make this mistake seem better especially considering the media, such as The Scotsman newspaper, referred to it as ‘Brown’s disastrous foray into international asset management’. Essentially, the whole thing lost Britain money and caused long standing damage to the financial system.

Overall, the Labour government’s 1997 Manifesto said they would clean up politics and end sleaze, which did not happen for example the cash for honours. Though they said “We will take effective measures to combat the terrorist threat.” They were not effective and made the situation worse if anything which led to Blair’s biggest mistake in regards to Iraq. Although, they did satisfy voters when they fulfilled their manifesto pledge for Northern Ireland saying “Labour will help build trust and confidence among both Nationalist and Unionist traditions in Northern Ireland by acting to guarantee human rights, strengthen confidence in policing, combat discrimination at work and reduce tensions over parades.” Blair done a lot of things which arguably dissatisfied the voters which have been explored through this essay which does make it seem that it was just his youthful image, smile and platitude which put him in power however there were times that many voters were arguably satisfied and more so perhaps happy with what he ‘achieved’.