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An extraordinary farewell

Nick Robinson | 12:45 UK time, Wednesday, 27 June 2007

There were quite extraordinary scenes at PMQs (watch for yourself here), but not in the way I'd expected.

The House of Commons goes 'hear, hear', remember, it doesn't clap. If it claps, it doesn't stand for an ovation. It did both of those things for Tony Blair.

On all sides, MPs of all colours got to their feet spontaneously and applauded him as he walked out of the chamber, ending a Question Time quite unlike the one I suspect he was prepared for, and quite unlike the one that his backbenchers desperately wanted to see. They wanted a Thatcher-style bashing of the opposition - but David Cameron (as I mentioned previously) gave an extremely clever Parliamentary performance, sucking all the political heat out of the occasion.

It was more of a sentimental farewell than a long-awaited political bashing.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 01:12 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Jamie wrote:

WOW! Never with thatcher, never with ANYONE has there ever been a standing ovation like that on all sides of the House of Commons. It is the martk of the man that after Iraq and the like he still is the great man of British Politics and shall remain so for years to come. Amazing.

  • 2.
  • At 01:22 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Qrobur wrote:

Who would have the curmudgeonly demagogue Paisley could have paid such a warm, and apparently sincere, tribute to Blair?

The NI Agreement was the best of the latter, it's true. What a shame it contrasts so strongly with the morass that is Iraq.

Don't go, Tony ! Come back, Tony ! We have a nice warm room at the Hague waiting, Tony !

  • 4.
  • At 01:28 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

People have made many mistakes and the world remains a difficult place but the politicians, media, and public know a class act when they see it. In spite of Prime Minister Blair dropping a clanger over the Iraq War, his legacy is a Britain that's on track to be more economically and socially sound than it has been in a generation.

This is as good as Nigel Mansell charging to victory at the British Grand Prix in a Williams-Honda. The style, the power, the victory as the 3.5 litre turbo charged engine powered the most capable chassis over the winning line a lap ahead of his slowest rivals. We're living in extraordinary times, perhaps, as auspicious as the foundation of Rome.

Everyone's a winner! Everyone's a hero? Maybe.

Didn't he say "I'm enjoying this!" like Thatcher did?

  • 6.
  • At 01:31 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

A long awaited political bashing? if they haven't bashed him in the last 10 years, why start now?

Blait is off, he is already yesterday's news. Cameron may have been clever, but it was also the right thing to do. On the final day in office it would be churlish, petty and mean-spirited to try to make political capital.

Today is a day outside the norm of politics. Let him go, behave with grace, get back to business tomorrow.

  • 7.
  • At 01:38 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

The only thing that comes to mind about the ovation for Blair is that even the Tories are glad that the former PM has brought this country to its knees in all measurable terms. To give a liar, a man who takes us to war without public support or an exit strategy, a spin artist, a raiser of taxes, a man who has made a hash of both the NHS and education and a man who has put pensioners where he thinks they belong, a standing ovation is an insult to those of us are fair minded, truthful and old.

  • 8.
  • At 01:38 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Alice wrote:

I know that Mrs Blair has been through a lot with the media, some of which I have sympathy with her for, but I don't think what she said as she left Downing Street was the best way to behave.

  • 9.
  • At 01:40 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Justin Flook wrote:

Tony Blair is by far the most significant politician of the modern era.

The Britain of 1997 is very different to the Britain of today.

I disagreed strongly with Tony Blair over Iraq, however, I will gie him credit where it's due.

When he came to power on that momentous day in May he said "it's time to do". Whether you agree with what he did or not he certainly did do.


  • 10.
  • At 01:47 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Bruce wrote:

Must be one of the most bizarre hand overs of power ever. No contest, no election, no bad words, nothing. Well done the MPs for being respectful to TB. It's what the British do very well. God help us middle classes with GB.

Great blog by the way Nick. Just seen it for the first time and will now look forward to it.

  • 11.
  • At 01:52 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Michael Parker wrote:

It's not spontaneous from the Conservatives. Watch the replays closely. It goes:
1) Labour stand up and clap
2) Cameron discusses with the front bencher on his left what to do
3) Cameron jumps up and gestures at his party to do the same

  • 12.
  • At 02:02 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

How inappropriate. Applause in the Commons? Deeply un-British.

  • 13.
  • At 02:04 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Salmondwins wrote:

ANYONE WHO DARES CRITICISE BLIAR OR NEW lABOUR WILL BE STOPPED BY BIAS CORP.

LONG LIVE DEMOCRACY?????????????????

  • 14.
  • At 02:06 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Sarah wrote:

Thought the ovation was well deserved. For 13 Years he's been great and rarely beaten at the dispatch box as leader of the Labour Party. I may have my disagreements with him on some issues but the difference he's made in Northern Ireland and to bringing international aid to africa to the forefront deserves all the plaudits.

  • 15.
  • At 02:07 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • anthony hammerman wrote:

Have just viewed the clip of Tony Blair's final moments in the House of Commons and I agree, whether you agreed with him or not, he did command respect from all sides of the House. There must have been a few occasions when TB was rattled but not many. He can certainly talk the hindlegs off a donkey!! One of the most articulate Prime Ministers we have ever had and a true television star.

  • 16.
  • At 02:08 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Salmondwins wrote:

Can I get some of what Jamie is on - PLEASE.

He is obviously too young to remember, or be grateful, for Thatcher turning Britain from a Union riddden, Labour lost cause, to something to be proud of.

Now it has all been wrecked by the current sleaze ridden incompetents.

  • 17.
  • At 02:10 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

This brings to mind the time when President Clinton gave his last State of the Union address to Congress in 2001 just days before he was to leave office. This was just after the impeachment trial was over and the Republicans had dragged the nation through an excruciating ordeal which was as pointless and futile as it was unfair. Much to my astonishment, the entire Congress got up and applauded him wildly. It was early January and by then the members had undoubtedly gone over their prior year's accounts in preparation for doing their 2000 income taxes and were doubtless extatic over how much money they had made in the stock market. Oh for those incomparable days of peace and prosperity, we haven't seen their like ever since. One day, Britain will look back on Tony Blair's tenure at the helm of Britain with the same fondness and will put the war in Iraq in its real perspective having lost only as many soldiers in four years of combat as one would expect in the downing of a single moderate sized commuter plane (about 150), a war whose cost the media and political opponents have magnified far beyond any reasonable proportion just as they have in the United States. Yes, history will be very kind to Tony Blair.

A scoundrel, a liar, a con-man, always appreciates someone who is a greater scoundrel, a bigger liar, a more professional con-man than they are.

... so MPs gave Blair a standing ovation.

They applaud from professional respect. Blair did better than them, what they do

But we are not conmen. We are not liars. We need not respect scoundrels merely for being successful.

Go - with the utter contempt of the nation ringing in your ears.

And the dead - all the dead, who can no longer applaud anything, or anyone.

Be haunted by them...

  • 19.
  • At 02:19 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Sarah wrote:

Mark: It may be the case that 'only' 150 British soldiers have died, but how many Iraqi civilians have been killed and continue to be killed?

  • 20.
  • At 02:20 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Mark G wrote:

I disagree this was a very British response. Blair gets a warm send off from the Commons he had little time for- how very British!

Still he deserves a final lick from the sun as it falls finally away over the horizon.

  • 21.
  • At 02:37 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • MTK wrote:

Who *are* you people?

Justin Flook says: When he came to power on that momentous day in May he said "it's time to do". Whether you agree with what he did or not he certainly did do.

That is nonsense. Of substantial, constructive things he "did" (whether you agreed with them or not) I cannot get a list longer than: minimum wage, university tuition fees, foundation hospitals and Iraq.

There are a couple of things (GP fundholding, city academies) which he "did" but only five to ten years after he had "undone" them.

And of course a couple of things pretends not to have done: the destruction of the British constitution, the introduction of the EU constitution, the massive abridgement of civil liberty in this country.

A political giant, in the worst sense of the word. He came to power with the goodwill of the whole country. He had a mandate to effect great, perhaps controversial change. His achievements are trivial and his failures huge but most of all he is a man who wasted opportunities.

  • 22.
  • At 02:44 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Henrietta W wrote:

I wouldn't call it a 'standing ovation' in the true sense of the phrase - the opposition stood up and clapped when directed to do so, and I think this makes a clear difference.

It was the last message from the House to the Prime Minister to say:

"You may now leave. Please do so."

  • 23.
  • At 02:45 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Psycho B Delic wrote:

I for one was pleased to see the house of commons send off TB in the way they did.
I still think he will be remembered as one of our greatest Prime Ministers. I might not have agreed with Margaret Thatcher - but she had the courage of her convictions and I respect that.

I am grateful that he had the courage of his convictions to do what he thought was the right thing to do - as opposed to the most electable thing to do.

I wish him success in his new role.

  • 24.
  • At 03:32 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • glyn williams wrote:

The generous and largely impartial farewell given to Tony Blair says a great deal about New Labour. Compare the congratulations of all the 'House' with the comments of John Prescott. Not for Prescott any humble or wistful comments to acknowledge his successes??? / failures / mistakes over the past ten years, just out and out bragging of what he sees as total success. He now goes on to continue to avail himself of all the goodies & handouts that he has so vehemently wanted to deny others under the guise that 'they' are all snobs. What a brass neck!!!!

  • 25.
  • At 03:57 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

I found today a thoroughly depressing experience. I feel like I'm on the outskirts of society right now; I have just watched a load of loathsome public school Old Boys applauding and patting each other on the backs. No doubt they'll be off to the Westminster bars tonight to share jokes and mutter "aren't we great" to each other. None of these men represent me. In the world I want to live in, a government which committed such a catastrophic and wicked deed as Iraq would have been removed from power years ago. Instead they are being applauded out of office and off to start exciting new jobs. I feel like a horrific crime has been committed but the guilty party has managed to get away with it scot-free. What have we become, when this man is applauded from office? There are half a million dead bodies in Iraq because of his actions. See how long it takes you to count to half a million, it's a sobering experience.

  • 26.
  • At 04:54 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

May I add a word about Mrs. Blair's comment on leaving Downing St. She has brought the dislike of most people on herself by trying to become 'first lady' when un-elected to do so. Had she followed the partners of nine of the last ten PMs (yes, I go back that far) and kept her nose out of where it didn't belong then she would have had no problems with the press or the public.

  • 27.
  • At 05:23 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • MTK wrote:

The "first lady" of the UK is:

The Queen, if we have one
The King's consort, if he has one
or nobody at all.

Ms Booth was not and could not be first lady and it is repulsive that she tried to built this role for herself.

  • 28.
  • At 05:51 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Nick Young wrote:

I think Cameron didn't attack Blair because he knew that the Quentin Davis defection, which could not have been staged at a more appropriate time for Labour, would've provided Blair with the world's easiest comeback.

  • 29.
  • At 07:43 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • the truth wrote:

"a man who takes us to war without public support "

I refer you to the 2005 General Election.

  • 30.
  • At 09:04 AM on 28 Jun 2007,
  • Arthur Nicholls wrote:

The Daily Politics showed final speeches from former Prime Ministers.

The one from John Major was startling in its accuracy. Under pressure from Labour and its leader, the saintly Tony Blair, for sleaze, John Major spelt out the state of sleaze in the Labour Party and specifically foretold "Cash for Honours".

Tony Blair's speech on the steps of No. 10 at the start of his 10 years, will be looked back on as a carefully spun set of lies. GordonBrown'sonthe other hand are designed to ensure he cannot be criticised - after all he will be doing 'his utmost', and you cannot do better than that.

Glorious spin reigns

  • 31.
  • At 01:04 PM on 28 Jun 2007,
  • Kath J wrote:

So, when do we all stop cringing at the bad comedy show that was Blair's farewell, and start rejoicing at the start of his war crimes trial?

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