I’ve just listened to Tony Blair’s speech and it was a great speech – perhaps his greatest conference speech. He is the great performer. The speech contained an attack on David Cameron that will resonate with many of the Tory leader’s internal opponents, a compelling defence of his role in the post 9/11 war on terror and some very funny lines – he joked that he knew, at least, that his wife would never run off with the bloke next door.
The gap between Mr Blair’s rhetoric and his record is, of course, so wide that few will believe much of what he said. ‘Tony Blair 2006’ is not the political sensation that was ‘Tony Blair 1997’. Nine years of spin and squander have eroded nearly all of the man’s political potency.
But Tories should not be under any illusions as to the significance of what is happening. The Blair era is coming to an end and with it we are seeing the end of our party’s most formidable ever opponent. For more than a decade he has confounded the Conservative Party at almost every turn. He has led deep raids into our natural territory – geographically and ideologically.
The Blair years have been the years of greatest trial for the Conservative Party. That is no coincidence. Politics is going to be different in the Post-Blair era. Our most deadly political opponent is about to leave the stage. That can only be good news.