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Tim Montgomerie and Matthew D’Ancona have been having an open email exchange on what we can and should learn from Blair. This is Tim’s reply to Matthew’s third and final email:

"Sorry for the delay in replying – I’m on my way to Northern Ireland.  Many people would, of course, say that the peace process was Blair’s greatest achievement.  I’m less sure.  I believe that we could have got to this point without the constant appeasement of Sinn Fein at the expense of the SDLP.  I bow to your superior knowledge of Ulster politics, Matt, but I fear that the Blair government has adopted the same ‘appease the extremists model’ in its relations with Britain’s Islamic communities and has sidelined more moderate Muslim groups.  Thanks btw for your kind words about ConservativeHome’s "lionhearted" position on the war on terror. The Hawk is something of an endangered species in the Conservative Party – not least on ConservativeHome threads – and it’s important we stick together.  I’m holding on to the hope of Liam Fox’s line – hawks live a lot longer than doves!

On crime, I agree with you about the importance of prison. Michael Howard was a very disappointing Tory leader but he was a great Home Secretary and we can all sleep more safely in our beds because of his incarceration policies.  His achievement in four years as Home Secretary is greater than anything Blair did as PM.  But I really don’t see the problem you have with the tough on crime slogan.  It was empty in Blair’s hands but it needn’t be.  I’m very hopeful that David Cameron’s policies on families, social; enterprise and drug rehab will rescue many people from the conveyor belt to crime.  This may not be a new thought but Blair’s encapsulation of the best way of tackling crime did capture the imagination and was crucial to the establishment of the New Labour brand.

Let’s call a truce on tax.  I agree that George Osborne wants to cut taxes and you’re right to warn that voters suspect we want to cut taxes for our rich pals.  The response to that suspicion, however, is to give the lion’s share of tax cuts to poorer people and as tax relief to deprived communities.  If any tax relief promises are eve-of-poll (as with Oliver Letwin’s 2005 pledges) they’re unlikely to be believed and won’t help us energise those hard-pressed taxpaying voters that we might need for victory.

Finally, I didn’t pick up properly on your very first thoughts about internationalism. Blair’s liberal interventionism often made me proud to be British. In Sierra Leone.  In Kosovo.  In increasing UK foreign aid.  Conservatives must never be isolationists.  We must also stay close to our best friends – the USA, Israel, Australia, Canada.  Blair never neglected friendships with those countries.  Neither must Conservatives."

For further reading on Blair’s legacy, the National Review has put together a number of 200 word pieces from British and American commentators.

14 comments for: What can Conservatives learn from Blair? (Part Three)

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