Tony Blair's enemies are legion. Many express themselves forcibly: he is a "political shape shifter", "unprincipled or deluded", "master of lies and spin", "the ultimate hypocrite". Gideon Rachman in yesterday's FT, suggests that the hatred of Blair is overdone, and that eventually a more balanced view will emerge.
Perhaps this may be true about some of his policies in office, but the huge mistakes that Blair made are obvious to even an unbiased observer. The half baked version of devolution that Labour offered will cause us constitutional problems for years to come. Even what Blair regards as his greatest success, the Northern Ireland peace process, was largely the work of Mo Mowlam, and even that -which he was so quick to claim the credit for- remains dangerously incomplete. The huge increase in government expenditure that he presided over led us to a national financial crisis, and his "reforms" of the NHS drastically increased costs, with very little benefit in outcomes.
The "target culture" he developed from foundations laid by John Major twisted the state: the quality of work was subordinated to arbitrary - even random- performance measurement. With no executive experience, the Blair government floundered, and the mistakes that were made continue to haunt us even today .
Worse still, there was the conduct of government. Lies, presentation, and spin dictated policy. Announcements were repeated with dizzying rapidity, until the only sane response to any given government target was a cynical laugh. The lasting political and economic legacy of Blair is unlikely to be seen as a positive one. The huge surge of hope that greeted his election ended in bitterness, anger and disgust.
The naked egos and personal ambition we now see exposed in the members of the Blair cabinet reveals an extraordinary bunch of inadequates and losers. John Prescott- so obviously out of his depth- was a bulimic womaniser. Gordon Brown, a warped and strange neurotic, Mandelson a narcissistic, greedy bully- the Flashman of the Blair cabinet. The list of the failings of the faintly pathetic spooks who presumed to rule the United Kingdom for over a decade is extraordinary.
At the heart of this dysfunctional system stood Blair himself. A true hypocrite- since he took communion unofficially as a Catholic without tackling the official constitutional barriers to Catholics- his dishonest relationship to God permeated his whole Premiership. So certain in his invincible arrogance, he led the UK into an avoidable war which killed over 100,000 Iraqis and so many of our own service people. The benefits of the war were questionable at best. The costs- including radicalised Islam on our own doorstep- continue to this day. Many regard this policy decision- the very crux of his entire leadership- as a criminal act of folly, and that is a judgement that colours all the rest.
Yet whatever the rights and wrongs of Blair's conduct in office, it his his conduct since he left that has roused the British people to an contemptuous fury. Since leaving office, Mr. Blair has helped himself to whatever was going. In the process he has created a property portfolio that alone is said to be worth over £15 million- not bad for a man, who even as Prime Minister, earned little more than £150,000 a year. Even factoring in the wealth that his wife's lucrative legal practice has brought to the family, it is clear that since his retirement, Mr. Blair has cashed in his status as a former Prime Minister to the maximum extent possible. Not for Tony and Cherie, the rather more ascetic existence of Ex-President Carter, for example.
It is this that has truly infuriated the British people. By donating the expected £4 million proceeds of his memoirs to charity, he simply underlines that he can afford to do so: he is indeed that rich. He has become rich because he was Prime Minister: a job of public service, not private profit. Given the respect and support that ex Prime Ministers usually have been given by the establishment, the extraordinary, naked greed shown by the Blairs' now makes it very difficult to think about them- in office or beyond it- without a red mist descending.
Then there is the new Labour leadership contest. The soap opera of brother against brother. The interventions from the Blair-Brown-Mandelson generation have been deprecated by all the contestants: as well they might. The fact is that the ghosts of the Blair-Brown years- when all but Diane Abbot achieved high office- are a toxic legacy. They are all the creatures of the airless world of Labour spin and hype. They all cut their political teeth in a party where presentation mattered far, far more than policy- and are genuinely surprised when you point this out as a negative.
The drawing room world of the Hampstead Marxist has little to do with the political realities of the United Kingdom as it struggles to avoid continued decline and economic irrelevance. It really doesn't matter which of the wretched Milliband brothers inherits the Labour leadership. It is a poisoned chalice.
The Labour Party has not yet been truly punished for the political disasters of Blair and Brown.
The complacency that the leadership contest demonstrates- the candidates genuinely believe that the coalition will fold up its tents and Labour will return within a matter of a couple of years or so- also demonstrates why Labour may yet lose the way in their search for power.
The public backlash against Blair may yet damage Labour in ways they do not yet seem, even dimly, to understand.
And so it should.