Good-bye, Prime Minister. History will be kinder…
He was, however, a consummate performer, a skilful and wily political operator, the most successful leader that Labour has ever had (and probably will ever have). Like Presidents Reagan and Clinton, he has the sort of demeanour one instinctively wants to forgive. And like the Thatcher-Major transition, viewed through the lens of history, the inadequacies and shortcomings of the successor will eventually leave the Labour faithful yearning for their golden era – the age when Britain was great, evangelically proclaiming its worldview, bold in its confrontation, and possessed a leader who walked tall on the world stage.
While Cranmer sheds no tears, he is certain that history will be kinder. It will take half a century, but Iraq may become a stable form of democracy, and the world will point to the foundational efforts of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. It was doubtless due to the efforts of Prime Ministers Thatcher and Major that Ulster embraced peace, but it was the irresistible charms of Mr Blair that persuaded Dr Paisley to govern with Sinn Fein. And it may have been constitutional vandalism to remove the hereditary peers, to tamper with the judiciary, to meddle with finely-balanced constituent parts of the fragile Union, but he gave the Bank of England its independence from government, established a Ministry of Justice, enshrined the principle of academic selection in city academies, and talked of the need for ‘radical reform’ of the public services. That he did not deliver is more to do with the Old Labour instinct to pour good money after bad than it was his personal lack of vision, but he has undoubtedly written the first chapter of a narrative which the Conservative Party must embrace.
As for his path to Rome, it is ironic that 'the most devoutly Christian prime minister since Gladstone' has done more to undermine Christian liberties than any challenge to the faith on these islands in three centuries. He is a spiritual fraud, and Rome is where his heart has always been: his professed Anglicanism was simply a piece of theatre - a facade maintained for constitutional reasons. As far as Cranmer is concerned, he can go, and good riddance - politically, spiritually, ecclesiastically, and theologically. But it is curious indeed that the Vatican would even want such a vain and corrupt dissembler in their ranks. He has failed consistently to adhere to the unequivocal teachings of the church he aspires to join: on protecting the unborn child, on experimentation on human embryos, on civil partnerships, on the challenge of the Sexual Orientation Regulations to the very existence of Catholic adoption agencies, on plans to force faith schools to take students who do not adhere to that faith - his record is one of consistently contending against the faith.
While it easy for him to profess the Nicene Creed, when it comes to his formal reception into the Roman Catholic Church he will be required to swear: ‘I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God’. He could not utter these words in good conscience, and to do so would make him a manifest hypocrite. But then ‘hypocrite’ is from the Greek word ὑποκρίτης (hypokrites), associated with hypokrisis, that is ‘actor’. He is simply pursuing his vocation.
It was Enoch Powell who said that all political careers end in failure. This one may appear to have done so - and that spectacularly - except that Cranmer doesn’t quite think it’s over. While immediate attention is focused on Mr Blair's promotion to Middle East
Cranmer just thinks that Mr Blair will find the prospect of strutting the world stage as