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When Tony Blair resigned after ten years as prime minister he went back to where he began – his Sedgefield constituency – to say goodbye and reflect on his successes and failures.

First things first. Although I’m moving on after nearly a decade at New Start, it’s not because the knives are out or that my colleagues are baying for my blood. I’m simply seeking new challenges and making way for new blood.

As I face the final curtain it’s hard not to bow out with something trite and banal.

Maybe I could just plagiarise Tony Blair and recall the great expectations of my early years in post when every week brought a new initiative and every initiative brought hopes of fundamental change.

The cake was bigger, sweeter and we were all being offered a share. Multi-million pound community-led regeneration initiatives, additional money for ‘hard-working families’, the aspiration to end child poverty… those were the days. And they’re long gone. The well has run dry.

The initiatives that were going to change the world are fighting to retain their dignity in the face of hostile press and indifferent evaluations.

As global forces pull the UK economy into a black hole, we can no longer pretend our government is in full control of our destiny.

Tony Blair was prematurely proud to point to an economy ‘at ease with globalisation’. As was Gordon Brown for promising ‘no more boom or bust’.

For safety’s sake, I might just stick to the words I saw on a poster en route to the supermarket last weekend: ‘Is this it?’

What our current difficulties teach us is that life isn’t a fairytale in which the chosen one is destined to find something that magically makes the world a better place.

The quest for safer, stronger and more sustainable communities is an expression of our humanity. Each and every one of us can change the world in some ways.

If the past decade has taught me anything it’s that rarely, if ever, is there one right answer. There are lots of potential part-answers, each with their own combination of costs and benefits – better than the alternatives in some ways, worse in others.

Even ‘failed’ initiatives have probably succeeded for someone. Or, as my singing teacher would say, every bum note is a harmony somewhere.

So I leave with great hopes for the future because whether the economy, or we as individuals are rich, poor or somewhere in between, striving to succeed is all we have. And, yes, this is it.

Susan Downer, assistant editor, New Start Online magazine


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