TONY Blair left a considerable legacy in Northern Ireland — the 1998 Agreement, the restoration of devolved government and bringing Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness together.
But the architect of New Labour may, five years after he resigned as prime minister, have inadvertently given birth to something new in the Province.
It is increasingly clear that new Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt is, at least in part, modelling himself on Mr Blair.
In articles and interviews with the News Letter, in the conference hall on Saturday and again yesterday in a BBC interview, the former journalist and PR man referenced the former Labour leader’s tactics for getting Labour back into power.
Mr Nesbitt has used Mr Blair’s template to justify his lack of policy (“Did Tony Blair revive Labour’s fortunes with policies? No.”) and give weight to his focus on the party’s internal organisation (“it [Blair’s strategy] was all to do with internal structures”).
The former PR man has also clearly got a love for soundbites — one (“better policies better communicated”) was so deeply ingrained that he decided to use it twice in a 10-minute Hearts and Minds interview and numerous times elsewhere.
Mr Nesbitt’s vagueness on policy — leading to a whole series of proposals for either referendums, commissions or “going to the people” — rather than leading opinion himself is also reminiscent of Mr Blair’s reliance on focus groups and polling for his policies.
Yet just 18 months ago Mr Nesbitt did not exhibit such admiration for Mr Blair when he questioned Basil McCrea’s ‘pledges’ for leadership, suggesting that the word “pledge” had been “so tainted by Tony Blair”.
Certainly, few unionists in Northern Ireland — whether left or right of centre — feel much warmth towards Mr Blair given how he helped prop up and then abandoned David Trimble while the IRA retained its guns, despite many no doubt feeling admiration for his ability to turn around a moribund party.
Despite his broad-brush aspirational pitch and attempt to model himself on the former Labour leader, Mr Nesbitt, 54, is markedly older than Mr Blair, who was in his late 30s when he became leader of the Opposition.
Despite that, he is the only post-Troubles political leader in the Province and, in an age when more and more people have moved on from or don’t remember the Troubles, that may be to his advantage.
However, despite the fact that as a Cambridge graduate who worked at the top of broadcasting in a period where politics was more integral to news than today, there are those who question Mr Nesbitt’s political abilities.
One UUP veteran said privately that in his opinion Mr Nesbitt “didn’t have a clue” about frontline politics, something that individual said was behind his frequently changing positions in campaign interviews.
That may seem churlish after such a vast victory over a credible opponent. But despite such a comprehensive result, Mr Nesbitt’s campaign was fairly insipid.
Even the big idea which he introduced during the campaign — to have a referendum on changes to the Belfast Agreement — was so hard to understand that he himself seemed unclear on how it would work or even how he would want people to vote if the poll was held.
In a two-week campaign that obviously did not harm his vote.
But, as Tom Elliott found, what the UUP membership want is not necessarily what the public want.
Just two years into politics, Mr Nesbitt will have to learn quickly on the job if he is to gain and retain the confidence of some sceptical colleagues and then the public.
Like Tony Blair, Mike Nesbitt has on his side the limited expectations which come with leading a party so long in decline.