It really is high time that everyone got over Tony Blair. When he took over as Labour Leader, he inherited an opinion poll rating which had not varied since September 1992, when only the most hardened political obsessive had ever heard of him.
That rating simply translated itself into the 1997 General Election result, exactly as it would have done anyway, even if Blair had never been born. Swings as large as any in 1997 were recorded in the preceding European Elections, when the Labour Party was led by Margaret Beckett. So there is not, nor has there ever been, a single MP who owed his or her seat to Tony Blair. On the contrary, 2005 was the first time that Blair ever influenced a General Election result. Specifically, he single-handedly lost Labour one hundred seats.
As for “the dominance of New Labour ideas”, what “New Labour ideas”? There were only ever two. First, that Blair should be Prime Minister. And secondly, that the trappings of office should therefore be enjoyed by his jaw-droppingly undistinguished courtiers: Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, Michael Levy, Carole Caplin, Stephen Byers, Alan Milburn.
Future historians will mention this nonentity only in passing. They will have to, in order to explain the gap between the shorter, but much more significant, premierships of John Major and Gordon Brown. For good or ill, Major did things, such as privatising the railways, and tentatively beginning British support for American neoconservative foreign policy (whatever his allies still in the Commons might say now). And, for good or ill, Brown will do things, probably in much the same sorry vein. The mere desire to be Prime Minister cannot account for Brown’s sense of grievance: he wants not just to be, but to do.
By contrast, what has Blair actually been for?