Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Blair: Why Care?

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?

5 comments:

  1. Your Labour political history is utterly flawed, as usual, do you just make it up?, you realy shouldn't pretend to talk with any authority. You will find that Labour's poll rating leads over the Tories doubled when Blair was elected leader. And you honestly believe the grey years of Major and his cone hot-lines are of greater significance than Sure Start, National Minimum Wage, NHS spending up to European health spending levels, Double the funding for each pupil the school. You need to take your anti-Blair blinkers off and read you history not make it up.

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  2. Oh well, I suppose that there does have to be one Blairite still alive somewhere.

    You are surely not seriously suggesting that Labour could have lost any of the last three Elections? I say again that Blair only infleunced the outcome of the last one: for the worse, losing us a hundred seats. Mercifully, these were in the electorally expendable area of the South East: if Elections were won and lost there, then there would now be a Tory Government with a large majority.

    Your account of the Major years has been taken from half-remembered Spitting Image instead of from a sober appraisal of the facts. Major did a great deal - mostly bad, but he did it.

    By contrast, all you can produce in defence of Blair are Sure Start (overrated by the Left: it's mostly state-funded childcare for the middle classes, a sort of National Nannying Service), the National Minimum Wage (which the inevitable Labour Government of 1997 would have done under any Prime Minister, and at a much more seriosu rate), increased spending on an NHS the problem with which was not money in the first place, and "Double the funding for each pupil the school" (something certainly does need top be done about educations, doesn't it?).

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  3. I’m not saying that John Smith would not have won the election in 1997, but the figures show that it was by no means certain. Your theories that the victories had nothing to do with Blair are utter nonsense and completely without evidence. You forget that at the beginning of the early 90s, Labour was at times 15-20 plus ahead of the Tories under Kinnock, and went on to loose the 1992 election to Major. John Smith established a small lead at first and went onto build an opinion poll lead of between 15-20 points before his sad death. On Tony Blair’s election to the position of Leader, the margin shot up almost immediately to between 25-35 percentage leads over the Conservatives. Labour smashed through the 50% vote intention mark and hit a high of over 60% in early 95. Unprecedented.

    This gave the Party a comfortable lead that saw it through to the General Election of 1997. To suggest this was nothing to do with Blair is frankly bizarre and out of step with all the leading political analysis.

    One can only surmise that you have never fought an election in a key marginal parliamentary constituency as you display a total lack of understanding of the views of the voters. You cite the 2005 election as some sort of disaster; it was an unprecedented achievement for The Labour Party and at a majority of 60 was still a remarkable victory. Many governments in the past would be coc-a-hoop at a 60 majority.

    Your analysis of Sure Start is beyond parody; Sure Start is targeted only in wards with high deprivation and hence is not a baby-sitting service for the Middle Classes, as you insultingly contend. Sure Start workers work with some of the hardest to reach families. You obviously have no interest in such a scheme.

    I think you really should give up on politics as it seems you don’t have the motivation to go and do your research properly.

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  4. I'm also staggered by your suggestion that money was not the problem for the NHS! We spent well below the average of any developed nation on our healthcare system, had massive waiting lists, hospitals built before the turn of the century and a criminal lack of investment in equiptment...and you claim money was not the problem. weird.

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  5. And most people who actually used the NHS could not praise it too highly, exactly as now. They just assumed their own experience to be untypical, exactly as now.

    There are middle-class people, as conventionally defined (a definition which I dispute elsewhere on this blog), in wards with high deprivation. Most mothers who return to work so early in their children's lives could be so classified, whereas working-class culture is different (and superior) where these matters are concerned. For the good of very small children, their mothers should be paid to stay at home with them.

    No, I "have never fought an election in a key marginal parliamentary constituency". Nor have you, if you are who I think you are. Or if you are almost anyone else, for that matter.

    "Many governments in the past would be coc-a-hoop at a 60 majority", you rightly say. But they wouldn't have gone into the Election with a majority of double that.

    It is true that "Labour smashed through the 50% vote intention mark and hit a high of over 60% in early 95", and that this was "Unprecedented". But, as with Kinnock's previous enormous leads, it did not translate itself into votes at a General Election: when that came, Labour managed only the victor's bog-standard low forties, and polled fewer actual votes than the Tories had done in 1992.

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