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?


  1. 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?).

  2. 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.