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September 04, 2010


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Max Atkinson

It will be interesting to see whether your daring question attracts as much hostility as I got after posting a piece on my blog daring to suggest that Miliband the Younger might be planning a return to Old Labour http://su.pr/2ncEcE

Normally, my blog is firmly 'non-aligned' and concentrates on issues to do with public speaking and communication. And, given that (a) I haven't voted Labour since 1979 and (b) can live without providing target practice for people who seem to think that Blair was the worst thing that ever happened to the Labour Party, I won't be making many more excursions into the territory you're venturing into here, even though I think you're dead right in raising such questions.


It is interesting that first the Labour Party left caricatured TB as Bambi, a pretty face with no ideas of his own, only those he heard from focus groups, and then as a Poodle of the US, an older face with no ideas of his own, only those he heard from George W. Bush. All along, it seems to me, he has been his own person, with an ability to think for himself, and with his own ideas, and, in particular, with a very clear idea of the sort of economy and society he would like Britain to be: with large companies neither being state-owned, nor being free to do what they like regardless of any consequences. Something the British left never seem to have grasped is that this position - in between Marx and Thatcher (or Hayek) - is where the vast majority of Britons were and still are.

The party to which he is closest ideologically is the Australian Labor Party, and now he even has the right religion to be a leading ALP member. Those pre-school years living in Adelaide must have had an effect!

Ben R

Isn't this all a bit simplistic? It's certainly true that the Labour Party could not have won without a moderate leader able to appeal to swing voters in marginal constitutencies but did that person have to be Blair? What elixir did he have and why did it abandon him so quickly given the 2005 election which even Mandelson described as feeling like a defeat? Brown was a poor leader but much of the revulsion towards him was also - partly at least - an inchoate fury at New Labour. Not necessarily because it wasn't radical enough, as SOME on the left might claim, but because of the vapid, cliche-ridden, non-delivering nature of it, by its fundamental lack of concern over inequality, as well - of course - by Iraq.

Oh and while it might be true that most of the British stand "between Marx and Thatcher" that is a wide enough chasm to include most of the non-Blairite left as well. While simply dismissing Blair might be dangerous so is a lazy categorisation of "the left" as a mass comprised of hysterical self-deluders who simply long for the halcyon days of the 1983 manifesto.

Ben R

I realise by the way that my rhetorical question "did that person have to be Blair" might sound a little strange. I guess what I mean is that did moderation and an ability to connect with swing voters in 1997 necessarily have take the form it did under Blair? His most recent pronouncements especially show him to be so profoundly right wing that he even opposed a temporary rise in income tax on high earners in the middle of an economic crisis - even Mandelson supported that one - and regretting only measures such as restricting bloodsports and freedom of information (the "social" bonuses progressives were supposed to accept as part of the deal for embracing light regulation and a fiscal policy that entrenched and sometimes worsened inequality). It is a mistake to think that disillusion with this model (as well as disaste for his foreign policy) was something only restricted to what some in New Labour liked to condescendingly and hypocritically refer to as "the chattering classes".

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