Blair’s Legacy is Toxic

The revelations about rendition and complicity in human rights abuses confirms that the Blair legacy is toxic. Turning a blind eye to American moves in the War Against Terror is not confined to any one government., but the sense that the Blair Regime was not behaving as a Labour government should was clear at the time. Astonishingly, the Blair tendency still shows no sign that it should apologise, and fuels the opposition within the Labour Party which still misleadingly polarises into Blair and anti-Blair factions.

Blair won a massive majority in 1997 creating an opportunity for progressive politics which was largely thrown away in the first two terms. Brown also shares much responsibility for a New Labour Project which having overcome loss of voter support in four  elections to 1997 regained it then lost it again. Arrogance and cynicism were at the core of the Blair triangulation project allowing the hard left to still attack opponents for being “Blairite”. In reality the soft left was never Blairite, but suffered from supporting Blair in the 1990s, which the Hard Left never did. The Hard Left were not compromised by what happened after 1997, nor the palpable loss of electoral support which the Blairites still fail to accept.

Blairites assumed, and still assume, that they have a superior grasp of political strategy securing a winning postion. The evidence shows that in the first Blair government the party membership began to drop as members were alienated, so by 2001 the victory was gained by repeating 1997 without having the same levels of street activity. This reinforced the belief of the Projectiles that the Project did not need ground troops and they made no attempt to deal with the problems their own control freakery had created. The next government 2001- 2005 increased voter alienation and despite securing a working majority in parliament the regime failed to notice that it was increasingly unpopular.

It is possible to lose support and still win enough seat, and Blair did so in 2005 getting a working majority on only 37% of the vote – Corbyn got fewer seats in 2017 with over 40% of the votes. But the writing was on the electoral wall with over 50 marginal seats after 2005. Had Blair not resigned for Brown to take over this would have come to haunt him. Brown’s failures in office and the defeat in 2010, with barely 29% of the vote, destroyed his reputation, but the failure in 2010 was not just Brown’s but Blairism and its core policies of triangulation.

In the 2010 leadership election the soft left voted for Ed Miliband to keep out his Blairite  brother David. Miliband proclaimed that the New Labour era was over, but he remained commited to the Project. Of all his mistakes appointing Douglas Alexander as campaign chief was the most damaging. Alexander forfeited the 2015 election and his own Scottish seat in a wipe out of Labour north of the border which left the Party with only one MP. Recognising that the Blair Project was dead in the water should have followed but dogmatism rules. 

In the 2015 leadership contest, with the soft Left Andy Burnham leading, Blairites chose to nominate Jeremy Corbyn to let him onto the ballot paper. There was no chance Corbyn could get on the ballot paper with his own level of support. So non Corbynista MPs signed his nomination forms believing that hard left votes might be drawn from Burnham to allow one of their two candidates to come through and win. Instead the soft left membership voted overwelmingly for Corbyn and a decisive end to the New Labour era. This was entirely due to the Blairite stupidity of nominating Cornbyn. If they do not like the result, they know who to blame.

However they still take no responsibility for what has happened in the last twenty years, and continue to run a tight factional machine producing the Progress-Labour First slate for the NEC. They show no sign of  regret for their many mistakes or even willingness to accept they made them. This means that a vote for any of that crew is a mistake which could only lead to a return of the bad old days post 1997. Whoever I decide to vote for in the NEC elections, it will not be any on that slate.

The historical facts of New Labour failure have been obvious for many years, but still don’t impact in the world of Progress and Labour First, making it easy for the hard left to target anyone not of their persuasion as ‘Blairite’. Unless  there is a soft left revival, a polarised party will continue to favour the hard left bandwagon. The soft left given the choice prefers Corbynism to Blairism.

How long will it take for Blairites to realise their game is up? Phyicist Max Planck once noted that in science, “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”. Its even more difficult in politics for practitioners to see the light. Perhaps we have to wait for the grim reaper to do his work. Certainly the Blairites are showing no sign of accepting that the accomodation with Thatcherism which won them their elections was the Midas touch,.

Trevor Fisher

August 2018. First published by Labour List.

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