Tony Blair speaking in Trimdon Labour club in Sedgefield as an election campaign nears … brings back a few memories. His constituency was always an important part of his politics, not just the place that selected him to be candidate, but also the place where he found the support and the confidence needed to push at the outer edges of modernisation.
Before TB became leader, Labour had never won two successive full terms. Today, there is the distinct possibility of a fourth, and a lot of that is down to the basic ‘New Labour New Britain’ approach under his leadership. .
Former leaders rarely fit easily into the political landscape. Ex-Tory leaders have tended to cause trouble for their successors, though David Cameron has fared better on that front.
One after another, Labour leaders on the other hand have shown pretty much constant support for those who follow them, a point brought into sharp relief at Michael Foot’s funeral recently. Michael’s politics was in many ways different to TB’s, but I never heard him say a harsh word about TB, GB, Neil Kinnock or John Smith. It is no secret that TB and GB at times said harsh words not just about each other but to each other, amid what was otherwise in many ways an extraordinarily productive political relationship.
But TB knows enough about leadership to know that when it came to the economic crisis, GB provided it, and that his decisions helped prevent a crisis from become a disaster.
He knows enough about leadership and the importance of strategy in politics to know that David Cameron has been lacking in both.
The Tories like to say they have done what we did in ‘modernising’ their party. But they have done no such thing. They lack any sort of strategic clarity. On Europe, they have gone rightwards. On crime, they have gone leftwards. On the economy, as George Osborne’s national insurance cut showed yesterday, they move all over the place according to what they detect to be the prevailing wind.
At least people have a fair idea what the Labour Party stands for. Nobody has a clue what today’s Tories stand for, least of all themselves.
At a Labour fundraiser in Yorkshire last night, I asked the audience what a Tory pledge card would look like. It raised a laugh, unintentionally, which I would suggest is bad news for the Tories.
In Opposition, we worked hard to ensure the key questions about us were more or less answered by the time we got to polling day. It is an extraordinary indictment of Cameron’s leadership that as the campaign starts, the question marks are growing bigger, and the answers becoming less clear.
Ps – another day, another Tory poster, this time with a picture of GB and an ironic slogan. Sometimes irony doesn’t fly though. Hence the driver who picked me up yesterday saying ‘I see you’ve got a new poster up. Gordon’s looking good.’
*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.
I have just read Chapter 9 of the Rawnsley book on New Labour. That’s the one that explains how A.C and Blair took the country to war, costing hundreds of thousands of lives, based on embellishments and falsehoods.
Although Rawnsley adds the caveat that Campbell went along with some of it “through gritted teeth”. So that is all right, then.
David Cameron understands leadership and the concept of integrity enough to know that Blair is the one example he should never follow.
Even remotely balanced comment escapes you as ever. Has Major or Thatcher ever been unsupportive of Cameron? And have not Brown and Blair fought like ferrets in a sack for 10 years?
As for TB’s reappearance on the domestic political scene – the Tories must be rubbing their hands in glee.
more a reminder of Brown’s strategic failure..Gordon spent ten years trying to undermine him. Now he thinks it will help his election chances, just shows how out of touch Gordon is regarding the public mood on Blair..
Tony Blair is the best Prime Minister I have ever known and it is only in Britain, with a media like the one we have, that there could be so much negativity about someone who did so much to change our country for the better. Labour supporters too are too fond of accepting all the criticisms instead of setting out the scale of change for the better
The Evening Standard suggested the new posters are spoof proof … but actually I think they lend themselves to people being reminded of the positive things Labour has done.
I watched Dave on the news on his soapbox talking to workers in a Morrisons supermarket (I think). There didn’t seem to be any warmth to him from his audience when the cameras switched to them.
As for what the tories stand for you only have to look at the comments in the torygraph when in his article, Hefferlump called for BATman to take over from George!
The problem I feel the Conservatives have is that they believe their own image of Tony Blair rather than ever looking at the real thing.
David Cameron is described as the heir to Blair and someone who has modelled his image and leadership style on that of Tony Blair’s.
The Conservative party are such a cynical crowd and always believe that Tony Blair was a cynical person who had done a great PR job. That is what Cameron believes about Blair and so Cameron believes cynicism with good PR is what is required to win elections and govern.
The reality about Tony Blair is that he is a very genuine individual. There are many things I disagree with about Tony Blair as there are with Gordon Brown, but they are both genuine.
Personally I don’t think the public will buy “fake” for this general election. If they do they will very soon be let down by it.
Angela Merkel’s snubbing of David Cameron as reported in the Independent is very significant I feel. Nobody should be surprised we know of course she did not want the Conservative party to form their ECR group in the European Parliament. I think Angela Merkel arranged her visit just so she could snub Cameron.
In the election Cameron and Hague have talked about how they aren’t planning a bust up with Europe while they are “sorting out the UK”. Maybe Angela Merkel has decided that she is not going to let them set the timing of this bust up. Maybe Angela would like the bust up when it is convenient for her and not for them.
Unsolicited piece of advice no.342:
LAbour has communicated the cuts/deficit argument well so far. But you haven’t effectively explained why we have the deficit, viz, that it has kept us from going broke. You still have time to make people see the deficit as their friend, and not their enemy.
Then you can avoid the attack that GB is a dud on economic policy. Stress that on the two biggest economic calls of the last decade, the Euro and the banks, he has got it right.
I like the analogy that George is a ‘weathervane politician’; he blows with the wind.
The self-indulgent hard left hated him because he made Labour electable. The right hate him because they have no answer to him. But everyone listens to him.
Oh dear – I do miss him. As I watched him address the EU this week (as quartet representative), I (and my husband) did think what a loss. A loss to British politics and a loss to the EU. I wholeheartedly agree with you that his involvement in the campaign may well infuence those who voted for the party in previous es it is right that he does not in anyway criticise the current leader. I can though. I am one of those who will never forgive GB for being complicit in the ousting of Tony Blair. P
AC It must be a relief writing for the old Trouper again. He dlivers you words so much better than the clunking Brown.
I do not think we need take any lectures from the Conservatives about loyalty from former leaders.
Harold Macmillan was very critical of later Tory governments selling off the family silver. Rightly so.
Dear Edwina stuck the knife good and deep into John Major in her post-electoral defeat memoirs. There really was no need to do that other than to be indescribably spectacularly vilely spiteful.
No – no lectures required, thank you.
TB highlights just how shallow Cameron is. The public know quality when they see it and having TB back will I believe go some way to re-connecting with those voters for whom GB’s style is a little too harsh.
On another note: Has Sky News recently made an editorial decision to trash Labour? Their top story on Blair bordered more on the Fox News ‘commentary style’ of Sean Hannity than of a credible news channel. Murdoch doesn’t like to lose. If he calls this election wrong it won’t just be Cameron who’s authority will have been eroded by a Labour victory.
Blairs ‘problem’ was he isn’t a member of any ideology, he would have made a great PM of any party. He happened to hijack the Labour party, changed it into something else, through his wit, inteligence and perserverence and sheer presence.
Luckily for Labopur the same cannot be said for Cameron and trhe Tories. He is not credible and although a good performer seems to be carrying out the who charade as some bet that he could become Prime Minister with his Bollenger club Mates.
Brown is a committed ideologial politican not a pr expert, and not an accomplished speaker, but if Labour had learned anythign over tjh elast thorteen years, they should know about loyalty, and what back stabbing does.
Blair won’t win th eElection for Labour, the voters will, Browns record and resillience during the recent problems will make him electorble.
Those career Blairist politicians who claim to be Blairites are nothing, Blair was a Genius those greasing up his pole are not and have nothing to support their own political ambition other than being loyal to Blair. Wilson got Blairs seat at Trimdon, he could hard;y be called political or intellectual, but he served his master well and got the job as a reward. There were many more able candidates at his selection, but the Blair machine won through.
Blair’s intervention will benefit Labour, but not by getting anyone to vote Labour. He will just remind everyone on the right how much we don’t need an heir to Blair and thus drive Conservative votes to fringe parties
I have just read TB’s speech as I have missed all TV coverage today.
It was a cold clear analysis of the Conservative Party’s failure to present a coherent policy. Or, conversely, their success in producing ambiguous policy.
Well done TB!