Sgo Tony Blair is an amazing case study of how elite opinion and popular common sense collide. In the media and political circles, Blair is a respected statesman: when he speaks, whether he agrees or not, you listen. His passionate detractors are essentially treated as maniacs suffering from an acute case of Blair’s disorder syndrome: an unholy alliance of rightists enraged by three consecutive defeats by the conservatives and the leftists still bitterly resentful of their exile during the New Labor era.
Yet among the electorate, sympathy for Blair belongs on the sidelines. According to a new YouGov survey, only 14% approve of his knighthood, fewer than those who believe the moon landings were faked, and only 3% strongly, while 63% disapprove, 41% strongly. A decisive 56% of Labor voters disapprove, two and a half times more than they approve. Meanwhile, almost a million persons They have signed a petition demanding the termination of the knighthood.
How Blair went from being a prime minister to a 93% approval rate in 1997 to one of Britain’s most hated public figures, even among his own political tribe, offers invaluable lessons for the future of Labor. There has been no shortage of attempts to rehabilitate him. His frequent public remarks are accompanied by eco-friendly interviews, and Keir Starmer is surrounded by aides (including close associates of Peter Mandelson) who see regaining Blair’s reputation as a political and moral imperative.
The most obvious lesson is, of course, not to launch a bloody war of aggression alongside a far-right US administration. Former Blair Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said this week that he was asked to burn a memorandum from the attorney general questioning the legality of the Iraq war; For many of us, the conclusion of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that it was illegal was enough. The mere mention of the Iraq war often triggers a cascade of eyes, of such boring responses of “Go ahead!” and “We keep talking about it, right?” Those sentiments, unfortunately, are firmly rooted in the long and vulgar tradition of Western contempt for the brown and black victims of its foreign horrors: if hundreds of thousands of white Westerners had been slaughtered so recently, their lives would not be so eagerly rejected. .
As protesters bravely fight the Kazakh dictatorship, Blair’s subsequent resume deserves more than a cursory glance. Nursultan Nazarbayev is one of many despots from whom Blair’s foundations have taken millions: Most horribly, our former prime minister offered his regime public relations advice after he massacred 15 civilian protesters. Now, most of the public is unaware of the finer details of Blair’s association with various tyrannies, including receiving millions from the Saudi regime, which it protected from a corruption investigation when it was at number 10. What has crossed is a feeling that Blair kneels before wealth and power while lacking an apparent moral compass.
But it is a mistake to conclude that Blair’s toxicity depends entirely on external horrors. Margaret Thatcher is adored by her own tribe because she transformed Britain in accordance with her most radically stifled and repressed desires. Conservatives before her, she declared, “had simply set camp on the long march to the left” by accepting the postwar consensus on public property, the welfare state, and public spending. Those he loved to confront, from the unions to the municipal left, were the ghosts of his base, rather than his own kind. Blair imitated the conservative predecessors Thatcher scolded: “I always thought my job was to build on some of the things she had done rather than reverse them,” he said. about Thatcher’s death – and delighted to confront elements of the Labor coalition itself. When he attacked the “forces of conservatism”, he included the trade unions. While Thatcher’s zeal for privatization was at its core, Blair’s own passionate advocacy to expand the role of the private sector in public services, particularly in the NHS, Labor’s most treasured institution, did otherwise.
The decline in Blair’s reputation also cannot be understood without examining his record on immigration. Under New Labor, immigration increased dramatically, but without the government making a political argument in its favor. Meanwhile, a growing housing crisis, caused by a lack of construction, and a restriction in living standards that preceded the financial crisis of 2007-8: the incomes of the lower half stabilized after 2004, while for the lower third really fell – created abundant fodder for those seeking to scapegoat migrants. Without the Labor Party offering a counter solution to these problems, or even viable solutions, anti-migrant sentiment overwhelmed British politics and culminated in Brexit. This problem also poisoned New Labor and Blair with it.
And here’s the tragedy: Labor made have proud achievements in this period: from minimum wage to tax credits, from gay rights to public investment (albeit undermined by progressive privatization), from lifting millions of children and retirees out of poverty to reducing lack of housing. However, this record was lethally undermined in three ways. First, Blair sought not to emphasize these triumphs, but to glorify, say, public sector reform (code for commodification), which he alienated his own side. Second, these transformative policies were built on an unsustainable financial bubble that inevitably burst. Third, Blair not only failed to defend his own government from the post-collapse hoax by the Conservatives that Labor’s overspending caused economic calamity, he also promoted it, punishing his party for failing to cut the economy. deficit after 2005 and warning against general opposition to logging from George Osborne. burn and burn economy. That allowed for the lie that the government headed by Blair itself was an unsustainable waste.
Thatcher forged a new political consensus that forced her opponents to accept; hence his proclamation that New Labor was his greatest achievement. Blairism did no such thing. His greatest achievement, public investment, was not only swept away after the defeat, it was positively demonized. Its other pillar, an inconsistent social liberalism, which included gay rights but was undermined by often caricatured and authoritarian home secretaries, has completely collapsed.
So what lessons for Labor today? That relentlessly confronting the interests and values of your own tribe is politically avoidable and ultimately counterproductive. That relegating progressive values is not the strategic genius it might sound like. And that failure to address growing social and economic insecurities will unleash political forces that will consume you.
Blair’s own arrogant belief in his own political genius blinded him to these truths. It is too late for him: it is not too late for Labor.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism