He’s not the heir to Blair, he’s a very naughty boy

I had a horrible realisation the other day. I miss Tony Blair. I am actually quite surprised to discover it about myself, because one of my pet hates is usually those actors with so-called ‘charm,’ who believe that those little junior salesboy tricks, like calling you by your name when they talk to you, raising their eyebrows to look serious at the appropriate juncture in conversation, and mimicking your body language, are satisfactory substitutes for genuine empathy, or an emotional range. But when I saw Blair speaking at Leveson – owning the conversation, commanding respect, making everybody in the room smile and trust him even though he is clearly about as trustworthy as a hungry rat – I thought about our current Prime Minister, and, against my will, I longed for a leader with that kind of statesmanship.

David Cameron likes to frame his endless u-turns in terms of the Coalition being “a listening government” but the truth is, he isn’t listening on any of the things people are actually bothered about, like the Health and Social Care Bill. He’s just weak. He doesn’t trust his own policies, and he’s frightened of his own party. There’s a happy balance: Tony Blair could have probably done with a few more u-turns (on one issue in particular). But there’s something awfully dispiriting and worrying about a government that quite clearly doesn’t speak to the experts, or do their research before launching a policy. The u-turns on the charity tax or the caravan tax or selling the forests may have been welcome, but surely there was some reason they believed these were going to be good ideas in the first place? Surely they consulted experts and did some sort of cost-benefit analysis? Surely they know more than we do? Because, frankly, if the government knows less than I do about things, then we are all well and truly headed for the dustbin lining.

Yet Cameron is apparently the heir to Blair. Everyone keeps saying it, don’t they? Well, no, actually;  if you remember, David Cameron himself says it. No-one else really does – except people who utterly despise Blair so much that all they really mean by such a comparison is “I despise Cameron as much as I despise Blair.” Does anyone else believe Cameron is heir to Blair? The sentence would never even be uttered if it didn’t rhyme. We might as well say he’s going to drown like Brown. Or he’s a disaster like Thatcher. A villain like Macmillan. I rhyme therefore I am.

There are similarities, of course. They both like the public relations bit of the job. Cameron, ever the PR man, hears a soundbite – for example, ‘Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ – and think it works because it rhymes, like a toothpaste advert or a pop song. He, along with many of Blair’s critics from across the political spectrum, miss the fact that the soundbite works because it rhymes and it also means something which genuinely resonates with people. We want crime to be nailed – that’s why Labour introduced ASBOs (which I hate, but that’s irrelevant), promised to protect police spending, locked (far too many) people up, and tightened up firearm laws; they were, basically, tough on crime. But people also need to know that their government understands that there is a socio-economic context to crime, and that recognising this doesn’t mean you’re making excuses, it’s just that it’s stupid to pretend there is no link between poverty or unemployment, and crime. So they also reformed and improved public services, built schools, built hospitals, introduced a minimum wage and an EMA, set up Sure Start centres and flexible working, created a Future Jobs Fund and tried to make welfare payments match up to the ever-increasing costs of basic living, properly implemented the Macphearson report and brought in new equalities legislation. This is not about praising or criticising all, some, or any of these policies; the point is that ‘Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ wasn’t just a rhyming slogan, it was a rhyming slogan which had a substantive policy basis that people understood and liked, and what’s more, crime fell under Labour as as result of those policies. The difference between ‘The Big Society’, which means nothing and has achieved nothing, and the Blair soundbites is like the difference between a simple rhyming Cheryl Cole lyric and a simple rhyming Beatles lyric.

Much is made of Tony Blair’s constant praise for David Cameron. But it’s hardly in the same league as the enthusiastic praise Blair is capable of showering on the likes of Princess Diana or even George Bush, is it? Blair’s statesmanlike pleasantries about Cameron sound more like a grown up boy generously telling his copycat little brother that his new haircut looks cool than a statesman declaring another statesman to be his heir and equal.

The fact is, Blair doesn’t need to point out that rivals aren’t on his level in terms of political intelligence or power, because they are no threat to him; he is secure enough to just damn them with faint praise.

A key test of leadership is management of your enemies, surely. Blair’s most serious political enemy was Gordon Brown. Blair made him Chancellor, tied Brown’s record and achievements to his own, and kept him dangling in the increasingly undignified position of desperately wanting the premiership, until it was politically appropriate for him to step down and let Brown take responsibility for the unraveling economy – and then he took credit for Brown’s achievements in his autobiography. This is not a moral argument, needless to say. But the comparison between Blair and Cameron doesn’t lie in their moral fibres, it revolves around their talents as leaders and politicians. David Cameron has no Gordon Brown in his cabinet. David Davis, his original leadership rival, sits on the back benches, free to insult Cameron for being posh and out of touch.

Where Blair flatters and then dismisses his enemies, Cameron ignores his, then insults them, making relations worse. Clare Short wanted to resign over Iraq; Blair made her look self-serving, untrustworthy and politically cynical – just think of that for a minute; Blair made her look self-serving, untrustworthy, and politically cynical, in comparison to himself – by managing the resignation so that she was going to resign, then she wasn’t, then she did. When Brian Sedgemore criticised the Iraq war and called Blair a liar, Blair didn’t even bother to answer the criticisms properly. He simply said, “Frankly, I don’t know how Brian Sedgemoore would know, because I don’t recall ever discussing it with him. In fact I don’t recall ever having any conversation about anything with Brian Sedgemore.” What a wonderfully horrid way to dismiss someone when they are making a valid moral argument. Ouch.

David Cameron, far from managing the resignations of Jeremy Hunt, Liam Fox, Andy Coulson and even Chris Huhne to his own advantage, appears terrified of his own staff and lets them hang on in their jobs until the last possible moment, stinking up his own reputation by association. Imagine if David Cameron really was the heir to Blair. Imagine if he turned around and said, “Well, frankly, I don’t know how Douglas Carswell or Tim Montgomerie or John Redwood or Nadine Dorries or Priti Patel or Simon Heffer would know about my motivation and achievements, because, frankly, I don’t recall ever bothering to talk to them about anything.” It would sound ridiculous. You wouldn’t believe him. He’d sound bitter and silly. He would sound that way because he’s not convincing when he says things. He doesn’t speak with authority. He doesn’t have any particular aura of power that makes you automatically understand that being ignored by him would be some kind of an insult to your credibility. In other words, he’s just not Tony Blair.

There are other parallels people draw between the two men. David Cameron gets credit – well, sort of – for reforming his party and pulling it – sort of – to the centre, and making it – almost – electable. But even that slow, hiccuping ‘achievement’ should rightfully be attributed to Blair. Blair says that one of his greatest achievements is not changing the Labour party, but changing the opposition. And he’s right. So successful was Tony Blair in shifting the entire political centre that by the time David Cameron became party leader in 2005, the Tories knew they could never win a general election by talking about ‘Tory’ issues. They had to promise to protect the NHS and keep Labour’s excellent record on gay rights and carry on funding international development and commit to tackling social justice. And these aren’t issues the Tories can win on. Fighting on Labour territory was always going to be a struggle for the Tories, and in 2010, in spite of everything, struggle they did.

To put David Cameron’s 2010 election ‘win’ into perspective: Tony Blair embarked upon a war in the Middle East based on what can only be described as a complete mistruth, and even before it all went to hell in a hand grenade on the ground, the war in Iraq was supported by about 30% of the population, at best – yet he still won his third election in a row afterwards. Meanwhile, David Cameron, fresh-faced and energetic, with a public sick to death of Labour, dying to give him and his party a chance, could not secure a parliamentary majority against Gordon Brown who is basically the most unpopular person to run the country since King John. (This is hyperbole. I am sure Richard III was less popular than Gordon Brown. As were several of the Hanoverians. But that’s probably about all.) Can anyone really deny that Tony Blair is a monstrous political talent?

Well, yes. Owen Jones is the latest Labour commentator to argue that Labour’s three stomping election wins were more to do with the Tories being “unelectable” than Tony Blair being an “absolute beast at elections” (as a Labour friend of mine once put it). It’s understandable why Labour activists who are loyally, and admirably, committed to Labour values like Owen Jones want this to be true. There are a lot of people in the party who attribute Labour’s success not to Blair’s masterful political skill, but his (to put it mildly) right-of-centre positions on things like wealth hoarding and foreign policy. This is a mistake. People didn’t vote for Blair because they adored deregulation and thought the war on terror was a great idea and felt proud to be publically allied with a figure like George W Bush. Anyone who thinks a Labour leader without Blair’s political game would have got away with these kinds of policies is deluded in the extreme; Blair was so masterful he repeatedly beasted the Tories in election in spite of his right-wingery, not because of it. So yes, it must be infuriating, even heartbreaking, to be a committed Labour member, supporter or donor watching your party torn into bits by people who don’t care anything for its history, traditions, or purpose, but merely use it as a vehicle for their own selfish political ambitions. It must be tempting to panic and insist that Blair himself is an irrelevance; that it was simply the unpopularity of the Tories which led Labour to victory, and that, essentially, any reasonably decent Labour leader would have fared the same, because it was all down to the Tories being “unelectable.”

It’s true that the Tories were flippering about like seals for most of Blair’s premiership, with campaigns to ‘save the pound’ and be on your toes looking out for bogus asylum seekers, hiding under our sofas and inside our ice cream cartons or wherever they were all supposed to be. But an interesting question is, why were the Tories so unelectable? Why were they so obsessed with these teeny-tiny core-vote-only issues? After all, Iain Duncan-Smith might have been a bit embarrassing, but Michael Howard was a seasoned politician, and William Hague is widely considered nowadays to be one of the frontbench’s most heavyweight politicians. And in 2005, the Tories won 31% of the vote. Even as early as 2001, before the noxious love-in with George W Bush began, polling had the Tories dancing around the 29-32% mark, which is roughly where Cameron’s Tories are polling right now. The Tories were polling 32% in January 2001, only four points behind their actual ‘winning’ result (36.1%) against a hated Labour government in 2010.

Couldn’t it be argued that the Tories were essentially unelectable because even though they were taken seriously on ‘Tory’ issues, the political ground itself had been totally re-defined by Tony Blair? Every election was being fought on Labour’s terms? It wasn’t just that Blair was good at answering questions, or pretending to answer questions; he owned the entire parameters of debate. Public service reform, social mobility, racial hatred, aspiration, crime, the causes of crime, education, access to democracy, access to information, playing a central, not a sulky, peripheral role, in Europe: he made everything, every argument, every discussion, every debate, about these things, and these are the issues Labour can win on. The Tories were left with asylum seekers and the pound because what else was there?

This isn’t a Blairite argument. The so-called Blairites are often not actually people who appreciate Blair’s talents at all, but just right-wingers who find it easier to make a career in the Labour party than elsewhere, writing columns slagging off Labour’s leader under a Labour byline, for example. People like Luke Bozier (who I genuinely respect and admire) and Dan Hodges seem to think that if Ed Miliband embraces cuts or demonises welfare claimants or shouts at the unions just a little bit more, he’ll win over all the middle voters. But that is a gross underestimation of what Blair actually did. You don’t inspire faith in your ability to lead by copying the opposition’s answer to each question. Leaders decide what the question is going to be in the first place. They pick the topics; they frame the debate. It’s not really a matter of left or right but of political skill because Tim Montgomerie makes the same criticism of David Cameron; that he won’t ‘out-left’ the left or ‘out-liberal’ the liberals, and if the argument is the NHS or social injustice, the Tories will lose that argument every time. To win, the Tories need the country to care about crime and immigration and the Queen. Similarly, it’s absolutely a valid criticism of these so-called Blairite cheerleaders that Ed Miliband will never ‘out-Tory’ the Tories, and if he allows the argument to be about who can be toughest on unions, for instance, he will lose that argument every time. This is not about praising Tony Blair for being right-wing, but about praising him for his ownership of political discussion. That is something Ed Miliband would be a fool not to drink in and learn from.

Just look at Blair’s performance at Leveson. He doesn’t bother with any of these apologetic “I can’t quite recall” explanations about why he’s not answering the question properly. He just makes his answers into mini speeches about how many schools and hospitals Labour built, until you can’t remember whether or not he actually did answer the question. You can’t even remember what the question was. And – this is another important point – he makes everyone smile while doing it.

That isn’t something the Labour party should pretend they don’t notice or pretend isn’t a big deal. Most politicians don’t make people smile. Most politicians don’t even make each other smile. Some of them probably don’t even make their own kids smile when they come in the front door. No matter how morally repugnant, how borderline sociopathic, how dishonest you may find Tony Blair on a personal level, no matter how much you want to cringe at his shameless acting, pretending that the ability to make people smile, in the middle of a situation like the Leveson inquiry, has nothing to do with how he hammered out three rock solid election victories is to fail to understand the very same electorate you are trying to win over right now.

Every time Blair compliments Cameron, or Cameron tells us he’s the heir to Blair, we – the largely undecided, unaffiliated electorate – can’t help but compare the two men. And Tony Blair, by nature of his strengths, even the strengths you hate him for, highlights the absolute worst weaknesses in Cameron’s leadership talents without even trying.

And what’s more, it is quite difficult to see how anyone can believe that the Tory cuts being made now will decimate society and explode inequality, without believing that the Blair-Brown government deserves a reasonable amount of praise, respect and gratitude for accomplishing these things in the first place. Ultimately, whatever you think of him, Blair has an overall objective. The word messianic is used all too often in conjunction with him; what is the opposite of messianic? Opportunistic? Shallow? Aimless? Devoid of aspiration? Whatever the word is, that’s Cameron.

By adopting the gloss without the substance, the words without the policies, the listening face without actually being in touch; by telling us he’s listening instead of just making us believe it, David Cameron has missed the whole essence of Blairism. It’s typical of Cameron and his government, of course, to treat the public with such patronising contempt. Of course he thinks we voted for Tony Blair because we liked his haircut. He thought we’d support his immigration policy because he spoke to a black man in Plymouth about it. He thinks we won’t see him as out of touch because he ate a Cornish pasty and likes Pink Floyd. The man clearly thinks we’re all morons. So it doesn’t surprise me that David Cameron doesn’t get why Blair was popular – because he was, there’s no way around it, he was respected and listened to and people voted for him and over and over and over. But it does surprise me that Owen Jones doesn’t understand it.

And, as someone who would like to vote Labour but usually doesn’t, it’s a worry. It’s probably painful and anger-making for them, but the left of the Labour party need to be able to separate Blair’s right-wingery from his political talent. Pretending and denying that he wasn’t a knockout electoral force makes the whole anti-Blairite wing of the Labour party look out of touch and delusional. And that is dangerous, for the Labour party and consequently for the rest of the country, because if the left of the Labour party fail to understand the electorate, and make themselves look out of touch, it means that the future of the country’s only serious, electable left-of-centre political party will be left in the hands of people who want it to be a right-wing party.

Admitting that Blair had political skill doesn’t mean you have to adopt Blair-style policies. It’s nothing to do with left or right-wing; most of the electorate don’t think of themselves in those terms. They don’t care if public spending is 30% or 60% of GDP as long as the economy is moving. They don’t care if hospitals are funded mainly by the state or by PPI as long as they are clean and safe and available at the point of need. And they don’t care if their leader is blue Labour or red Tory or Orange or Yellow. They want a leader, above all else, who seems as if they know what the bloody hell they are doing. Whether you like every bit of what they are doing? That comes next. But David Cameron’s inability to recognise the public’s attraction to competence and leadership, his belief that he can substitute those with gloss and spin, that’s his glaringly obvious Achilles’ heel. It would be a terribly ironic missed opportunity if the Labour party themselves made the same mistake whilst trying to beat him.

2001 – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/talking_politics/1162569.stm

2001 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_2001

2005 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_2005

2010 – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/election2010/results/

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3 Comments

  1. 1. “Hunger for that kind of statesmanship” — The kind of statesmanship which blew hundred of british lives and thousands of iraqi lives + billions of pounds in the Iraqi misadventure?

    2. “But there’s something awfully dispiriting and worrying about a government that quite clearly doesn’t speak to the experts, or do their research before launching a policy. The u-turns on the charity tax or the caravan tax or selling the forests may have been welcome, but surely there was some reason they believed these were going to be good ideas in the first place?” — How do you know that they did not consult the experts before implementing these policies? For me it seems they consulted the experts who did give the best answer e.g. the pasty tax but which was then demagogued by the Opposition. The answer the govt is taking from this is — don’t listen to experts, just demagogue the issue, precisely like your hero Bliar.

    3. “Because, frankly, if the government knows less than I do about things, then we are all well and truly headed for the dustbin lining. ” — Considering that you call yourself a libertarian you need to read Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit”. The govt knows very little, witness the failure of central planning.

    4. “he’s a disaster like Thatcher.” — Probably just for rhyming effect, but in what accent is one supposed to pronounce “disaster”? American?

    5. “So they also reformed and improved public services, built schools, built hospitals, introduced a minimum wage and an EMA, set up Sure Start centres and flexible working, created a Future Jobs Fund and tried to make welfare payments match up to the ever-increasing costs of basic living, properly implemented the Macphearson report and brought in new equalities legislation” — So many claims so few citations. You are claiming that each of these has led to a decrease in crime. Let us take the example of France. Rhey have even a more comprehensive social security net. Do they have a lower crime rate?

    Checking here the UK and France are very close to each other. Is the cost of the more comprehensive social safety net worth the benefit in terms of crime rate? The US has a far more comprehensive social safety net than India. Check the difference between the crime rate.

    6. “Much is made of Tony Blair’s constant praise for David Cameron. But it’s hardly in the same league as the enthusiastic praise Blair is capable of showering on the likes of Princess Diana or even George Bush, is it?” — Wow!! Do you really think Blair praised Diana because he thought she was genuinely praiseworthy or because he wanted to ride the tsunami of deification unleashed by her death? Do you think he praised George W. Bush because he thought Bush was a great statesman or because not doing so would weaken his case for the Iraqi misadventure?

    7. As for managing enemies the crucial thing you fail to realise is that Cameron is in a coalition. That necessarily ties his hands. He cannot bring his enemies into cabinet whenever he likes because he has to necessarily compromise with the Lib Dems. And comparing David Davis and Gordon Brown? Brown has been power hungry from the very beginning. He was ready to compromise his principles for the taste of power. Do you also claim that David Davis is a similar man devoid of principles who can be sated by a little bite at the apple of power?

    8. ““Frankly, I don’t know how Brian Sedgemoore would know, because I don’t recall ever discussing it with him. In fact I don’t recall ever having any conversation about anything with Brian Sedgemore.” What a wonderfully horrid way to dismiss someone when they are making a valid moral argument. Ouch.” — Yes. Wonderfully horrid ways of dismissing someone when they are making a valid moral argument is a mark of leadership and statesmanship.

    9. “Blair says that one of his greatest achievements is not changing the Labour party, but changing the opposition.” — Wasn’t New Labour a reaction to the Thatcherising of Britain?

    10. “They had to promise to protect the NHS and keep Labour’s excellent record on gay rights and carry on funding international development and commit to tackling social justice.” — Just like Blair had to make a U-turn on internal markets and fundholders? You really think the electorate gives two hoots about international aid?

    11. “Tony Blair embarked upon a war in the Middle East based on what can only be described as a complete mistruth, and even before it all went to hell in a hand grenade on the ground, the war in Iraq was supported by about 30% of the population, at best – yet he still won his third election in a row afterwards. ” — Interesting how you elide any discussion of how Blair lost 47 seats compared to 2001 and lost 5.5% of the vote. Interesting also that you forget to mention that Cameron in 2010 won a greater percentage of the popular vote than Blair in 2005. But yes Blair is a greater Statesman and Leader because he gamed the FPTP better.

    12. In 1997 Labour portion of popular vote — 43.2%, in 2001 40.7, in 2005, 35.2%

    13. “Can anyone really deny that Tony Blair is a monstrous political talent? ” — That does not make him a Statesman and Leader.

    14. “Blair was so masterful he repeatedly beasted the Tories in election in spite of his right-wingery, not because of it. ” What does this even mean? The Labour voters couldn’t go anywhere but Blair. And he appealed to the neo-liberal (economic Thatcherite) wing of the Tory electorate. He won because he succesfully protrayed himself as an (economic) right-winger.

    15. “It’s true that the Tories were flippering about like seals for most of Blair’s premiership, with campaigns to ‘save the pound’” — who’s having the last laugh now?

    16 “Just look at Blair’s performance at Leveson. He doesn’t bother with any of these apologetic “I can’t quite recall” explanations about why he’s not answering the question properly. He just makes his answers into mini speeches about how many schools and hospitals Labour built, until you can’t remember whether or not he actually did answer the question. You can’t even remember what the question was. And – this is another important point – he makes everyone smile while doing it.” — That speaks more of the ineffectiveness of cross-examination and the general pointlessness of Leveson rather than Statesmanship and Leadership.

    17. “pretending that the ability to make people smile, in the middle of a situation like the Leveson inquiry, has nothing to do with how he hammered out three rock solid election victories is to fail to understand the very same electorate you are trying to win over right now.” — This is “who would you like to have a beer with” approach to politics GWB or Gore? GWB or Kerry. Last I checked GWB was also neither a leader nor a statesman.

    18. “And what’s more, it is quite difficult to see how anyone can believe that the Tory cuts being made now will decimate society and explode inequality, without believing that the Blair-Brown government deserves a reasonable amount of praise, respect and gratitude for accomplishing these things in the first place.” — The Blair-Brown government also deserves praise, respect and gratitude for decimating society and exploding inequality?

    19. “The word messianic is used all too often in conjunction with him; what is the opposite of messianic? Opportunistic? Shallow? Aimless? Devoid of aspiration? Whatever the word is, that’s Cameron. ” — You use the word messianic as if it is a compliment. Is that a more polite word for demagogue? At the risk of godwinning the argument a certain Adolf was also a messiah to his people. Remember the rallies at Nuremberg? Remember a Mao? I would rather have a weak leader than a Messiah.

    20. “So it doesn’t surprise me that David Cameron doesn’t get why Blair was popular – because he was, there’s no way around it, he was respected and listened to and people voted for him and over and over and over.” — See Point 12 above.

    21. “They don’t care if public spending is 30% or 60% of GDP as long as the economy is moving. They don’t care if hospitals are funded mainly by the state or by PPI as long as they are clean and safe and available at the point of need.” — You know what? I bet the Greeks also did not care if public spending was 30% or 60% of GDP. If you don’t have an ideology, if you don’t have a coherent hypothesis you will never figure out the best path to take.

    “Economic statistics, chart of the variations of prices, incomes, imports and exports, etc., do not constitute science unless organized, controlled and informed by some general idea. A collection of data will not give us science any more than a collection of ores will give us metal works. We need fire to fuse our material into some pattern. In science we achieve that, if we discover the proper perspective from which the order of phenomena becomes visible to the trained eye.” — Source

    22. Finally:

    a) I agree with you Cameron is a crap PM. The man has no coherent ideology and he is basically throwing mud to see what sticks. However one must also remember that his hands are tied in a coalition. There may be many things he may have wanted to do but cannot.

    b) Tony Blair is a master political strategist. Does not make him a Leader and a Statesman.

    c) “against my will, I longed for a leader with that kind of statesmanship.” — You need your superego to keep your id on a leash.

    • 1 – yes. I am praising his statesmanship and political skills not his actual morality or the invasion of Iraq which I did make clear several times.

      2 – because they said they did a u-turn after consulting experts. And because there have been all sorts of campaigns from, for example, the businesses affected by these taxes etc. But none of this is relevant to the argument about u-turns being a sign of weakness.

      3 – it is impossible for me to know the masses of detail involved in every single policy decision, or for anyone to, that’s why people are paid to spend all their time doing it for their entire job. You can probably stop your constant “you’re not a libertarian” comments as if it invalidates an actual argument. We’ve established you don’t think I’m really a libertarian because I believe in stuff like locking up rapists anyway so whatever, I don’t really care if you believe me a massive statist or anything else. It’s not really relevant to any argument I make.

      4 – Northern I guess. Do people say “dis-ARS-ter?” Really? Does this actually matter? Really?

      5 – not the point, I quite clearly said I am not praising or criticising their policies, the point is that their soundbites and slogan represented specific policies.

      6 – probably both for the cynical reasons you say. The point is when he wants to give the impression of strongly praising someone he does so. And when he wants to give the impression of faint praise, he does so. Everything he says is for a cynical reason I would imagine. That’s the whole point.

      7 – Blair can manage resignations and discipline people. Cameron either can’t or just doesn’t. Fair point that David Davis is extremely different sort of person to Gordon Brown though. I think if Blair has enemies like that’s he’d find a way to work with them or manage them out. That’s the point.

      8 – it is a mark of being good at manipulating people and a mark of leadership, yes. I have repeatedly said it’s not morally admirable.

      9 – many aspects of it were, yes. You could argue that changing the Labour party was an achievement of Thatcher as changing the Tory party was an achievement of Blair.

      10 – yes, in exactly the same way as that. Thatcher is obviously another good example as a strong leader with similar talents. Would make more sense to compare Blair to her than to Cameron. Fair point about international aid, Tim Montgomerie uses it as an example of how the political ground has shifted leftwards and a policy the Tories have had to swallow. Perhaps they were wrong on it.

      11 – of course Blair lost seats over Iraq, and of course FPTP is a flawed system but the point is about talents in managing that electoral system and winning elections within it.

      12 – yes…?

      13 – he is all three for different reasons.

      14 – clearly not true or the Tories would have won. People know who funds Labour, they know what their policies on public spending etc are. And as you point out he lost votes over Iraq. So the critics basically saying Ed Miliband should copy all of Blair’s policies to win are wrong.

      15 – no-one was scrapping the pound, that’s the point. And people weren’t that fussed about it. I am not criticising people for being against joining the Euro. I am pointing out that it is one policy which a minority of people felt was even worth campaigning over and they mostly voted Tory already anyway so it was a poor policy to make into a campaign centrepiece.

      16 – I disagree, other witnesses did not manage to own the conversation in this way. It shows Blair’s talents at being interviewed.

      17 – it’s not the only thing. It is one very very important aspect of how he campaigns. People liked him.

      18 – I am not commenting on their success, I am highlighting the inconsistency between the view that Labour’s spending and public service reform did nothing at all to solve anything but Tory cuts will be disastrous. Both cannot really be true.

      19 – no, I have criticised Blair as morally repugnant and many other things in this piece of writing. I just think that Blair’s cultish messianic qualities are the complete opposite of Cameron’s approach to governance which is another reason why comparing them as politicians is flawed.

      20 – answered this.

      21 – yes but I am talking about what motivates people to vote for someone.

      22 – he’s not a crap leader and weak politician with poor judgment because he’s in coalition. He always was. He’s in coalition arguably because he’s a crap leader and a weak politician.

  2. Pingback: Dear Labour party « Libertarian Lou's Blog

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