Sorry Tony – but being “dispassionate” would be a recipe for bloodless technocracy

11th April, 2013 12:22 pm

Today marks the real return of Tony Blair to the domestic political debate, after an absence of six years. Whilst he has dipped his toe in the water before, today he’s taken off his shoes and socks, rolled up his trousers and had a good old splash about in the British body politic.

It will be largely written up by the press as a (not especially subtle) critique of Ed Miliband. And, to be frank, that’s exactly what it is. It surely will come as no surprise to anyone who follows British politics that whilst Ed Miliband thinks he needs to move on from New Labour, Blair thinks the choice is New Labour or bust. There’s plenty of scope for critique, and Blair has gone for it quite hard.

It doesn’t take a mind reader to realise that Blair considers Labour to have moved to the left on the economy, and to the right on Europe and on immigration. Nor does it take a clairvoyant to imagine that Blair thinks Miliband has aligned himself with the wrong crowd (Blair would never, for example, have been seen as leader on a TUC demo or speaking to the Durham Miner’s Gala). But as critiques go, it’s not especially inflammatory.

I disagree with his prospectus for where Labour needs to go next, but I take his point especially about Labour needing to more clearly define what we’re for. The big, broad, brushstroke themes of our policy agenda. That’s a fair and accurate criticism. That’s one I’ve made myself.

But what did annoy me about Blair’s piece, was this phrase:

“we have to be dispassionate even when the issues arouse great passion”

I’m sorry Tony, but – with the greatest respect – that’s just wrong. What our party absolutely does not need, is more bloodless, dispassionate aloof politics. We don’t need more politicians who can talk a good game about (for example) welfare policy, but are absolutely ruthless, brutal and bloody “dispassionate” about implementing it.

This argument also fatally fails to understand the politics of this particular moment. In a way that’s understandable – Blair has been out of power for nearly six years, and living in a rarefied environment for sixteen years – but it also means that his advice should be taken with a pinch of salt. He speaks with the dispassionate detachment on what one might called the Davos Left.

Those of us still dwelling here – back on planet earth – are living through a period of immense political economic and societal flux, and it rightly inspires passion, anger, fury and discontent. But it can also, if handled correctly, be a time for hope and ambition too. Now is not a time to be “dispassionate” – not when so much damage is being done to our society – our problem is that there’s insufficient passion. Considering what the Tories are trying to do to the country, we should be hugely passionate – furious even. And nor should the Labour Party, seeing the harm being done – deliberately – to the disabled, the poor, the unemployed or the homeless, simply turn away in favour of a dispassionate analysis of GDP stats. That way lies bloodless technocracy.

But worse, Blair – a man fabled for his instinctive understanding of people – also fails to understand that passion is an essential part of political success in a social media age. See how Stella Creasy, Tom Watson or even Louise Mensch have crafted a media profile driven by online engagement – that’s certainly not dispassionate. See how Alastair Campbell’s – passionate – blog and Twitter feed have become essential reading. See how Glenda Jackson’s passionate denunciation of Thatcherism in the commons has gone viral online overnight. That kind of passion – carefully channeled –  is exactly what Labour will need if we are to convince the public to back us, especially those who – under Blair, it must be said – stopped voting.

The somewhat tart response from the party suggests they won’t be losing much sleep over Blair’s critique. I’m not sure I will be either, but what’s sad is that a politician who was once as instinctive reader of what the public needed to hear has developed political tinnitus after so long away from the day to day public conversations that are – in the most fundamental way – the building blocks of politics.

Because if he was speaking to those who once voted for him, rather than those to whom he now speaks, he might find that a little more passion is the very least that’s expected.

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  • Qadeer Ali

    well said Mark 🙂

  • To my mind, being ‘dispassionate’ is not a synonym for being uncaring. Rather, it is recognition of the fact that sometimes emotion can cloud judgement. You make your best decisions in life when you are calm, with a clear head. You make your worst decisions when you mind is fogged by ‘passion, anger, fury and discontent’.

    Labour was full of passion, anger, fury and discontent in the 1980s. As a result, it let a lot of people down. Everyone needs to calm down and think with their heads, not just their hearts.

    • Redshift1

      Labour in power let people down because it was out of touch. Decisions like the 10p Tax Rate, Iraq War, the extent of the use of the private sector in public services, tuition fees, etc

      A bit less ivory tower crap would have been good.

      • When you’re in Government for a long time, of course you’re going to make mistakes – including some major ones. It’s true of every Government. But the critics of Labour’s time in office are highly selective. Was the minimum wage not ‘in touch’? What about a the massive reduction in crime, slashing of NHS waiting lists or investment in schools. Were they not ‘in touch’? Long periods of economic growth a relatively high employment – not good enough for you? I suspect your main criticism of Labour was that it did not return to socialism. It refused to do so because many in the country don’t believe socialism to work, and didn’t want a return to dead bodies going unburied, the State running inefficient industries, the State owning removal companies and people being forced to rent a phone off the post office. Too often in politics people assume that their anger is ‘in touch’, when often it is only reflective of a minority view (remember the Guardian poll this week that said 50% of people thought Thatcher was a good PM?). We all need to work on getting our heads out of our backsides Redshift.

        • Redshift1

          “I suspect your main criticism of Labour was that it did not return to socialism”

          You couldn’t be more wrong. Your assessment is exactly the same crap Blair came out with every time he was met with ANY criticism from the left – and that my friend, is being out of touch.

          I am a socialist. But I’m also a pragmatist. I understand our policies have to appeal to the public. I want Labour governments to stay in power.

          The minimum wage, the spending on health and education, all fantastic. I never said otherwise, but that doesn’t mean there were not glaring problems, and Blair’s arrogance and the behaviour of his disciples like yourself in trying to suggest anyone who thinks we can be more left-wing (even on just a couple of issues) is some sort of unreconstructed communist just demonstrates my point!

          Blair never challenged the rail companies and the energy companies because he was ideologically committed to the idea that to do so would be too interventionist – and now we’re trying to convince people Labour do care about the fact their energy bills and rail fares are unreasonably high. Blair never challenged the banks, indeed it was at the centre of his economic model – and whilst they abused their power he completely ignored the need to support manufacturing, something both left and right are arguing about now. He stood back from regulating agency firms, who are mindfully undermining employment conditions.

          He’s totally out of step with the current problems the country is facing.

          • AlanGiles

            I suspect the real reason Blair comes out with this sort of stuff (and we shouldn’t forget that his greatest supporters have done similar things before – as soon as things seem to be going reasonably well for Miliband, there is one of these dire warnings or pieces of “advice”), is due to jealousy and impotence.

            In his own mind I think he believes he should have been elevated to the House of Lords as soon as he left office.

            Twice a year he sees the New Years honours list and Birthday honours published – and – never a bauble. Similarily, though it couldn’t have come as a surprise to him – he wasn’t honoured in Gordon Brown’s resignation honours.

            He would love to be up there lording it in the Lords. I am sure Mandy is keeping the place on the bench next to him free, but……he is still plain Mr Blair. He is a bit like a eunuch: he knows how it is done, he sees it being done, but he can’t do it himself.

            He is reduced to publishing magazine article like one last week which included one of his old catchphrases: he said he didn’t start his various business ventures to make money but to (wait for it!) “Make a difference”. Yes of course, if you say so……

          • I agree that a lot of the Blairite noise comes from bitterness and yes a degree of jealousy. I think some like Dan Hodges and Blair himself want Miliband to fail to prove themselves right.

            But on the issue of Blair in the Lords, I seem to remember him going on the record with words to the effect that the HoL wasn’t his sort of place. I don’t think he particularly wants to be there.

          • aracataca

            But there is nobody who wants to see EM fail more than Alan Giles. Hilarious really- check the record.

        • PaulHalsall

          Before Thatcher and Blair overseas companies did not own out water, rail, gas, and electricity supplies.

          We should nationalise them all again.

          • because nationalisation worked so well last time?

          • Alexwilliamz

            That is not an argument in itself anymore than arguing against privatised utilities using the pre nationalised period as an example of problems with it.

          • PeterBarnard

            Actually, Alex W, the old CEGB was a pretty successful outfit. It took our electrical generating capacity from 12.3 GW in 1945 to 71 GW in 1973, and the average thermal efficiency of the steam power plants (excluding nuclear) rose from 22% in 1951 to 30% in 1973.

            Indeed, it is a good job that in what the Conservatives call our “period of decline” that we were able to install so much in the way of gas, water and electricity capacity, and public housing, so that the privateers could sell it all off and rescue the Thatcher/Lawson/Major/Lamont balance sheets.

            Without all the privatisations (a whopping £66 billion) carried out by the Conservatives, public sector net debt – as a proportion of GDP – would have been higher in 1996-97 than it was in 1978-79. And the Conservatives call that period responsible stewardship of the public finances ….

          • Alexwilliamz

            Good point, not having any data any not really being old enough to remember nationalised industries other than in a possibly hazy and cuddly way I did not want to comment. My big concern is the complete failure of the privatised route to produces longer term strategic solutions. You only have to look at the mess that is nuclear power to see the problem. If the political will is nuclear then we should be building power stations, in fact strategically we should already have started. If political will is not then an alternative has to be found and put into place. Instead we flounder and then we will have some almighty panic, while in the meantime remaining increasingly dependent on others. One of Sandel’s critiques of the market is that it represents a moral cowardice on the part of politicians to make the big decisions. privatise it then leave it to the ‘dispassionate’ market to decided. I continue to hold that you could as easily throw dice to make decisions and equally avoid moral responsibility for the results (or do you?)

          • PeterBarnard

            You are spot on, Alex. Private sector providers – especially in the electrical generation sector – are (I) not going to take any “risk” of losing money on capital formation costing mega-bucks, and (ii) always have dividends for their shareholders in mind.

            We are in an almighty mess with electricity supply. Electrical generation is strategic, and government should be in charge.

            As far as the dice conundrum is concerned, I think that (Michael?) Sandel is correct. Frank Field was criticised for his remarks yesterday, but he did ask what to my mind was a good question : what are we to do about the areas in places like Birkenhead that “markets” don’t (and don’t want to) reach?

          • PaulHalsall

            Effectively we need nuclear power, although it kils me to say so. But none of the private companies will take on any of the risk. They want the risk to be taken by the government.

            Privatised gain, state-backed risked – that is the “privatisation” of Thatcher, Jonathan Roberts.

            When you think about it she was a traitor.

          • PaulHalsall

            She sold the family jewels, and gave away North Sea Oil Revenues in tax gifts to the wealthy.

          • I’m perfectly happy to have nationalised utilities so long as they are run as a business, with the profits being either reinvested or sent to the Exchqeur to help keep taxes down. For this to happen, you would have to have more trust than I do in Governments, who may (as they did in the past) heavily overman, run at significant losses and become a burden, not a benefit for State finances. If anyone can ensure, be it in statute or other means, that this would not happen, I’d be perfectly happy to nationalise.

          • PaulHalsall

            British Rail did work fine. Gas, electricity, water etc are natural monopolies. For example United Utilities provides almost all the network in the Northwest. So it is not a true competition, as between Sky and Virginmedia for example,

            What you have instead is a a kind of fake (and fixed) market, but one in which the major goal is to produce profit for largely non-British companies.

            The same can be said for those “internet companies” whose services are forced to be carried by BT.

            I would not call for complete nationalistion, but pretty soon you are going to see motorways privatised (as well as all you travel tracked), and it is already happening in the NHS. I have to have blood taken 4-6 times per year. At the moment I can do it all on visits to the consultant,but soon I might face the prospect of being forced to moved from one private phlebotomy clinc, and then later forced to change that as contract changes.

            I lived with the US medical system for 20 years and it was crap/

          • aracataca

            Maybe but the cost would be colossal.

    • I literally want to kiss your comment.

  • Labour haven’t moved to the right on either immigration or Europe. We have started to recognise the negative impact of globalisation in both areas. I don’t think Blair believes there is anything negative about it!
    This is linked to a more critical approach to neo-liberalism which certainly requires the application of passion

    • It’s revisionist to believe that adopting a more Eurosceptic stance is automatically right wing. Uncritical love for the EU is a technocratic centrist idea, and something that has very little public support. See rise of UKIP, even amongst natural Labour supporters.

  • AlanGiles

    Another good article, Mark.
    It is always rather sad when an ex anything comes back and presumes to offer advice to his successor. It is even sadder when the person concerned is a man inspired by personal greed, and, indeed a man whose reputation was already round his ankles by the time he left office. A man who managed to become the first PM to be interviewed by the police while actually in office, in connection with a criminal investigation.
    Every time Blair pops up the stink of his ToryLite, war-mongering regime fouls the air yet again.
    Why doesn’t he concentrate on his “faith foundation” (the corset worn by the clergy), and amassing his fortune, and issuing obsequious tributes to Mrs Thatcher.

  • Chilbaldi

    You are barking up the wrong tree Mark. We can have footsoldiers who are passionate, sure. But a leader does need to be dispassionate. If he does not make a case in this way he risks being hot-headed, emotional and appearing a tad on the extremes.

    Think of Blair as the barrister making a dispassionate pleading. And think about how you’d be laughed out of court if you started throwing your papers around and getting a bit emotional.

    • Redshift1

      Politics isn’t in the court room. It is emotional. If I’m knocking round a council estate I want to be able to take the emotion that people feel towards the bedroom tax and stand with them shoulder to shoulder.

      What would they think of Labour if we said ‘Well, I think we need a dispassionate analysis of the situation…’ when they’ve just told you their disabled mother is losing her home?

      • Chilbaldi

        I said above that our footsoldiers, indeed some MPs, should be passionate. But it pays to have a leader who is seen to rise above the squabbles and show a clear, uncluttered way forward.

        • Redshift1

          Well for a start Blair never rose above squabbles, even when he was leader. More importantly, he isn’t pointing at a way forward – he’s trying to drag us back to a way of doing politics that even if once correct, certainly is not suitable for today.

          • Alexwilliamz

            Ummm why the polarisation I want to see both in a leader, the passion and underlying motivation to change those things that need changing, to challenge injustice and inequity while at the same time not getting sucked into purely emotive decision making. Basically the passion should be on display in regards to why and the dispassionate analysis for the how.

        • keggsie

          I don’t agree at all. Ed needs to show he is angry.

      • Brumanuensis

        I beg to interject here that court rooms are very far from dispassionate.

  • I like the term “Davos Left” – it’s not dissimilar to the ‘Davos Man’ that Samuel Huntington talked about: those who stride across this brave new globalised world with their heads in the stratosphere way above all us mere mortals.

    Having said that, I think a lot of what New Labour Tone said was not so far off the mark. As a leader you need to make judgements, and that does not mean being passionless as is implied here. Indeed one of Blair’s strengths was that people generally liked him ‘as a person’ who did show emotion at times. However you must keep a cool head. On the Left we have a lot of people who do nothing but express shouty anger even at the best of times. These people are as divorced from reality as anybody.

  • Steve Buckingham

    I can feel your anger Mark but I believe it is misplaced, the best decisions tend to be made by those that can put their personal feelings and prejudices aside and weigh the options. And I’m not sure that Glenda Jackson is a good example of passion, she appeals to a certain kind of Hampstead literati and a few others on the left but I think there will be more voters reading and agreeing with The Sun’s take on her views today than with any positive spin on her contribution yesterday.

    Tom Watson and Stella Creasy bring good community organisation, media skills and campaigning zeal and passion for positive change to our Party but that doesn’t mean that the public is moving to the left, you don’t have to move left to think that 4000% interest is unfair. And whilst they have passion for the issues I believe that part of their undoubted success comes from their ability to dispassionately think through how the other side may react.

    And much as I love Alastair Campbell’s blog and twitter feed there are many more people influenced by the leader writers of the tabloid press and find their essential reading in those pages.

  • Redshift1

    What the fuck does Blair know? He’s hardly even been in the country for the past 5 years.

  • aracataca

    Is EM over passionate and angry? I hadn’t noticed. As someone who remains partially traumatised by the events of the early 1980s what has been EM’s seminal achievement so far is that he has kept the party united after a disastrous defeat. Traditionally after such defeats we all try killing each other and this has clearly not happened this time.Furthermore, as can be seen on here EM is ferociously attacked by the ‘left’ who grossly exaggerate the influence of Progress- sometimes laughably so eg by sugesting that Euan Blair might be parachuted into the South Shields seat- and at the same time he is attacked from the right (ie Blair who warns him not to tack left). At some strange level his critics on the ‘left’ share a common purpose with his critics on the right. Mercifully, this time around the torpedoes of both sides aimed at sinking Labour are falling short and landing with a great big splash in the open water.

  • Redshift1

    The fundamental tenets of Blairism are being challenged by not only party members, but by the new leadership – and rightly so.

    I’m not Miliband’s biggest fan BUT what we’ve seen is a critique of the energy, rail and finance models established under Thatcher/Major and went largely unchanged under Blair – and all three are considered problem areas of our economy, not just by the political left but by the population as a whole. Increasingly, casualisation of the labour market is creating a backlash amongst the public – yet Tories and Blairites alike don’t recognise this. Miliband increasingly does.

    If not being ‘dispassionate’ buys Miliband the ability to actually realise there is something wrong with the way our economy operates and who it is rewarding, then I’m happy with him not being dispassionate.

  • PaulHalsall

    Glenda Jackson was the only one speaking for me yesterday. It was probably her finest day in Parliament.

    • McCurry

      Were there no sharp elbows before the Tories then? Did Arthur Scargill have soft elbows? She’s right about the lack of funding for schools and hospitals, but that’s about it. Glenda was earning £1m a film and living in Dulwich at the time of Thatcher.

    • And, as Mark notes has gone viral, achieving nearly 300,000 hits on youtube in just 24 hours. Who says Labour can’t effectively use social media!

      Of course, it’s the content wot dun it. Get content right and Labour could pull the rug from beneath the week long party political broadcast on the behalf of the Conservative Party in a jiffy.

      • Monkey_Bach

        Salve salve Regina. Eeek.

  • Daniel Speight

    The party is a crusade or it is nothing. Harold Wilson 1962.

    This well known quote hardly sounds dispassionate does it. More like the passion we would like to see from Labour’s leaders.

    Funny enough the quote was bought back to life at Wilson’s funeral in 1995 by being re-quoted by … Tony Blair of course.

    Still a lot has changed since 1995. Not least since then Blair has become a very rich man although I suspect he has those Macbeth moments when he sees the blood on his hands.

  • Brumanuensis

    I found Blair’s article fairly predictable. There wasn’t a lot to disagree with, content-wise, but that only serves to further illustrate Mark’s point.

    Blair seems to believe – a belief that spending several years hanging out with the great and good can only have encouraged – that all you need is reasonable people to come together and form some sort of ‘government of all the talents’. Clear thinking, high-profile people will naturally tend towards a beneficent – and of course, ‘centrist’ – consensus that will ensure prosperity for all. Strong emotions must be avoided because extremity is impolite and in Tony, the latter-day Third Earl of Shaftesbury’s, salon we must all ultimately get along and not trouble ourselves with anything as impractical as philosophy. We want solutions and being reasonable men and women, we know what they are without having to put too much thought into it.

    As a result, we get a string of unanswered questions and misleading platitudes (‘demographics’, ‘skill sets’, etc.) all laced together with the somewhat wearied tone of a man who is certain that if only people would listen to him, all would be right in the world. Of course, it would be vulgar to spell out what you want. Instead we shall have government by euphemism.

    “On the economy, we should have one simple test: what produces growth and jobs?”

    “Having such a modern vision elevates the debate. It helps avoid the danger of tactical victories that lead to strategic defeats”

    “The more profound point is: even if it hadn’t happened, the case for fundamental reform of the postwar state is clear”

    And so dear Tony, without saying much that is disagreeable, ends up saying almost nothing at all.

  • Amber_Star

    If Tony Blair wants to be of any use to the Labour Party he should take the appropriate position available to him. He can defend New Labour’s record so that Ed Miliband doesn’t have to.

    Tony Blair disagrees with the Coalition assertion that they are ‘clearing up the mess which Labour made’; well, he was the architect so he’s the person who should be seeking to change the public’s perception of New Labour’s record on the economy, immigration, welfare etc.

    Until he has succeeded with that task, he probably shouldn’t be handing out public advice to others.

    • That’s a really good point. After the 2010 election many Blairites bought into the ‘Labour overspending’ line on the deficit that the Tories came up with to shift blame away from the bankers, poor regulation and ultimately Thatcherism. Perversely, the responsibility for defending the Labour government was abdicated by New Labour and the Left had to do the leg work, when we never agreed with New Labour in the first place!

      • That is just slander towards people you disagree with. The Left never did any leg work whatsoever, this is just a blatant attempt to rewrite history. New Labour supporters (former supporters) kept on defending it, stood on the Darling Plan and defended the cause of the crash and you lot kept on talking about how we lost elections because we were not leftwing enough!

  • Amber_Star

    An Ed Miliband government needs a simple deficit reduction strategy which people can understand. It could be: The filthy rich WILL pay their taxes!

    Polling shows that the issue of tax avoidance is one around which the country is largely united; & that complex deficit reduction strategies predicated on growth are okay with the public in theory but they really don’t see how Labour can deliver this growth related deficit reduction in the short-term. They reluctantly ‘know’, in their avaricious little middle-class hearts, that somebody is going to have to pay the ‘maxed out credit card bill’. Ed Miliband needs to assure the majority & the impoverished minority that the deficit will be reduced & that it’ll be somebody else (rich people like e.g. Tony Blair!) who will be paying the bill.

  • MarkHoulbrook

    New Labour is now slipping from the reach of the believers, that is Blairs folly. The departure of Miliband senior has created an opportunity to sound off more outdated rhetoric that is more in tune with the Thatcherite legacy.

    Tony appears to be missing the point of explaining the process of how he has come to evaluate the shifting of the spectrum.

    Ed Milibands attempt to stimulate grassroot activism has created an opportunity for communities to choose the direction which they wish to take. Managerialism under Blair and his relationship with the centre left gave the people no choice but a continuation of New Liberalism (New Conservatism) under a diffrent colour banner.

    To understand Blairs realignment of the free market into his version of the social market economy under his Third Way philosophical dogma you have to take a look at Thatcherite legacy, Isiaiah Berlin, classical liberalism and the its relationship with progressive ideology. Just for you Tony your infatuation with positive and negative liberty. Oh yes and Clinton and Giddens and Etzioni and so on and so on

    Blairism attempted to manage the the process from the top with very little consulting with the people that were affected by his charasmatic dictator style pragmatism. The legacy of unregulated bankers, experimentation of market involvement in public services, unaccountable policy advisors, uncontrolled immigration, increased government spending, fragmented communities and public services, failed foreign policy, dysfunctional and failed education policy is the legacy of Blair. Of course many would argue that Thatcher moved the centre ground, this may be true, but the reality of the New Labour era is Blair kept it there. Blair never moved the left or moved anything at a all.

    Blair states
    “The paradox of the financial crisis is that, despite being widely held to have been caused by under-regulated markets, it has not brought a decisive shift to the left. But what might happen is that the left believes such a shift has occurred and behaves accordingly.”

    The Iraq War was widely held to have been caused by Blair and Bush. This is the paradox or part of the Blair legacy. He misinterpreted or ignored the people who had shifted left but he went right. He got it wrong. Then there is the banking crisis.

    I dont think Tony you are in a position to lecture anybody about what the left believes

    Ed Miliband on the other hand is attempting to move the people left or consulting and giving the opportunity for people to move left from the BOTTOM.
    Its called grassroot activism.

    This is totally different from your managerial style dictatorship.

    I wished Ed would give me an opportunity to grapple with your outmoded and outdated ideology. A new Foundation perhaps.
    “The Tony Blair Office of the Centre Left” That should do the trick. Another million pound earned while people are struggling in poverty.
    New Britain: – Your vision of a New Country

    You were a good act Tony but it is time to get off the stage and let the new act begin.
    Open the door to new beginning.

    Perfect timing for a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    Sorry Mark, but this is one of those rare occasions when I have to disagree with you. Although I loathe Blair, I can agree with his statement: “we have to be dispassionate even when the issues arouse great passion” particularly if it is applied to the issue of freedom of the press. We already have enough laws in place to hold news editors to account if
    they breach those laws. We need freedom of the press to hold politicians to account when they do wrong e.g. their recent efforts to undermine the rule of law. The Hacked Off campaign comprised of some very hurt people who deserve to see justice done as victims of crimes against them, but I would not go so far as to say that I support Labour’s demand to limit freedom of express for short term popularity. This is an issue that really does need a cool head, knowledge of history and a vision of how censorship could threaten our democracy. The problem is that by taking away legal aid, the public won’t have access to specialist lawyers who can advise them on whether they have a case and how to take their case to a ‘Regulatory Body’ once one is set up. The law requires judgements to be dispassionate in order to be objective and so it is important that law makers create and pass laws which comply with current laws e.g. the UK Human Rights Act 1998.

  • Reading all this makes me realise what a terrific job of tightrope walking Ed makes – no easy task when we all know best!

  • volcanopete

    Tony Blair would be better carrying on earning his £20million a year because he has no earth.He is not grounded.Can you imagine Tony Blair organising his fellow-allotment holders in a dispute with the council?Or campaigning about fracking in his locality?No because he has no locality,no piece of this planet he cares about and lives and works in.Blair is homeless.What does he know of the community pub closing for example?
    Blair may live in a very rarified atmosphere but he does not have the eyes of an eagle.
    I suggest he take up bee-keeping and find himself a bit of land to live in-in the Uk for taxation purposes.An allotment would do him the world of good.

  • David Parker

    There are many things that Tony Blair never understood; his intelligence has constantly been overrated and his blind arrogance underestimated. Taken by surprise by the landslide victory of 1997 he showed little comprehension of the depths and breadth of hostility to Thatcherism which had made it possible. Determined to rule as New Labour and build on Thatcher’s “achievements” rather than reverse them, he proceeded to forfeit the support, one by one, of nearly all the elements of the broad
    coalition that had brought him to power. The claim that he was a great leader by virtue
    of winning three consecutive terms willfully ignores the fact that by the 2005 election Labour won with only 35% of the vote and the support of just one in five of those eligible to vote. Shallow in his knowledge of British history and contemptuous of the Labour Movement and Party, elitist and self righteous in his mode of rule, New Labour destroyed all the optimism of 1997; by the time Blair resigned Party membership which had stood at 405,000 at the outset was down to 176,891 probably the lowest total in its entire history.

    Blair has neither the political credentials nor the necessary insight to justify the ‘advice’ given to his successor. He should be politely told to shove off and leave Ed Miliband, who has begun much better than many expected, to continue the daunting task of regaining the ground lost during the New Labour years. Miliband’s lack of boldness and incisiveness is frequently frustrating and the direction of travel still needs to be more clearly signposted. Nevertheless he is much better equipped for the job to be done by virtue of the fact that he is not in denial about the extent of the disillusion which flowed from New Labour’s years in power.


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