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Henry G Manson on Tony Blair’s criticism of Miliband’s election strategy

December 31st, 2014

Labour could win a different way in 2015

Tony Blair has not offered Ed Miliband the same courtesy It is a sign of desperation that Blair has intervened publicly with The Economist in this way. His ‘wing’ of the party is a ragged mess. Many closest supporters and former ministers are no longer MPs, a leadership contest that should have been a shoo-in for David Miliband was lost while Jim Murphy in Scotland showing any sign of political yet faces a struggle against the nationalists. Aspiring Labour parliamentary candidates either keep their distance from the Progress group which promotes New Labour policies.

    Since 1997 the myth that only a New Labour government could be elected has been carefully promoted and perpetuated. The fact a social democratic John Smith-led Labour Party was heading to a solid working majority in 1994 has been buried on the isle of Iona with him.

Blair befriended media owners leading to ridiculous the scenario of the former Labour leader being ‘garbed in white’ on the bank of the River Jordan to be godfather to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter. In contrast Ed Miliband took direct aim at News International during the phone hacking scandal and its ‘sense of immunity’.

Blair’s record as Prime Minister is continually being re-evaluated by events. The decision of Brown to prevent Blair’s government from joining the Eurozone has been vindicated. The free movement of labour throughout the European Union has helped fuel the rise of UKIP and increased the real risk of an EU exit. Over in the USA the President which Blair stood shoulder to shoulder with in going to war in Iraq was replaced by a Democrat who was against the war and defeated the Clinton machine and approach. While Blair urged the West to militarily intervene in Syria, the UK pulled back as a result of Labour and public opposition.

Here lies the threat of Ed Miliband to Tony Blair. Labour’s leader stands very close to showing that it is possible to win without the New Labour playbook. This will have serious implications for Blair as a relatively young ex-Prime Minister who still seeks to influence events. An Ed Miliband victory will end any sense that Blair is the guardian of some secret code to a Labour election victory and will limit his ability to anoint a future leader (currently in the form of Chuka Umunna). As soon as it is accepted that there is more than one way for Labour to win it could lead to a more critical reassessment of Blair’s tenure and squandering of political capital from two giant parliamentary majorities. The radical policies of Cameron in spite of failing to secure a majority already cast those first two terms in a different light.

In many ways it is entirely rational for Tony Blair to want Ed Miliband to lose. His stake in Britain is limited. It’s hard to feel empathy for the working poor of Peterborough while aboard a billionaire’s yacht in the Mediterranean. By intervening in this way Blair further erodes the support of those in the Labour party who were proud of what Labour achieved under his leadership. It is strange, unedifying and sad to watch a leader who preached the importance of party loyalty now sniping from the sidelines. It is indeed a sign of Blair’s weakness not his strength. If Ed wins in May it won’t just be David Cameron who is defeated, but Tony Blair’s reputation will suffer as Labour shows there is another way to win.

Henry G Manson