I don’t know if you heard but on Friday morning an ex. Prime Minister gave a speech about the EU. You know the one: haunted look, manic smile, constantly on edge as if he’s seeing ghosts – oh and a bloody good orator. It’s a sad state of affairs when the only person in the Labour party speaking for the 63% of Labour voters who voted Remain is Tony Blair. Yep for just 10 minutes Blair was back although, listening to the bickering among Labour members over the last 18 months, it’s hard to believe he ever went away.
“The Blairites” are the reason Corbyn’s Labour Party won’t win a General Election. Corbyn’s approval ratings plummeting? It’s because of the Blarities briefing against him. An MP resigns from their seat? Blairite coup. Labour’s polling getting worse week after week? It was fine until the Blairites. It was the Blairites who elected Gareth Snell, the anti-Corbyn candidate, in attempt to lose Stoke. You see Blairites are both ruthless careerist politicians who will do anything to get Labour back in to power but are also masterminding plots to keep Labour out of power. They are completely toxic: clinging to the values of an ex. leader with lower approval ratings than Corbyn. The public hate Blairites, they’re the reason we lost so many members and why our share of the vote decreased during New Labour’s tenure, oh and at the same time they’re so revered that their opinion of Corbyn can sway voters.
So who are these apparent puppet masters? Who are The Blairites?
Well Blair obviously – he’s a massive Blairite. He loves all the Blair stuff: Iraq, PFI, tuition fees, academies etc… I think we can all agree on that. Technically the term “Blairite” refers to the most right-wing faction of the Labour Party which would include: Liz Kendall, a self-confessed “fan” of Blair, Jamie Reed, Tristam Hunt and David Miliband. Four of those people are no longer serving as MPs. Caroline Flint would often be classed as a Blarite but after condemning Blair’s speech on Friday, towing the party line on Marr this morning and voting in line with three-line whip on Article 50 people are not sure what to think.
And here’s the problem: some Corbyn supporters seem to use the term Blairite to describe ANYONE who has ever disagreed with Corbyn.
David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, is called a Blairite because he defied Corbyn on the Article 50 vote. However he is also one of the MPs who nominated Corbyn to be leader in 2015.
Catherine West, my local MP, is apparently now a Blairite for not following the three line whip on Article 50. She is one of the few MPs who didn’t vote “no confidence” in him last year and on the day he was elected leader in 2015 and attended the “Refugees Welcome” march immediately after the result was announced, appearing onstage next to Corbyn.
Corbyn’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner is a Blairite for her claiming, “Tony Blair’s tenure changed my life it gave my children a life that I could never have dreamt of having and I want us to get back to that.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan is a Blairite, despite nominating Corbyn for the leadership election in 2015 because, well I don’t know why really but maybe it’s because he won an election and what could be more Blairite than that?
Yvette Cooper, famously a Brownite, is a Blairite because she, you know, was there… at that time…
When I’m having a down day I remind myself of the time I saw a tweet dismissing Gordon Brown as a Blairite…
The trouble I have with the term is that it’s lazy. It ignores the distinction between the “soft left” and the “right” of the party. A division that plagued New Labour: the Blairites vs. Brownites. It has become a term to describe anyone who disagrees with Corbyn on anything. It’s anyone who acknowledges that being in power means making compromises. It’s anyone who wants to win an election. It’s anyone who disagrees with this three line whip on the Article 50 vote. It’s anyone who believes we should be worried about the polls.
It is not the case that disagreeing with Corbyn makes you a Blairite.
Questioning the effectiveness of Corbyn’s opposition does not mean you want another Tony Blair – you can disagree with both. I have real problems with some of Blair’s decisions – Iraq being the main one. It would be an error to think we can just try and repeat the 1997 election. But I also have issues with Corbyn’s leadership. I voted for him in 2015 but Brexit completely changed my view of him. His complete disregard for the 63% of Labour voters who voted Remain is astonishing.
The threat to the Labour Party is not the man who hasn’t been leader, or even an MP for a decade. It’s too easy to blame him. For as long as we have the excuse of “The Blairites” we can ignore the real issues facing the Labour Party. Let’s be really honest most of the electorate don’t care if the Labour Party is run by the right, the soft left or the hard left. They just want an effective opposition and a competent leader.