It’s time for the UK’s ex-PM Tony Blair to put up or shut up. Stop preaching and enter the ring, Tone, or go away.

Charlie Stone

Charlie Stone is an author and journalist who has worked for the BBC, several national newspapers in the UK and international media.

12 May, 2021 15:58
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Blair’s instructing Labour on how to rebuild after another ballot-box drubbing, but his failure to rid the party of the hard left when he ran it’s why they’re unelectable. He needs to either come back and finish the job or zip it.

The Labour Party in the UK is in a death spiral. They’re on their way to becoming a rump – a pressure group fighting for the latest trendy woke cause, and stale, way-past-their-sell-by-date issues such as renationalising the railways. 

Nobody cares. Sorry, guys and gals of the hard left, but they just don’t. There is no critical mass among the British electorate for what you represent anymore – there simply isn't. Nothing will change, not any time soon. And all Labour’s hapless leaders will do in the end is huddle together come party-conference time and sing the same old song: the Red Flag. 

Few people will listen, and it’s a crap tune anyway. Few people outside the party and within their media orbit will even care. Labour must either change with the times and revitalise, or wither on the vine. 

They are, quite simply, unelectable. There is absolutely no way these clowns can win a general election. No way. They can’t even fight the government toe to toe, issue by issue, after Boris Johnson and his Tory chums laid out their plans in the Queen’s Speech – and there’s one fewer Labour MP after they lost the Hartlepool seat last week. There are 198 sitting Labour MPs to a whopping 365 Conservatives.

Yet the lack of a viable opposition that can actually win power is massively unhealthy for any democracy. Labour’s impotent leader, Sir Keir Starmer, can’t even sack his useless deputy, Angela Rayner, without her somehow getting promoted.

I don’t blame Cardboard Keir for their current strife, though, nor even Jeremy Corbyn, his 1970s throwback predecessor. Corbyn was actually just stuck in a political time warp and standing on ground where politics used to be fought. Unfortunately for Jezza, he was at least 40 years too late.

I blame Tony Blair. It’s all his fault. He saw all this coming in the 1990s and didn’t do enough to change course. He didn’t pull hard enough on the steering wheel to get Labour firmly and permanently into the middle ground, where elections are won.

My grandfather was a staunch Labour supporter. And he was right to be – he was a miner who worked underground six days a week, and people like him created the Labour Party for a reason. They wanted more protection, and more rights, and a National Health Service. Most of those victories were won after the Second World War. Job done, pretty much.

He’s long dead, but I am pretty damn sure the sight of a Labour Party leader and his deputy taking the knee on behalf of an American black man killed in America by an American cop would have confused the hell out of him. And I love the idea of Starmer trying to persuade him to go on an unconscious-bias course. My grandad smoked a pipe – he may well have put it out on the man’s nose.

I was born and raised in the Northeast of England, deep on the other side of that so-called Red Wall. And I don’t know anyone, not a soul, who obsesses over the renationalisation of the railways. The only people who I ever heard grumble about that were middle-class commuters travelling between London and Brighton. And that was more of a complaint about how crap the service was under the train operators than any belief in state control. 

And then there’s Tony Blair. For those, rightly, bored by the intricacies of British politics, Blair wrested control of the Labour Party from the hard left in the mid-1990s and went on to win three general elections. 

But old Labour was still there in the background, licking at its festering wounds. Blair shouldn’t have rebranded his party New Labour – he should have hacked off that rotten limb and created a brand-new progressive British Democratic Party. But he didn’t, and he didn’t do enough. He blew it.

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And now this bloke is back preaching again. Last month, Tone was lecturing the whole world on how to get everyone on the planet vaccinated against Covid-19 in only eight months. Now he says the Labour Party “needs total deconstruction and reconstruction”, and Cardboard Keir is “struggling to break through with the public”.

He also suggested Labour’s cultural message was being defined by a “woke left” faction of the party, and that, to the majority of the public, their ideas were “alien and extreme.” No s**t, Sherlock.

In a New Statesman piece, Blair says he fears for the loss of left and centrist party power in Western democracies and writes in glowing terms of Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the US.

“Without Biden,” he wrote, “and his self-evident reasonableness and moderation, there might have been no victory. Ideas matter in politics, and rightly matter a lot to progressives. But without leaders who can frame and present these ideas successfully, they gather dust on shelves, not votes in ballot boxes. Biden’s manifest decency – right person, right place, right time – turned out to be vital.” 

Blair also laments the collapse of Britain’s third party, the Liberal Democrats. After all, a hundred years ago, they also knew how to win elections.

Tony Blair might have been away from the forefront of politics since he stood down in 2007, but, at 68, he’s a young man compared to Grandpa Joe, who’s 78. He has a whole decade on him.

So, honestly, it’s time to button it or dust off that old D:Ream record. Maybe get the old band back together. Mandelson, Campbell and Blunkett seem to get it, but even they can’t resist carping from the sidelines. Put up or shut up, I say. Either run for election under the banner of some kind of a reform party, or go away. And it would have to be a totally new party, because Labour wouldn’t have him – they don’t like winners these days.

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