7 Apr 2015

Tony Blair, the election and the brand

Who wrote this on the 2008 banking crisis? “The ‘market’ did not fail. One part of one sector did …. funnily enough (or perhaps predictably enough), the puiblic has got this more than many politicians and commentators, which is why the great lurch leftwards has not materialised. … the role of government is to stabilise (the economy) …and then get out of the way as quickly as is economically sensible.”

And this: “The danger for Labour now is that we drift off, or even more decisively off, to the left. If we do, we will lose even bigger next time.”

And what has the author got in common with the current leader of the Labour party, Ed Miiband? It’s something that has clearly been taxing Tony Blair, who wrote those lines in the paperback edition of his autobiography, published after the coalition came to power and after Ed Miliband took over as Labour leader.

So today Mr Blair will focus his election speech in his old Sedgefield constituency on the bit of Ed Miliband’s leadership he unequivocally agrees with: Mr Miliband’s opposition to an in/out EU referendum.

There are quite a few different things going on here. As a former leader, Tony Blair would look disloyal if he didn’t raise a finger to help his successor. He’s already sprinkled £106,000 around local parties – not all of it welcomed with open arms.

But something else is going on here. Tony Blair and his allies think his personal brand issues – perceptions that he is a rich man hanging out with dictators etc, cosy advice-offering friend to the Murdochs – are hurting those who would like to take on his cause within Labour. (To say nothing of the ongoing legacy of the Iraq war – the latest I’ve heard is that he and we may have to wait until October at the earliest for the Iraq inquiry report.)

One close ally said that the former Labour leader has been persuaded that he must “clean up his image” to “help Labour reform and regroup”. The former cabinet minister said that Mr Blair’s “reputation taints those trying to rebuild the party”. This is not an approach, as  you may have detected, premised on Labour winning the general election. Mr Blair, quite  pointedly, gave the second quotation/prediction at the top of this blog after Ed Miliband became leader.

Here, for good measure, are a couple of other Blair quotes from his postscript in the paperback edition of his autobiography, A Journey, published in 2011:

“Once you lose them (the chief executives), you lose more than a few votes. You lose your economic credibility. And a sprinkling of academic economists, however distinguished, won’t make up the difference.”

“If Labour simply defaults to a ‘Tory cutters, Lib Dem collaborators’ mantra, it … will lose any possibility of being chosen as an alternative government.”

“(Labour) should criticise the composition but not the thrust of the Tory deficit reductions.”

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