Blairism

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Blair speaks in support of the Northern Ireland peace process in Armagh in September 1998.

In British politics, the term Blairism refers to the political ideology of former leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister Tony Blair, who left both positions in 2007 to become Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East. Proponents of Blairism are referred to as Blairites.

Ideology[edit]

Bill Clinton (left) meets with Blair in November 1999, his close partner in their mutual Atlanticist views and emphasis on the special relationship.

Politically, Blair has been identified with record investment into public services, an interventionist and Atlanticist foreign policy, support for stronger law enforcement powers, a large focus on surveillance as a means to address terrorism and a large focus on education as a means to encourage social mobility. In the early years (circa 1994–1997), Blairism was also associated with support for European integration and particularly British participation in the European single currency, though this waned after Labour took office.

The term is used in particular in contrast to Brownite, to identify those within the Labour Party with a connection to, or identification with, Gordon Brown rather than Blair. However, with Blair and Brown typically in agreement on most political issues[1] (from Iraq to public sector reform), commentators have noted that "the difference between Brownites and Blairites … is more tribal than ideological".[2] This is believed to stem from a personal disagreement between Blair and Brown over who should have run for the leadership following the death of John Smith in 1994: though Brown was originally considered the senior of the two, he waited until after Smith's funeral to begin campaigning by which point Blair had gathered too much momentum to be beaten.[3]

With New Labour determined not to lose another election after nearly two decades out of office, and in relation to the modernisation of the party resulting in the creation of "New Labour", the party felt Brown still backed "Old Labour" policies, where they feared they would lose another election if Brown became leader. As the result of Brown not acquiring enough backing following key party members switching from Brown to Blair, coupled with Blair's charisma, youthful looks and excellent oratory skills, Brown agreed not to stand against Blair - leading to the Labour landslide victory in 1997.

For a long time, there has been a great deal of discussion in British politics about the Blairite legacy. This has intensified since September 2006, when Blair announced his intention to resign within a year, and especially since May 2007, when he said he would resign as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007. While centrists such as Gordon Brown and David Cameron claim that Blairism is safe in their hands, critics on the left (e.g. John McDonnell) and right (e.g. Norman Tebbit) dispute its value to British society.[citation needed] Others have even speculated that, if the Blairite coalition is to be seen as essentially one of pro-market anti-Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats could even be its ultimate inheritors.[4]

In a 1999 article, the centre-right news-magazine The Economist stated:

Mr Blair will doubtless do his duty and lavish praise on Labour's glorious past. But, in truth, Mr Blair has always displayed a marked ambivalence towards Labour history. His greatest achievement in opposition was to get the party to ditch its historic commitment to nationalisation, and to water down its traditional links with the unions. At times he has even hinted that the very foundation of the Labour Party was a mistake, since it divided "progressive" politics and led to a century dominated by the Conservatives. Mr Blair knows that all this makes many of his party faithful deeply uneasy.[5]

Blair's tenure is known for an expansion of LGBT rights such as the introduction of legal civil partnerships. Blair himself has told the LGBT organisation Stonewall that "[w]hat has happened is that the culture of the country has changed in a definable way" and that "[i]t's a thing that doesn't just give me a lot of pride, but it has actually brought a lot of joy." Blair has also claimed to have got up off his seat and danced upon seeing the first partnership ceremonies on television.[6]

Relationship to prior administrations[edit]

The Daily Telegraph stated in April 2008 that Blair's programme, with the emphasis on 'New Labour', accepted the free-market ideology of Thatcherism such as deregulation, privatisation of key national industries, maintaining a flexible labour market, marginalising the trade unions, and devolving government decision making to local authorities.[7]

In the BBC Four documentary film Tory! Tory! Tory!, Blair is described as personally admiring Thatcher deeply and making the decision that she would be the first outside person he formally invited to visit him in 10 Downing Street.[8]

Historian and writer Paul Johnson famously quoted Thatcher as saying before the 1997 election that Britain had "nothing to fear" from a Blair ministry.[7]

Previous Prime Minister John Major was one of the original figures behind the Northern Ireland peace process that Blair continued, and both of them campaigned in support of the Good Friday Agreement. However, Blair later snubbed Major by declining to invite him to a 2007 joint address to the House of Lords and House of Commons on the peace process.[9][10]

Blair privately called Thatcher "unhinged", a description that later became public knowledge.[11] Blair criticised the Thatcher government's record on poverty and made that a key issue for Labour economic policy. He made the goal to eradicate child poverty in Britain within 20 years based on the fact that one-third of British children were in poverty post-Thatcher compared to the 9% rate in 1979 (although these statistics are disputed).[5]

Blair also abolished Section 28, and he created lot more pro-European initiatives compared to Thatcher. Blair was criticised by various Thatcherites such as John Redwood, Norman Tebbit and William Hague.

In his autobiography published in 2010, titled A Journey, Blair remarked:

"In what caused much jarring and tutting within the party, I even decided to own up to supporting changes Margaret Thatcher had made. I knew the credibility of the whole New Labour project rested on accepting that much of what she wanted to do in the 1980s was inevitable, a consequence not of ideology but of social and economic change. The way she did it was often very ideological, sometimes unnecessarily so, but that didn't alter the basic fact: Britain needed the industrial and economic reforms of the Thatcher period."[12]

Relationship to later administrations[edit]

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown followed Blair as Prime Minister, after Brown's long tenure as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although viewed in the media as somewhat personally close, Blair later wrote in his autobiography A Journey that a "maddening" Brown effectively blackmailed him while he was in 10 Downing Street. Blair accused Brown of orchestrating the investigation into the cash-for-honours scandal and stated that the personal animosity was so strong that it led him to frequent drinking, a big change for Blair. Blair also has told journalist Andrew Marr that as their years working together went on, co-operation become "hard going on impossible".[13]

As stated before, both men had similar positions on actual issues and government policies. To the extent that they felt divided, it came mostly from differences in personality, background, and managing style.[1]

Blairites[edit]

Other than Tony Blair himself, the following prominent Labour politicians are often considered Blairites, but may not identify themselves as such:

Non-British politicians who are Blairites include:

Other non-politicians who are Blairites include:

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary has been regarded as a Blairite many times, for his support for New Labour's public service reform but also for his praise of Tony Blair and many former Blairite ministers, such as Hazel Blears, James Purnell and Andrew Adonis. Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, has been noted as a Blairite in recent times because of his centrism and support for David Miliband, even though during the 'New Labour' years he was a Brownite. Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, who was seen as a Brownite has now been recently described as a Blairite for her toughness on law and order but also has been gaining support from key Blairites such as John Rentoul, Dan Hodges and fellow shadow cabinet members. Jon Cruddas, despite being seen to be on the centre-left of the Labour Party, has claimed that he is a 'fan' of Tony Blair and has spoken in praise of 'early Blairism', even as a model for Ed Miliband's One Nation Labour. * Peter Hain, former Wales Secretary, was widely seen as a Blairite [32] but he has moved leftwards by rejecting fiscal austerity and New Labour.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b How to bear Blair: become a Blairite Will Hutton, Guardian UnlimitedComment is free, 21 June 2006
  2. ^ Jack the Knife goes for the clearout kill Kirsty Milne, The Scotsman, 28 November 2001
  3. ^ Will he? Won't he? Suzie Mackenzie, The Guardian, 25 September 2004
  4. ^ Kennedy can still exploit this perfect political storm Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 26 April 2005
  5. ^ a b "Tony Blair's war on poverty". The Economist. 23 September 1999. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  6. ^ "Blair proud of gay rights record". BBC News. 22 March 2007. 
  7. ^ a b "Margaret Thatcher, inspiration to New Labour". The Daily Telegraph. 17 April 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  8. ^ BBC Four, Tory! Tory! Tory!
  9. ^ Walker, Kristy (4 May 2007). "Blair leaves Major out of special Parliamentary Northern Ireland address". Daily Mail. Retrieved 4 November 2011. 
  10. ^ Walker, Kristy (4 May 2007). "Blair cuts Major out of his 'grandstanding' Ulster peace address". Daily Mail. Retrieved 4 November 2011. 
  11. ^ Iain Dale (19 August 2010). "In conversation with... Matthew Parris". Total Politics. Retrieved 4 November 2011. "I think he was unhinged. That's the same word Tony Blair used of Margaret Thatcher. I think Tony Blair was a bit unhinged too. I think Margaret Thatcher had her unhinged moments." 
  12. ^ Tony Blair (2010). A Journey. Random House. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-307-37578-0. 
  13. ^ "Tony Blair: Gordon Brown tried to blackmail me". The Daily Telegraph. 1 September 2010. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c d Hennessy, Patrick; Kite, Melissa (6 June 2009). "Revealed: how Cabinet Blairites plotted to topple Brown". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  15. ^ a b Helm, Toby; Hinsliff, Gaby (3 May 2009). "Hazel Blears savages Gordon Brown over 'lamentable' failures". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  16. ^ a b Coates, Sam (4 August 2008). "Blairites plot to hasten Gordon Brown's exit". The Times (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  17. ^ Sawer, Patrick (14 November 2009). "Stephen Byers: the ultra-Blairite who was a constant thorn in Gordon Brown's side". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  18. ^ a b c Porter, Andrew; Kirkup, James (3 September 2008). "Charles Clarke: Labour heading for 'utter destruction' under Gordon Brown". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  19. ^ Thomson, Alice; Sylvester, Rachel (23 May 2009). "Caroline Flint defends Hazel Blears in expenses row". The Times (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  20. ^ Waugh, Paul; Cecil, Nicholas (4 June 2009). "Loyalists urge PM to sack Flint amid fears she will quit". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  21. ^ Hélène Mulholland, Hélène (6 January 2010). "Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt call for secret ballot to settle leadership debate". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  22. ^ "Well done Tristram Hunt. Chalk one up for the Hons!". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 October. 
  23. ^ Wintour, Patrick (14 September 2011). "Labour party maps out a purple path to power". The Guardian (London). 
  24. ^ a b Grice, Andrew (29 June 2007). "Andrew Grice: We are all Brownites now, say the Blairites with relief". The Independent (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  25. ^ Kennedy, Siobhan (25 September 2008). "Ruth Kelly: chequered career of the Blairite star who fell to earth". The Times (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  26. ^ a b Richards, Steve (18 October 1999). "The Blairites reign supreme". New Statesman. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  27. ^ a b Daley, Janet (11 January 2009). "Return of the Blairites spells trouble for David Cameron". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  28. ^ a b Routledge, Paul (13 November 2009). "Pompous Blairites like David Miliband and Peter Mandelson make me cringe". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  29. ^ "Estelle Morris: classroom to cabinet". BBC News. 8 June 2001. 
  30. ^ Hencke, David (4 June 2009). "Which cabinet ministers are supporting Gordon Brown?". The Guardian (London). 
  31. ^ Morris, Nigel (29 June 2007). "First woman at the Home Office: Jacqui Smith". The Independent (London). Retrieved 6 January 2010.  A more fluid approach is needed.
  32. ^ "The Blairites and the Brownites". Daily Mail (London). 11 April 2006.