Why should anyone care what the likes of Tony Blair thinks?

Tony the Bliar

Who imagined that The Labour Party’s leadership election, in the wake of Ed Miliband’s departure, would turn into a genuine ideological battle? When Miliband 2 was hoisted into the role the usual cries of ‘too left wing!’ went up everywhere. They dubbed him, rather ludicrously, Red Ed and painted him as an ideological step backwards. Soon enough it was plain to see that despite being the son of a respected Marxist theoretician, Mr Red Ed turned out to be rather more of a Magenta Miliband. He wasn’t all that much different from the New Labour Party that was his platform for reaching the top.

The current leadership race was probably expected to run to the same formula it has been running to since the election of Kinnock – basically a gradual shift rightwards predicated upon the ‘theory’ that left-wing politics loses elections. For that is now the ‘ideology’ of the influential top of the Labour Party. The election of the natural Tory and war criminal Tony Blair was the high point of this transition. His position as leader in an election that he couldn’t lose, after 18 years of Tory rule and a descent into sleaze; in a position of economic boom before the bust, has given him the unwarranted position of constantly being consulted as some kind of oracle for Labour Party matters. It was obvious, therefore, that his opinion would be solicited regarding the matter of Jeremy Corbyn’s increasing chances in the leadership race.

As is now par for the course we see Bliar adopting his usual tie-less look, with that smirk on his face and talking in the 1990s lad-culture manner he adopted as part of the great ‘Nu Labour’ strategy. His spiel is that he ‘just don’t geddit right?’ All those people going all left-wing, what’s all that about? Then he pulls the sort of face one of the cast from Friends might pull after delivering a punchline. It’s a fitting comparison because since his descent from the Labour throne he appears to have ‘gone all American’. Things are now ‘dumb’ rather than, for example, ‘foolish’ or just a mistake. He reiterates the ‘theory’ that the only thing that wins elections for the Labour Party is being more right-wing, because right-wing is the new normal for realistic politics, so the argument seems to go. No-one is so blunt about it though, they have to massage it in with a lot of references to ‘social justice’ or ‘opportunity for all’ and ‘making Britain work for everyone’. The Tories do it too. Basically whatever your ideology is, you wrap it in the emotive phrases and serve it up to the public.

Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for the leadership of the Labour Party was the sort of bid that usually provides the entertainment during these leadership battles. We’re all supposed to laugh and tut because we know these sorts of candidates don’t have a cat in hell’s chance, but this time the Labour Party has it all wrong their token ‘balance’ candidate has sailed to prominence rather than sinking without a trace. Since at least 2010 various party hopefuls, including current runner Andy Burnham, have given the usual waffle about how horribly right-wing the Tories are, giving the impression (though never ever saying) that they are a left-wing alternative. They represent the Blairite ‘left’, the pathetic residue of Labour Party socialism after the mid-1990s cleansing masterminded by the triumvirate of Blair-Brown-Mandelson. It runs through the entire upper layer of the party and is a deciding factor in who makes it to the front benches and which representative faces are allowed to go on the television.

On Wednesday’s Newsnight Mary Creagh, who is really a Blairite product, was the anti-Corbyn Labour Party guest, after having written an article in the New Statesman comparing Labour to Millwall football club. In the middle they had Emily ‘white van’ Thornberry purporting to sit on the fence and Diane Abbott supporting Corbyn. Creagh and Thornberry are Blairites. They are committed to capitalism and markets (wrapped in token social justice of course) and fully committed to the ‘theory’ that Labour Party election chances are only possible when not being ‘left-wing’. This is not ‘abolishing capitalism’ left-wing, or completely undoing privatisation left-wing. Being left-wing is now saying things like: ‘we don’t have to have terrible austerity piled on top of poor people and the working poor’. It’s also saying things like ‘banks should be properly regulated’ and ‘important public services should be publicly owned’. The last one being almost Bolshevism for most within the current New Labour Party. Ergo Jeremy Corbyn is really just a Bolshevik for these people. This is why Bliar has been wheeled out to perform his TV schtick and the BBC has been getting soundbites from people in the street and had no trouble in finding enough idiots who can say ‘oh yeah, this guy’s waaay too left-wing’ without really having the first clue what they are talking about.

We should care about the damaging horseshit propaganda Tony Bliar is peddling, but we should disregard his opinions because they are worthless.

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Bonus capping, or: closing the gate after the horse has bolted

There was a telling moment, someway through Tony Blair’s second term, when he appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight and made his feelings clear about people earning mega-salaries. Jeremy Paxman asked him if he would consider capping top earners, and with that ‘I’m just an ordinary bloke’  kind of look, Blair smirked and grunted a little and indicated that he wasn’t the least bit interested in capping earnings, whether that was the silly-sized earnings of footballers and celebrities or the salaries and bonuses in the city. Incidentally, I don’t believe his, then, second-in-command was too bothered about it either.

Fast forward to 2009 and Gordon Brown has now come over all “socialist” and thinks things like city bonuses are pretty obscene when everyone else has pulled their belts to the last notch. Even Tony Blair’s opposition clone David Cameron thinks it’s not on for people to be awarded fat bonuses (especially if it is taxpayer funded, though the possibility is that a hidden gripe over taxation in general is lurking here).

During the madcap boom years, everyone knew that city bosses and various employees were earning salaries and receiving bonuses that were out of all proportion to any actual useful activity other than company profits. The economy that Labour presided over engineered a system that saw mega-wealth being produced and largely going into the pockets of the few, whilst all the same problems of  funding the public services and ending poverty, remained fairly static apart from the slight rise in public spending that generally characterises a Labour government. Student tuition fees were introduced, the NHS still has its funding crisis, schools still have their funding crisis, yet growth and wealth was skyrocketing via the city. So where did it all go?

Whatever the answer is, the rhetoric and the moves by both Barack Obama and Gordon Brown to set to work on the mega-bonus culture and the obscene salaries, is just too late. The economy has already dropped, the depression has already arrived. If any changes are put in place to hamper the rampant greediness in the financial world (and in an era of neo-liberal orthodoxy this hardly seems likely), that might help moderately for the future, but as we stand, it is like closing the gate after the horse has bolted.