The Labour Party has had an interesting summer to say the least. It climaxed on Saturday when veteran left winger Jeremy Corbyn was announced the new leader. This came despite many warnings from senior Labour grandees, notably Tony Blair. Blair had been fairly unequivocal on a number of occasions about the dangers of a Corbyn led Labour Party, but his warnings have often fallen on deaf ears.
Jeremy Corbyn is the antithesis of Tony Blair. He is very much Old Labour, rather than New Labour. Where Blair courted the media, Corbyn appears to abhor them. There is little love lost between the two figures and very few similarities and Labour is clearly now in a new era.
Tony Blair always had his detractors in the Labour Party. The New Labour model was seen as a betrayal by a proportion of Labour supporters, who believed the party sold out their principles and forgot about their base. The decision to then invade Iraq was the final straw with a percentage of Labour voters and supporters leaving the party. Critics of Blair will see the decision to elect the anti-war, media sceptic Corbyn down in no small part to the legacy of Blair and the desire to move away from these times and to a supposed new style of politics.
Iraq and the transformation of the Labour Party into a more professional, spin focused political movement is one way history will remember Tony Blair, but there is another enduring legacy. Tony Blair is the only Labour leader to win 3 elections. Two of these were big landslides. Blair was the last Labour leader who could win in the South of England. These records alone give Blair a unique place in the Labour Party.
Since Blair resigned as leader of the Labour Party, Labour has lost two elections. They have now been demolished in their previous stronghold of Scotland and electorally Labour are at a low ebb. History indicates Corbyn’s politics will not resonate with the population as a whole and are unlikely to win him an election. It is also apparent that he splits the parliamentary party and that the potential for a split in the Labour Party cannot be ruled out. The future of the Labour Party is far from clear at this present stage.
Tony Blair is no longer a popular figure in the Labour Party. His adversaries will always claim that Iraq is his legacy. However the reality is history may well remember Tony Blair as the last man who could win elections for the Labour Party. Far from being Labour’s worst enemy, he could be remembered as the strongest asset they ever produced.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – Middle East Eye