September 30, 2006


Masterclass Theatre: From Tony Blair, the best political memo on how to win in 2008 (Bruce Reed, Sept. 29, 2006, Slate)

Anyone who wants to find out how to win the next campaign should read Tony Blair's farewell address to the Labour Conference earlier this week in Manchester. Although largely overlooked here in the American press, Blair's swan song is the best political speech of 2006—and the best political memo for 2008.

The British press hailed Blair's performance as "a masterclass in the art of political speaking." It was even harder to top as political theater. For weeks, Labour had been battered by all-out civil war between supporters of Blair and his likely successor, Gordon Brown, who lives over the shop at 10 Downing Street and has waited a decade to take over the family business. On Tuesday, Brown's party conference speech was drowned out by unconfirmed reports that Blair's wife Cherie had walked out in the middle and called the man a liar. When Blair took the podium the next day, he not only gave Brown a ringing endorsement, but delivered one of the great stand-by-your-spouse lines of all time: "At least I don't have to worry about her running off with the bloke next door."

Blair devoted part of his speech to how much New Labour has transformed Britain's economy and politics over the past decade. "The core vote of this Party today is not the heartlands, the inner city, not any sectional interest or lobby," he said. "Our core vote is the country." But Blair expressed more interest in New Labour's future. Far from offering the stale incumbent mantra of "stay the course," his plea was just the opposite—to apply the same tough-minded rigor of reform and change to today's challenges that enabled New Labour to take office in the first place.

Mr. Reed and his fellow New Democrats are sad figures., wandering the political landscape, unabl to accept that the post-Clinton Democratic Party has utterly rejected the Third Way and ceded Blairite reform to the GOP.

MORE (via Mike Daley):
We'll keep the stars and stripes flying here: If we end up with a Cameron v Brown personality contest, the Americanisation of our politics will be complete (Gerard Baker, 9/29/06, Times of London)

IT WAS FITTING that Bill Clinton should make an appearance at the public obsequies of the Blair era this week. The Blair project was wrapped from the first in layers of American packaging. The Clintonisation of the party, with its image rebranding and focus-group vocabulary, was hated initially by the Labour traditionalists who loved the cleansing futility of defeat more than the soiling exigencies of victory.

They came around. But soon, in their critical minds, to the Americanisation of campaigning was added the presidentialisation of British government, as Mr Blair replaced time-consuming encumbrances such as the Cabinet with personal enhancements such as his own aircraft.

The ease with which the Prime Minister segued from the Clinton years to the Bush era — with its fateful consequences for him — only underlined the extent to which Mr Blair seemed unhealthily fixated on the US.

While the Right in Britain fixates on the style of Mr. Blair, the ease of that segue was a function of their similarities on substance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2006 8:56 AM

"the Labour traditionalists who loved the cleansing futility of defeat more than the soiling exigencies of victory." Sound so much like our conservatives.

Posted by: ic at September 30, 2006 3:04 PM