March 25, 2002


The Future of Tony Blair (New Statesman, 3/25/02)
There are four problems at the heart of Mr Blair's leadership. First, new Labour was always a marketing concept, an attempt to rebrand the party without necessarily coming to grips with its substance. (Clause Four itself, which Mr Blair so dramatically and successfully challenged, was important only because it was part of the old brand; it had never, for most party members, been a guide to policy and action.) But because brand and image are so fundamental to new Labour, it is peculiarly vulnerable to being tarnished by an Ecclestone, a Mittal or a Hinduja; a point Mr Blair implicitly acknowledges when he implores us to have faith in him as a straight, honest kind of guy. Second, Mr Blair has never put down any deep roots in his party; he has no instinct for its heartbeat and no affection for it; if anything, he and his allies seem to despise the mass membership. Third, many of his own inner beliefs remain obscure. Does he, for example, fail to defend the comprehensive school system because he himself believes in selection? Or because he believes that comprehensives are too associated with the old Labour brand? Does he support President Bush because he truly believes that we should go to war against Iraq? Or because he doesn't want his brand tarnished by any hints of pacifism or anti-Americanism?

Several years ago, one of the British papers ran a profile of Blair in which a friend said that they key to understanding him is that he loathes Labour. The reforms he's undertaken are, like Clinton's, intended to make the party significantly less statist and labor dominated. But one assumes this is impossible in the long run. So why not switch to the Tories and really try out some of these free market ideas? Posted by Orrin Judd at March 25, 2002 7:31 AM
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