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The third way according to Tony Blair

Written By: - Date published: 9:06 am, June 14th, 2015 - 70 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, capitalism, class war, iraq, Politics, uk politics, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:


There has been some talk this week about Tony Blair’s third way politics.  Some think that he has the ability to walk on water because he succeeded twice at general elections even though it was against a tired dispirited Conservative Party that had clearly gone past its use by date.  Others cannot stand his pale imitation of progressive politics and cannot forgive such sins as his acceptance of the claims of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, when it appears that he was told that they did not have this capacity.

And what has he done since his time as Labour PM of the UK?

Well he has made lots of money.

If you want to comprehend how much this article in yesterday’s Herald provides some information.  He has been using taxpayer’s resources, up to $35,000 NZ a week, to travel and have security so that he can further his private interests.  These include attending speaking engagements which he is being paid significant amounts for.

One example reported recently was that for a 30 minute speech to a Swedish conference he asked for asked for a £250,000 fee payable to his wife’s charity as well as £80,000 expenses.

And at the same time he has been fulfilling his role as a roving Middle East Envoy he has been furthering his commercial interests.  The conflicts involved are pretty staggering.

The article estimates that he has earned £100 million since leaving office and he expects to earn significant amounts for any speeches given.

Of course some will think that this is perfectly appropriate if not commendable and I am engaging in the politics of envy. And Labour needs to be more aspirational if it is to succeed and to applaud ambition not decry it.

But the level of Blair’s wealth and greed is staggering and his third way appears to only permit the continuation of current levels of privilege.  And it is not sustainable.

As was said by Pope Francis last year:

An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it … I think a question that we are not asking ourselves is: isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature? Safeguard creation because, if we destroy it, it will destroy us. Never forget this.”

70 comments on “The third way according to Tony Blair”

  1. r0b 1

    Some people say they don’t know what Labour stands for. I do – compassionate government.

    But I sure as hell don’t know what “the third way” stands for. Anyone?

    • Kiwiri 1.1

      For the many people affected, it is the turd way.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      The Third Way stands for exactly what neo-liberalism stands for – the rich stealing from everyone else.

    • Lanthanide 1.3

      “But I sure as hell don’t know what “the third way” stands for. Anyone?”

      Getting in to power.

      • Colonial Rawshark 1.3.1

        Getting into power via corporate media and banking support.

      • David H 1.3.2

        According to the Guardian’s a Brief history of the 3rd way..

        “The so-called third way is New Labour’s attempt to build itself an ideological foundation.”


        Anyway here it is in full.

        • dukeofurl

          Anne Mellbye is a graphic designer in Oslo, doesnt seem to exist on Guardian now and only wrote minor stories about London in 2003.

          Its a worthless summary. Plus there was no such thing as New Democrats – an obvious mistake for those who know little of US- its Democratic Party for one and Clinton had little sway over individual Senators and Congressmen/women. Half of them would fit comfortably in our National party , back in those days.

    • Ovid 1.4

      Put at its most basic the Third Way is something different and distinct from liberal capitalism with its unswerving belief in the merits of the free market and democratic socialism with its demand management and obsession with the state. The Third Way is in favour of growth, entrepeneurship, enterprise and wealth creation but it is also in favour of greater social justice and it sees the state playing a major role in bringing this about. So in the words of one of its gurus Anthony Giddens of the LSE the Third Way rejects top down socialism as it rejects traditional neo liberalism.

      BBC: What is the Third Way? (1999)

      Abandoning “demand management” seems particularly problematic to me in respect of the current housing crisis. Those with a green bent who anticipate the end of growth would also reject third way-ism as it incorporates the promotion of growth as an economic tenet. Finally, there are those who view favouring enterprise and wealth creation as means of promoting inequality and insecurity amongst the workforce.

      New Zealand’s Fifth Labour Government was very much a third way administration. Under Clark, NZ shot to the top of international rankings on ease of establishing a business, an FTA was signed with China and private investment was heavily promoted with KiwiSaver. Targeted means of combating inequality like Closing the Gaps were abandoned for more general ones like Working for Families. It was when the government came to be viewed as more prescriptive – electoral finance, shower heads and lightbulbs – that Labour began losing its popularity.

      • Nessalt 1.4.1

        so when you take all mickey’s personal slurs about tony blair out of thie discussion, the third way looks pretty good. it certainly has appeal in new zealand as the description above summarises what the nacts try to look like, even if the mask slips from time to time

        • RedLogix

          Well to put it another way – the Third Way idea may have or have not merit – but it’s association with Tony Blair will forever blight it.

          • Sanctuary

            “… the Third Way idea may have or have not merit…”

            At the time it was proposed – the height of capitalist triumphalism at the fall of the USSR, the golden age of Chinese growth beginning, and the apparent victory of Thatcherism – third way politics offered a potentially attractive path to power for the centre left in the Westminster system. After all, the institutional left are used to doing deals with capitalism, are institutional organisations that now fit seamlessly with the establishment and, finally, there was work to be done for the rights of minorities.

            The problem was first the left utterly failed to understand how deadly the enemy was and is. Like Europe pre-WW2, who thought they could “manage” Hilter through appeasement, the left thought it could appease neoliberal capitalism and preserve the post war settlement’s status quo through “managing” it. Secondly, the left utterly failed to grasp that neoliberalism was about capitalism cementing into place not just an economic re-balancing but a fundamental social reversion to 19th century capitalism that undermined the traditional mass based unions that supported the political left. Thirdly, the baby-boomer “guardians” of socialism – the Paganis, Quinns, the Rogernomes in general – either simply sold out for the capitalist coin or proved to be craven cowards, too infected with middle class regard for material status and over-enamoured with the “rule of law” to fight the capitalists effectively. The only resistance came from maori, who are now also being divided into a have elite (Iwi leadership Group, any mate of Tariana Turia) and a have-not lumpen-mass.

            From this wreckage we do need new ideas to build a different left to the old one. A left that accepts that unions are no longer synonymous with workers, that radical populism should not be left to the far right, and of new sorts of ways of forcing change – not necessarily from within the establishment, or even peacefully – on capitalism. The thing about Pagani and Quinn and co is they are not offering new ideas. They are peddling a failed set of ideas, ideas that have already proven to be a blind alley and they are peddling appeasement when the time for confrontation has long past. Josie Pagani is about as useful to left today as Lord Halifax was to Churchill in 1940.

            • Draco T Bastard


            • RedLogix

              Many thanks for this Sanctuary.

              As I was hinting above in principle the notion of harnessing both the dynamic energy of capitalism with the social justice ideals of socialism looks good on paper. But ultimately it proved to be nothing more than supping with the devil.

              And in that lies an important lesson. The single overwhelming hurdle for the left is how to change the belief structures and values that neo-liberalism has infected our societies with. And I say infected, because no question it was a deliberate process. You only have to think for a few moments about the degradation of television and the vileness peddled mass entertainment.

              It has reached the stage now where the slaves, serfs and servants of this new guilded age truly believe that this is their rightful station in life.

              • The lost sheep

                ” The single overwhelming hurdle for the left is how to change the belief structures and values that neo-liberalism has infected our societies with.”

                And the answer is?

                • Sanctuary

                  ” The single overwhelming hurdle for the left is how to change the belief structures and values that neo-liberalism has infected our societies with.”

                  It seems to me the left first needs to get it’s house in order. According the AJP Taylor, the Munich sell-out by Chamberlain saw a profound shift in the mindset of the British people – from a determined post-war pacifist mood to a resigned but equally determine pre-war one when the need for war with Germany became clear. The left needs to undertake a similar switch in mindset, from the championing of an elite cadres institutional defence of the remnants of the welfare state from within the current establishment to that of an insurgency in a life and death total war that seeks change by the means at the disposal of the weak.

                  That means abandoning bourgeois notions of “moderate” protest and “reasonableness”. Go ahead, throw pigs blood on Nick Smith in protest at deaths in state housing. By all means, instruct parishioners on the correct use of church property in the repelling of riot police. It means MPs willing to go to jail (the dynamic of protest would completely change if MPs – elected representatives – dared the state to beat them and arrest them, that is why early socialists got elected – to challenge the establishment, not become part of it. What greater slap in the face than radical voters re-electing a jailed MP?). It means adopting popular radical ideas that go beyond the traditional ideology of the left (Make your party membership transparent and open to anyone, and use the internet and online voting to vote on polices and resolutions, a ban on foreign home buyers, promising a royal commission on cronyism, promising free internet to everyone as a way of increasing digital democracy, making the job of the head of the reserve bank and various SOEs electable on three year cycles are all good examples) and it means not necessarily expecting change via institutional parliamentary means but also on the street via both mass and determined localised protest (for example – the local courthouse closes? Fund the locals to occupy it, and get retired lawyers and judges to hear local cases, radicalise the locals in it’s defense and make it clear they’ll use violence if they have to, then dare the government to send in the police).

                  it means having clear policies that pass the sniff test for being leftist – yes, we will tax the rich. Yes, we will fund public transport in Auckland AND subsidise it for the poor. Yes, we will take control of the Auckland housing market and use the power of the state to drive prices down.

                  A left that did that would cause uproar in the neoliberal establishment, and force change even when not in power.

                  • RedLogix

                    It means MPs willing to go to jail

                    Pretty short list of current left-wing MP’s who’d likely do that.

                    • Sanctuary

                      That is because they are all by and large bourgeois. The middle class is toxic to radical leftism – a nice mix of Aneurin Bevan and Clement Attlees is what the left needs in power.

                    • The lost sheep

                      Pretty short list of ANYONE who is willing to do that.
                      Which seems to me to be a bit of a flaw in your plan Redlogix.

                      I’d also question whether the most effective way to change peoples belief structures and values is to create civil unrest?…..seems to me that would just be playing right into the establishment’s hands, and drive people even further away from the far left?

                      In other words, I hope this is not the best plan anyone can come up with. The Left is truly screwed if so!

                    • RedLogix

                      But we’re all middle class now 😉

                  • McFlock

                    the dynamic of protest would completely change if MPs – elected representatives – dared the state to beat them and arrest them, that is why early socialists got elected

                    Didn’t help Hone.

        • Puddleglum

          I think you may need to distinguish between rhetorical cover for actions and the actions themselves.

          Everyone claims their actions are reasonable and well-motivated and so tries to construct arguments to that end.

          Saying that what you are doing is ‘moderate’ and, politically, involves sailing between Scylla and Charybdis may be good rhetoric but if your actions show that, in fact, you are well and truly siding with either Scylla or Charybdis in sinking everyone’s ships then so much for the rhetoric.

          And, at another level, claiming that there are equally odious extremes between which you are navigating is itself a common rhetorical technique that needs some critical examination.

          If you judge a tree by its fruits then I think it’s clear that Tony Blair’s government continued with neoliberalism.

          Income inequality (a classic feature of the implementation of neoliberal policies), for example, was higher after the Blair government’s tenure than it was before.

          From 1997 – when Blair came to power – to 2000 the Gini coefficient reached an all-time peak. (See this OECD Report on UK Inequality, especially Figure 1.)

          It then dipped and returned close to that peak level by the time he ceased to be PM and then dipped slightly under Brown before he lost to the Conservative/LibDem coalition government in 2010.

        • mickysavage

          “so when you take all mickey’s personal slurs about tony blair out of thie discussion”

          You mean pointing out his level of personal wealth and greed? Why isn’t that relevant?

          And the third way is status quo which will end in tears.

          • dukeofurl

            Or you could say this as well

            “”The vast majority of Tony Blair’s time is spent on his unpaid activities, such as his charitable projects in Africa, as Quartet representative in the Middle East, and with the work of his faith foundation and sports foundation,”

            What gets me is you unquestionably repeat Tory slurs planted in the usual London newspapers.

            You wouldn’t for a minute do the same for slurs about Cunnilife, as they were designed for the same effect.
            National had one Jason Eade, the tories would have 20.
            You can see the work Helen Clark is doing now under the same sort of attack here. Luckily our newspapers are ( mostly) less ideological so little of it goes mainstream.

    • saveNZ 1.5

      Third Way, is National Lite.

      Kinda successful initially, but then voters twig on that it is making their lives worse so stop voting for it. Unfortunately it often takes the Labour party a significant amount of time to work this out (if ever) and they keep espousing the third way polices, which is actually Nat/conservative policies but a ‘lighter’ version.

      They then start fighting with their natural partners further left, confusing voters who often just switch off voting, to the benefit of the Nats/Conservatives who maintain their base as both Labour and Nats/Conservative parties agree with each other in principal on neo liberal policy (money is god and privatisation is Gods work) and foreign policy (war, trade deals etc). All the discourse is pro neo liberal at Government level and they just bicker about details. No real vision about a change in direction or against neo liberalism is picked up on.

      If you add in, dirty politics, the results seem to be slow death to Labour, who flail around and often make the situation worse by thinking they need to be more like the Nats/Concervatives to win.

  2. dukeofurl 2

    So hes raising money for Charity !

    What a terrible thing.

    Anybody on the conference dinner/lecture circuit charges money. The more money you can charge relates to how popular you are. It shortens the waiting list as well. If they dont want to pay it, there would be plenty of cheaper speakers.

    Expenses , well he has to still have security as a former UK PM.

    There cant be a former labour PM in NZ who didnt charge for some whatever conference speech. Are they to be pilloried as well.

    • mickysavage 2.1

      Did you read the part that referred to £80,000 expenses to give a speech in Sweden and that his security was being paid for by the UK taxpayer?

      • dukeofurl 2.1.1

        So the express is a mine of information. The security wages may be paid for but accommodation isnt.
        Plus he normally travels by executive jet – again for security reasons and can include his bodyguards.

        From your line of work, you would know if you are too busy and dont want a particular case, quote a very large sum and hope they go away.
        From panelbeaters to PMs they all do it .

        To me the idea of some expensive ( they would charge massive fees to attend if Clinton was there) conference about feeding the poor is too grotesque.

        Do you have an answer about the main fee payable to a charity !

      • Clemgeopin 2.1.2

        I am not defending Blair at his exorbitant fees, but aren’t the people willing to pay him so much the real mugs? They could have told him to bugger off!

        I immediately thought of the National party outfit and their cabinet club scam, ‘the cash for access to Key’ racket here!

        The people who vote for them are the mugs.

        At least Blair is an independent private individual!

        • cricklewood

          The issue isnt the fees he demands if someone wants to pay silly money to listen to Tony Blair all power to them. Its the fact that he still avails himself to tax payer funds when traveling to events to make said fees.

          • dukeofurl

            They are only paying the wages for security.

            They bump up times he has stayed for security reasons at the Ambassadors residence- that becomes luxury rooms !

            “A Foreign Office spokesman said: “As a former prime minister, we offer Tony Blair the use of FCO residences when it is possible and appropriate to accommodate him. This is a courtesy which has been offered to other former prime ministers.”

        • greywarshark

          @ Clem
          How independent is Blair? It is no doubt like so many descriptions relating to the elite these days, a compromised word. Probably on scrutiny, he would be seen as part of a tapestry of individuals moving around the financial honeypots. And following that trend that is described I think in joe 90’s quotes of pollies being in a sort of rogues line up for the wealthy and powerful to view with an eye to a future profitable niche in private enterprise.

    • RedLogix 2.2

      Not at this scale they haven’t. If that 100m quid mentioned really did ALL go to authentic charities – then good on him.

      But there is clearly a question of just how much has stuck to his fingers along the way.

      • Kiwiri 2.2.1

        For a man with so much integrity, he should open his books for all to audit and to see as to how much he has been receiving, whether he has been paying his taxes or rearranging his affairs to avoid (or even worse, evade) taxes, and how much he has raised has actually gone to the charities.

      • greywarshark 2.2.2

        Why should it be okay for millions to be paid to people who have achieved a powerful position and the confidence that goes with it to indulge in another talkfest. It’s just another example of how money can be found for and by the wealthy and kept floating around for the rich to fish up while the poor drown in their various ways because there is no talk or help or money available for them. It is bad when we get blase’ about it all when we should be really really angry.

        Thanks MS for presenting this stunning front page news about Blair and his machinations. If it is not front-page then its another sign of the blase’ blahs that have dumbed us down, or most of us.

  3. joe90 3

    It’s got a name too,

    This man had Blair Disease, named for ex-prime minister Tony Blair: the growing propensity of former heads of government to monetise their service. Blair Disease is damaging but easily cured.


    Most ex-leaders link up with the plutocratic class while still in office. These people have been planning their careers since kindergarten. They don’t leave politics and then suddenly think, “I wonder what to do?” Even while leader they’re looking ahead, and so every meeting with a rich person is a semi-conscious job interview. Furthermore, through hanging out with rich people, they start thinking of themselves as poor. The US Republican congressman Phil Gingrey spoke for struggling politicians everywhere when he grumbled: “I’m stuck here making $172,000 a year.


    It’s easy to cure Blair Disease: bar ex-leaders from doing paid work for private interests. This free measure would instantly deflate populism, keep experience inside government and attract a better class of person to the job.


    • mickysavage 3.1

      Thanks. Makes you wonder what Key has planned for when he retires …

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        I suspect he’ll go back to being responsible for helping cause global financial meltdowns and being well paid for it.

    • joe90 3.2

      Former BBC head Greg Dyke, unseated by the Blair Government in the aftermath of the Hutton Inquiry, on Tony Blair –

      Tony Blair tried to patch things up. “He invited me for tea,” recalls Dyke. “I didn’t go. My relationship with him, which wasn’t worth anything, was completely broken. I think Blair now is a very sad man, rich, but [he] betrayed everything the Labour party was about. I think he’s a bit of a shady figure. If you go around a bunch of suspect Middle Eastern governments, taking vast sums for advising them –


      • RedLogix 3.2.1

        David Kelly – a principled man ground up by the war machine.

      • greywarshark 3.2.2

        The disease that Tony Blair has – perhaps could be named MERS2 (Middle East respiratory failure). MERS1 is fairly deadly and quick. Blair’s is deadlier but slower and more complex, especially when contracted by both the aspirational wealthy and the defenceless poor. Both will come to a sad end at the end of the day.

  4. North 4


    Note – in the link above there’s reference to an alleged 100K pounds sterling payment to Cherie Blair personally, distinct from the money for charities. I recall reading about it at the time and thinking “WTF ???”. One might think that if there was nothing to it Downing Street might have said that rather than decline comment.

    • dukeofurl 4.1

      Dont believe the dirty politics stories sourced from the Tories.

      You are a fool if you believe the truth of it all

      • North 4.1.1

        I repeat – “One might think that if there was nothing to it Downing Street might have said that rather than decline comment.”

  5. Nick K 5

    He’s doing no different than what Hillary Clinton has been doing for years while she has been a politician.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      Yes, the US Congress is a bought congress, just like the National Party is a bought party, and Tony Blair is a bought ex-politician.

      In any decent society they’d all be in jail.

  6. Wayne 6

    This item is somewhat irrelevant to his success in making Labour electable from 1994 to 1997, then winning three elections in a row.

    I know the Left, especially of the Standardnista ilk, hate Blair, but that is simply blinding you to a proper analysis as to why he succeeded.

    Hint, it wasn’t because UK Labour needed to double down on the Michael Foot approach to politics to once again look like they could be trusted to govern – quite the opposite in fact.

    By hey, if you all want to blame everything since 1984 on the “failed neo-liberal experiment” then thats your choice.

    • KJT 6.1

      Succeeded in continuing taking the wrecking ball to British society.

      The really scary thing about Neo-liberal radicals is that some of them genuinely believe their own bullshit.

      Of course your election funding dries up if you try to lead for everyone’s benefit.

      Hard to change someone’s ideas when their living depends on it.

      Who pays your bills by the way, Wayne?

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      The “failed neo-liberal experiment” is fucking up our environment and will most likely result in the first, and most probably the last, anthropogenic extinction level event. No amount of ZOMG, the economy’s grown is going to cover the simple fact that we’re headed for a dead end with emphasis on dead. Being popular doesn’t mean that you’re right and the evidence is that you and your ilk are seriously wrong.

      This seems to have been made specifically for RWNJs

    • Colonial Viper 6.3

      Hi Wayne, could you comment on the closeness of Blair in office, and after office, to both the corporate banking lobby, and also the military industrial lobby.

    • Hi Wayne,

      Your memory of UK elections (and UK Labour leaders) is a bit patchy.

      Leading up to 1992, Neil Kinnock was well ahead in the polls against Thatcher until she got rolled and was replaced by Major. Major won by a much diminished 21 seats down from a 102 seat majority after the previous election.

      Kinnock resigned after the 1992 defeat and was replaced by John Smith, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer who had written a shadow budget leading up to the 1992 election with a rise in the top tax rate to 50p (from 40p).

      With Smith as leader, Labour rocketed ahead of the Major government by as much as 23 percentage points. He was popular and a very good debater in the House of Commons, often mercilessly and effectively mocking the government.

      Blair and Brown were, however, waiting in the wings with their neoliberal sympathies so, when Smith died at age 55 of a massive heart attack, Blair became leader.

      As the Wikipedia entry on Smith adds:

      Smith’s biographer, Mark Stuart, claimed that Smith could have won Labour a parliamentary victory in 1997 on a scale similar to that achieved by Tony Blair because of the combination of the Black Wednesday debacle and ongoing Conservative divisions over Europe between 1992 and 1997. Stuart argues that the lack of a “Blair effect” would have meant that the Conservative Party would have held slightly over 200 seats in the House of Commons, leaving the Conservatives in a position similar to that of Labour in 1983, than to the actual Conservative result in 1997

      The Conservatives actually won 165 seats in 1997. Nevertheless, all signs were that Smith also would have won that election and done so with far more traditional Labour policies and orientation.

      Perhaps not “doubling down on the Michael Foot approach to politics” but certainly not embracing an entirely foreign and heartless creed that ensures that the most vulnerable simultaneously are blamed for their own reduced prosperity while paying the price of the redistribution of wealth to those at the very top of an increasingly unequal pyramid of wealth and income.

      Labour would very likely have won in 1997 without Blair and his entirely mis-named ‘Third Way’.

      • dukeofurl 6.4.1

        Could , might have, should have.

        Fanatsy stuff, as no one else believes it.

        Smith was dead. Dead I say.

        • RedLogix

          Let me see … well thought out argument from respected commenter replete with evidence and logical reasoning, versus snarly noise. Who to believe? Choices, choices….

          • dukeofurl

            Trouble is it isnt reasoned. Falsehoods arent reason.

            Major should have lost but didnt. That was Kinnock/ Smith problem you dont talk about.

            Major won 41.9% of the vote, to labours 34.4.

            And by saying it was only 21 seats ,is because of the Liberals seats as well, Labour were behind 65 seats.

            A more likely result was a Labour or Conservative coalition with the Liberals if Smith had lived .

            Its a worse defeat than today, as the 100 they are behind now includes those seats lost to SNP which was a much smaller party then.
            No surprise there as Milliband moved the party to the left compared with Blair and Brown.

            As Smith was very dead by the time of the 97 election, you havent discussed who was the left wing leader who would win for labour.

            Thats my reasoned reply why you are talking fantasy, winning with a leader who was dead. You surely get the main point of it.

            Find me this charismatic and popular debater who wasnt Blair and could have done the things you claim.
            And another thing, win 3 elections.

        • Puddleglum

          Hi dukeofurl,

          You are quite right that I was arguing the counterfactual. That was in response to Wayne’s implied claim that only by going to Blair’s ‘Third Way’ could Labour be trusted to govern again.

          I was pointing out that polling between 1992 and 1994 suggested that Smith was presenting a more than viable electoral alternative to the then Conservative government. Yet Smith was not embracing the ‘Third Way’ that Blair popularised.

          You may think that the polling in those years was bunkum but that’s another argument.

          Put simply, from the polling that was done at the time any reasonable observer would have assumed that Smith was probably on track to be the next Prime Minister – despite that track not being the ‘Third Way’.

          Yes, “Smith was dead”. But how is that relevant to my response to Wayne?

          You should remember that all argument is conjecture based – to one degree or another – on known facts.

          For example, Wayne’s claim that Tony Blair’s approach was the best or only approach Labour could have taken is itself just conjecture based on the assumed ineffectiveness of any other course of action (and those courses of action are, of course, counterfactuals – proposals as to how things might have, should have, could have turned out).

          That is, despite the fact that other courses of action (i.e., counterfactuals) never happened Wayne has implicitly argued that they would have resulted in Labour not succeeding at the polls. Wayne, that is, has implicitly claimed that he knows the outcome of the counterfactuals (e.g., if Smith had lived).

          So if I’m talking fantasy so is Wayne. Do you follow that?

      • Keir 6.4.2

        But Smith was a “reformer” and had already appointed Blair as Shadow Home Secretary and Brown as Shadow Chancellor. He’d stood as a reformer and moderniser on the right of the party to succeed Kinnock, and in fact thumped left-wing candidate Bryan Gould to get that role.

        A Smith government wouldn’t have been significantly different to the eventual Blair government in terms of ideology or key personnel. It might have been more like Brown’s ministry than Blair’s, which would of course have been an improvement, but the counterfactual where Smith leads us to a land of milk and social democratic honey is wishful thinking.

        • Puddleglum

          Yes, during the Kinnock years Smith ‘reformed’ the voting system within Labour going for one member one vote which reduced union influence.

          Blair, however, did not just ‘reform’ the party’s systems but – highly symbolically – changed its mission (with great fanfare over Clause 4) and shifted its electoral and policy ground significantly towards the wealthier middle classes in the South of England.

          It’s worth noting that in 1997 Labour received fewer votes than Major’s Conservatives had gained in 1992 (half a million fewer). And, despite Blair’s supposed ‘charisma’ and popular appeal the 1997 election had a 6 percentage point lower turnout than in 1992.

          And, yes, you’re right that Smith would not have led the UK to “a land of milk and social democratic honey“.

          But his premiership would have undoubtedly fallen within the range of previous Labour governments in the UK – e.g., Wilson.

          Here’s another view on what similarities and differences there would have been between a Smith-led Labour government and the Blair one.

          The point is that Blair’s ‘Third Way’ was by no means the only way.

          Put another way, in this thread my point has not been that Smith would have taken the UK Labour Party to the left (from he position it held under Kinnock) but that he was popular enough to have won the 1997 election without having taken it (in policy terms) to a version of Thatcherism.

          I’m fully aware that Labour Parties in the Western World have long since lost their reforming socialist vision but where Blair took the UK Labour Party (in the name of electability) was to a place where even Rupert Murdoch felt comfortable with it.

          Murdoch’s Sun newspaper backed Blair in 1997 which is not surprising given Blair’s July, 1995 speech at the Newscorp conference in the Hayman Islands resort. In that speech Blair pontificated about the ‘moral challenge’ facing Britain (you know, the usual right wing rhetoric about personal responsibility, etc.).

          In fact, he said the ‘moral challenge’ was greater than the ‘economic challenge’ which, he explicitly stated, had been met by – guess who? – Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher who had put “a greater emphasis on enterprise” and “success”.

          Further, Blair said that the same was true of press ownership whose enterprise was being stifled by government regulations (the kerfuffle at the time over ‘cross-ownership’ between print and television media.

          All music to Rupert’s ears of course.

          And all very indicative of how far to the neoliberal right Blair was willing to go.

          All I argue is that ‘There was an alternative’ to the ‘Third Way’ – and one that would have led to a Labour government in 1997.

          That was why I responded to Wayne initially.

      • DS 6.4.3

        People forget how mind-bogglingly unpopular the Tories were in 1997. Between Black Wednesday, the endless sleaze and corruption scandals, the broken promise on VAT, and the party’s endless civil war on Europe, the Tories were so utterly loathed that Labour would have won that election with Tony Benn or Dennis Skinner as leader.

  7. Vaughan Little 7

    on the Catholicism front: Ambrose of milan threatened to rxcommunicate the emperor if he didn’t publicly repent for his role in a punitive massacre of 7000 people in a city that had rioted. I’m still to hear of a priest who has spoken out in condemnation of his unrepentance following iraq. the threat of dissembling is that you yourself become disassembled as a moral agent yourself, and it’s the token of the church to watch over the careof souls of those who have come to it, as he has. frankly speaking iI find him to be a walking fuckup.

    having read thru the comments, I’m surprised that there has been so little comment or consensus on how obscene it is as a human being to charge so much to talk about anything, let alone building a better world… I’m without a shred of doubt that if I was living like that, week by week taking such huge amounts of cash to deliver so little, it would corrupt me and make me a sad sad man.

  8. Blue 8

    I found this critique of Labour’s unquestioning acceptance of neoliberalism – the ‘third way’ interesting for being in the quite Tory Evening Standard:


    Still we get ‘Labour’ pollies who think the only way to win is to be as much as possible like the Tories without actually being the Tories. The idea of real innovation and change seems to have been jettisoned by the current crop of UK wannabe Labour leaders.

  9. millsy 9

    It is worth noting that the the left, and Labour’s base did support Blair and were prepared to swallow a few dead rats to get into power. His brand only became toxic because of Iraq/Afghanistan/9-11, and after his whole crackdown on civil liberties, with CCTV cameras growing like weeds, and people getting thrown in jail because they farted at a bus stop (ASBOs), plus he never really remembered what party he belonged to.

    Contrast that with Cameron and Key, who from time to time, do remember what party they belong to, and legislate accordingly.

  10. Sable 10

    Anyone looking to Blair for answers to anything is truly lost…..

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