Posts Tagged ‘social mobility

10
May
12

A Word on Blair – Alex Hylan

A poll on the Guardian’s website found that only 33.7% of respondents would welcome Blair’s return to British Politics. I guess this is unsurprising, even though Blair remains one of our most charismatic leaders at a time when apathy towards politics is so populist.

Guardian comments such as “I would prefer to see him in the dock at the Hague”, thanks ‘Paddy01’ and “I’d welcome his return, if only to remind us how loathsome and disgusting our politicians can get”, keep up the dream, ‘LabourStoleMyCash’, seeming to be quite representative of general opinion on our former prime minister amongst my friends and other people I’ve spoken too.

Myself? I’ve always liked Blair. Look at him, look at that steely determination on his face, isn’t that just likeable?

I recently read Blair’s memoir, A Journey (available from all good Book shops, but get it from a library because it’s so much cheaper). I did this not because I’m a Blairite, but because I’m a Labour supporter and I always think it’s interesting to hear from people who have had such a massive influence on our party. I particularly wanted to hear about things from his perspective, because I feel as if Blair’s absence from British Politics has allowed others to define him instead of him defining himself.

A passage I particularly like comes early on, when he’s talking about his Dad (who you may remember, stood as a Conservative but had to back out because of illness):
“What Dad taught me above all else, and did so utterly unconsciously, was why people like him became Tories. He had been poor. He was working class. He aspired to be middle class. He worked hard, made it on his merits, and wanted his children to do even better than him. He thought – as did many others of his generation – that the logical outcome of this striving, born of this attitude, was to be a Tory. Indeed, it was part of the package. You made it; you were a Tory: two sides of the same coin. It became my political ambition to break that connection, and replace it with a different currency. You are compassionate; you care about those less fortunate than yourself; you believe in society as well as the individual. You can be Labour. You can be successful and care; ambitious and compassionate, a meritocrat and a progressive.  Moreover, these are not alien sentiments in uneasy coexistence. They are entirely compatible ways of making sure progress happens; and they answer the realistic, not utopian, claims of human nature.”

I’ve always believed passionately in the idea that, just as the demographics of our country has changed over time, so too should our Labour party. Our party is the party of the people, and while we should always remember that we strive to protect and shelter the poorest in our society, we should aim to govern for the country, not any one sect of it.

I’ve also always felt that Blair is the political figure that has most clearly articulated the notion that ambition and compassion are not diametrically opposed ideals, as Blair himself said: ‘You can be successful and care; ambitious and compassionate, a meritocrat and a progressive.’ The fact that we ever allowed the Tories to claim that they were the party of ambition is beyond me, what a fanciful lie that turned out to be.

Simply put, I think Blair has done a tremendous amount for the Labour party, in terms of making us a governable force again and bringing a lot of our polices in to government. Just as we praise the Nye Bevan’s and Clement Atlee’s of our history, we should also praise Blair; who, let’s not forget, won three elections in a row, two of them ecstatic landslides. We should be thankful for that.

A quick paragraph on Iraq, which I don’t want to go too much into, purely because I think it’s a whole different debate that has structural factors as well as personal ones:

In hindsight it’s very easy for us to criticise the decision to go to war in Iraq, sit here with our laptops and our social media and commenting from 9 years hence. Iraq has proved itself to be a war we should never have got involved with, I’m not disputing that, but Blair did not know that at the time. He was operating in a climate that was both paranoid and uncertain, and had to make a decision whether or not to take a risk and trust that there were no weapons of mass destruction. It was a risk he was not prepared to take that chance on. I don’t think we can name any other high level figure in British politics that, given the same circumstances, pressures and constraints, would have taken a radically different course of action. I don’t mean to gloss over the issue of Iraq and, rightly, it has become part of his legacy; that’s just my two cents and I’m no expert on the subject.

If you disagree with me, as I’m sure many people will, or just have an opinion on this issue, then please comment- I will endeavour to answer as many points as I can. I don’t acquiesce to Harry’s requests to write these blogs in order to be populist, and I’m always more interested in other people’s opinions that my own. The only thing I’d ask is that the comments aren’t completely Iraq centric, as important as that issue is. The reason I ask this is because, as I’ve said before, I’m no expert on the in’s and out’s of the subject, I was 10 at the time.

PS- Did you know that when you do a Google image search for ‘Blair’ three out of the first five images are of Blair Wardolf, a character from Gossip Girl? If that isn’t a sad indictment of our political times I don’t know what is.

Oh wait, that’s right, a Queen’s speech at a time when unemployment is set to rise to 9% that makes not one single mention of the word ‘jobs’. Now that, that is a shocking indictment of our political times.

Alex is a 19 year old Labour party activist and member of Sheffield Labour Students; studying Politics & Sociology at the University of Sheffield.