Tories turn fire on gurus of the left

Blair's image: Political opponents and satirists alike have found the Labour leader an awkward target to hit
Click to follow
Having attacked Tony Blair's wife and his cardigan, Conservative critics are now targeting the Labour leader's mind.

The Conservative assault on the Labour leader will be intensified next week with a sustained attack on Blair's "gurus" by David Willetts, a Government minister and former head of the Centre for Policy Studies, a right-wing think tank.

Cherie Booth was targeted by the party chairman, Brian Mawhinney; the cardigan Tony Blair wore in his Islington garden for the photograph on the front page of the Independent drew criticism. Mr Willetts now plans to take apart the philosophy underpinning "Blairism".

One of his main targets will be Peter Mandelson, the style guru behind Labour's new image, who also happens to be his Labour shadow, as the spokesman on public service.

Mr Willetts, a former member of Baroness Thatcher's Downing Street policy unit, has named the political commentators he believes have changed attitudes which could help Tony Blair to win the battle of ideas at the next general election.

His 26,000-word pamphlet, to be published on Monday through the Conservative Political Centre, questions the acceptance of Blairite thought.

The Tory MP for Havant has told friends that he intends to challenge the eight "gurus" who have "created an environment in which Blairism can flourish".

The seriousness with which the Conservatives are treating the new climate for a Blairite Labour Party will be seen by Labour as an admission of their failure to maintain the intellectual high ground since the demise of radical Thatcherism.

In addition to Mr Mandelson's work with Roger Liddle, The Blair Revolution, Mr Willetts's targets are: Will Hutton, author of The State We're In; John Gray, author of the Demos pamphlet After Social Democracy; Simon Jenkins, former editor of the Times, author of Accountable to None - the Tory Nationalisation of Britain; John Kay, an economist at the London Business School, who wrote Foundations of Corporate Success; David Marquand, former leading light of the SDP and author of The Unprincipled Society, a critique of Thatcherite individualism; Frank Field, Labour MP and an advocate of reform of the welfare state; and the editor of the Independent, Andrew Marr (over his book, Ruling Britannia, in which he describes the failure of British democratic institutions).

Mr Kay is targeted by Mr Willetts as the "father" of the theory of the stakeholder economy. It was after he had explained his philosophy in a private meeting that the Labour leader made his Singapore speech embracing stakeholding.

But Mr Kay's colleagues had doubts about the influence of the gurus on Mr Blair's policies. "He has picked up a few of their buzzwords, but whether Kay has influenced Blair's thinking is unclear . . . [and] Blair has not adopted everything that Hutton is saying. Hutton says the whole fabric of society, the role of the City, industry and the constitution, needs revolutionary change. You never hear Tony Blair talking about revolution."

Donald Macintyre, page 20