Leading article: Blair's flawed and self-serving analysis

Share
Related Topics

Perhaps the strongest impression left by Tony Blair's memoirs is one of familiarity. From Iraq, to terrorism, to public service reform, to criminal justice, the former Prime Minister plays the same tunes we heard from him when he was in No 10.

On the invasion of Iraq, Mr Blair makes his assertion that he does not regret the removal of Saddam Hussein. On the terrorism threat, Mr Blair denies that our foreign policy plays any part in stoking extremism. He mounts the traditional populist defence of Labour's law and order agenda, arguing that illiberal measures such as Asbos and ID cards are favoured by the public.

There is regret over the ban on fox hunting and the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act. And for those fascinated by the New Labour soap opera there is some gossip. He confirms that his personal relations with Gordon Brown were indeed as dreadful as reported at the time. And Mr Blair reveals that he liked to unwind in the evening with a drink. But, ultimately, A Journey is unlikely to be a major influence on the historical debate about Mr Blair's legacy.

The sting of the book comes in the tail, when Mr Blair turns from his own record to that of his successor. He voices his "profound" disapproval of deficit spending. But deficit spending was what prevented the slump in Britain turning into something still worse. Mr Blair also displays his naïve economic views when he remarks: "I was sure we had done plenty of redistribution and needed to give some TLC [tender loving care] to our middle class". But inequality edged up over Mr Blair's time in office, despite the redistribution of his Chancellor.

On dealing with the deficits, Mr Blair says Labour should not have raised the top rate of income tax and, instead, put up VAT. But, as the recent analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies makes clear, this would have meant asking the least well-off to bear the greatest burden. Reading such views, it seems almost a blessing that Mr Blair was kept away from economic affairs by Mr Brown.

The timing of the publication is not helpful to the Labour Party. It is not just the resurrection of bitter internal splits that does damage, but the naked attempt by Mr Blair to exert influence. He claims that Labour lost the election because it "abandoned" New Labour. And it is obvious that he thinks David Miliband, the candidate most closely associated – however unfairly – with his own vision of where the party should position itself, ought to be its next leader.

The problem is that Mr Blair offers a flawed and self-serving analysis of what went wrong for Labour at the last election. He seems to be in denial about the extent to which his own popularity was in decline before he left office in 2007. Those aspects of Labour that were repudiated at the election – the contempt for civil liberties, the slapdash approach to legislation, the cynical headline-chasing – were as much Mr Blair's responsibility as that of Mr Brown.

Mr Blair is justified in mounting a vigorous defence of the many good things he did in office, from bringing peace to Northern Ireland, to the minimum wage, to civil partnerships, to public service reform. But even with the burden of office removed, it is plain that he will not, or more likely cannot, recognise where he erred.

And in urging the next Labour leader to stick to his own narrow path or risk electoral oblivion, he does the party a disservice. The final irony is that Mr Blair, the self-styled "moderniser" and "rebel", would keep Labour rooted to the spot, trapped in electoral and economic assumptions, many of which are a decade out of date. But Mr Blair's journey is over. Labour needs to move on.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week