Daily catch-up: Tony Blair, what a loser – Corbynite denialism revisited

The remarkable legend of recent political history, plus why Britain may vote to leave the EU

John Rentoul
Wednesday 04 November 2015 09:57
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William Hague and Charles Kennedy admire their portraits and that of Tony Blair, all painted by Jonathan Yeo (Photo: David Sandison)
William Hague and Charles Kennedy admire their portraits and that of Tony Blair, all painted by Jonathan Yeo (Photo: David Sandison)

One of the most persistent Corbynite denialist memes is that Tony Blair was a loser, who lost Labour millions of votes and was responsible for defeat in 2010 and 2015. I'm not saying all the 251,000 who voted for Jeremy Corbyn believe this, but a large number of them do. (Have you noticed, incidentally, that the Labour press office has ceased to put out frequent updates on how many people are joining the party and how the total membership is almost as high as it was under Blair? The latest figures, from 8 October, are here.)

Their legend of recent political history runs roughly as follows. Margaret Thatcher was so unpopular that a pub sandwich could have led Labour to victory in 1997. Unfortunately, Labour didn't get a pub sandwich, it got Tony "Loser" Blair, who won despite himself and then proceeded, because he copied Margaret "Loser" Thatcher, to lose Labour 5 million votes (I think this is arrived at by deducting the 8.6 million Labour votes in 2010 from the 13.5 million in 1997). Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband also lost because they were Blairites ("endorsed the neoliberal consensus"/"failed to challenge austerity"). At last Labour has now put an end to its losing ways.

As this is nearly the opposite of what actually happened, rebuttal is pointless. Although Glen O'Hara does point out that the history of opinion polling suggests that Labour is so far behind that it is already highly likely to lose the next election. With, I would add, one qualification: it could get rid of its leader, but that would require about half of the 251,000 to recognise that they have made a mistake. Given the impossible things they believe, I would say that is unlikely.

The only adequate response to the Corbynite ahistory of New Labour is therefore derision. That is why I was disappointed to see Liam Byrne, who knows better, yesterday parroting "neoliberalism", the reliable indicator of thoughtlessness. And that is why, although I can see what they are doing, I can't go along with Progress's "bedtime" theme ("putting New Labour to bed"). Building bridges with nonsense is What Tony Would Have Done, but I can't be bothered with it.

This by former Europe minister and ardently pro-EU Denis MacShane is interesting on how David Cameron might lose the referendum.

And finally, thanks to Moose Allain ‏for this, just in:

"Have you been affected by malapropisms at work? You may be entitled to condensation."

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