In 1994 Blair took over the Labour party and made it safe for British capitalism. Which is why so many top companies and banks were content to contribute large sums to the party in order to hedge their bets – they gained whichever party won the elections. Up till now they have dominated the Labour party for the last 20 years. Blair’s abiding legacy, apart from the Iraq war, was to abandon the fundamental principles of the party and to assimilate it instead to the Thatcherite ideology of ‘let the markets rule and the State get out of the way’. When Mrs. Thatcher was later asked what was her greatest achievement, she replied without hesitation: ‘New Labour’. And the Daily Telegraph 6 months into Blair’s premiership published a half-page photo of Blair standing in front of a large picture of Thatcher in No.10 with the inscription underneath: ‘To Thatcher, a son’. By accommodating the ruling corporate class the Blairites used the Labour party as their avenue to power, and it’s hardly surprising now that they are in such a state of denial and disbelief at their abrupt fall from power over the last month.
Of course the Blairite faction is sincere in believing that they alone know how things should best be run and that, as Blair himself has constantly reminded us, any millimetre departure from his prescribed course will bring chaos and disaster. Not only does that show their unwillingness to listen (the party was virtually disbanded under Blair into a press release and door-knocking organisation), but it also exposes a deep arrogance about their own invincibility and their contempt for any radicalism from the Left. The writing was already on the wall in Greece, Spain, and Scotland, but still they thought they could muffle dissent and ignore it. It is a lesson in political nemesis.
Of course the Blairites will protest that they, and they alone, won three elections in a row. The truth however is that the Tories threw away the 1997 election rather than that Labour distinctively won it, the second election was marked by stasis after an undistinguished 4 years, and the third saw the loss of 4 million votes after Iraq. They will also appeal to the huge investment in health and education. But a large part of the former was spent on building (fine for the construction industry rather than the essentials of health) and on outsourcing and privatisation (again good for the corporates rather than patients), whilst in the case of the latter there were huge building programmes inaugurating academies and free schools which have never proved their worth and have never been popular.