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16 April 2013

The lost tribes of British politics – day 2: the Blairites and the liberal interventionists

3. The Blairites

Arguably, the Blairites are going the same way as the Tory wets (featured yesterday). In fact, one could go further: The New Labour project was an aberration – a freak occurrence only made possible by the never-to-be-repeated (we hope) mesmerism of Anthony Charles Lytton Blair.

No Tony, no New Labour. End of.

Admittedly, a few Blairites remain – just as a few orcs remained at the end of Lord of the Rings, following the final defeat of Sauron. However, they (the Blairites, not the orcs) have no chance of regaining the leadership of the Labour Party.

Now that David Miliband has left Parliament, and indeed the country, the last plausible Blairite leader has disappeared (though arguably he wasn’t actually a Blairite, but rather a Brownite who didn’t get on with the other Brownites).

In any case, it says something when the most senior Blairites left in the country are Liam Byrne and, er, Caroline Flint.

Though not even MPs, the most interesting Blairites are to be found in a fraction of a faction sometimes called Black Labour’. The ‘black’ comes from ‘in the black’ as in economic policies that don’t lead Britain into Greek-style bankruptcy. Led by a small group of really rather good bloggers such as Dan Hodges, Hopi Sen and Anthony Painter, these guys are worth listening to – if only to discover what stops people like them from voting Conservative.

Score card:

Intellectual inheritance: 2/5

Past glories: 4/5

Online presence: 4/5

Future prospects: 2/5


4. The liberal interventionists

Sanity in economic policy is one reason why the Blairites (see above) are so marginalised in today’s Labour Party; but the other reason is insanity in foreign policy – namely the invasion of Iraq. This colossal blunder cost Blair his Premiership and his reputation, not to mention countless lives.

It has also had a disastrous impact for the cause of liberal interventionism. In some ways, it is a misleading label. For a start, the muscular defence of enlightenment values is not restricted to the Blairite centre – it extends, patchily, some way to the left. Nor is it only about military intervention, let alone Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rather, at its heart is the principle that, when faced with fundamentalist threats to basic human rights, the appropriate response is defiance not appeasement. That, surely, is something that we, as conservatives, should respect – whatever we think of specific military responses.

We should also despise the self-hating tendency of some leftwingers, for whom there is no tyranny too vile not to be blamed in some way on the West (America and Israel in particular). In the wake of Iraq, this tendency is in the ascendant. As a result, self-respecting lefties like Nick Cohen, Martin Bright and Oliver Kamm now serve out lonely exiles on rightwing publications – or from isolated outposts such as Harry’s Place. It’s unlikely they’ll be back in favour anytime soon.

Score card:

Intellectual inheritance: 4/5

Past glories: 3/5

Online presence: 4/5

Future prospects: 1/5


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