Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blair's last mission - to save Labour from the 'sons of Brown'

At first sight, former Labour health secretary Alan Milburn's criticisms of the Conservative-led Coalition's revamped health reforms this week might have seemed like routine political knockabout.

"The biggest car crash in the history of the NHS" was the former Darlington MP's withering verdict after Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg performed their screeching U-turn.

But closer inspection of Mr Milburn's argument reveals a rather more subtle agenda than simply Coalition-bashing.

For as well as highlighting the government's ongoing difficulties over the health changes, his comments also illuminate the continuing deep divisions within the Labour Party over its attitude to public service reform.

"David Cameron's retreat has taken his party to a far less reformist and more protectionist position than that adopted by Tony Blair and even that of Gordon Brown," Mr Milburn wrote in a newspaper article on Thursday.

"The temptation, of course, is for Labour to retreat to the comfort-zone of public sector producer-interest would be unwise in my view for Labour to concede rather than contest the reform territory."

This was, of course, an implicit criticism of Labour leader Ed Miliband for having allowed Mr Cameron to seize the reform mantle and supplant Labour as the "changemakers" of British politics.

And coinciding as it did with a renewed bout of internal Labour feuding , the timing of Mr Milburn's comments looked far from accidental.

First, there was the leak of documents purporting to implicate both Mr Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls in a "plot" to overthrow Tony Blair soon after his third election victory in 2005.

Then the 'victory speech' that was to have been delivered by South Shields MP David Miliband had he not unexpectedly lost to his younger brother in last year's leadership contest mysteriously came to light.

If that wasn't enough, Mr Blair himself then plunged back into the fray, looking every bit the once-and-future-king as he broke a self-imposed four-year silence on domestic political issues in an interview with The Sun.

By showering praise on the Coalition for its education and health reforms, claiming they had carried on where he left off, he too called into question 'Red Ed's strategy.

"New Labour was the concept of a modern Labour Party in the middle ground with a set of attitudes orientated towards the future – and I believe if we had carried on doing that we would have won the last election," he said.

Asked whether Mr Miliband was right to say the New Labour era was over, he said: "It can't possibly be over, because it isn't time-related.

"It is about the Labour Party constantly being at the cutting edge, being a modernising party – always being full of creative ideas and isn’t pinned in its ideological past.

"That is always the choice for the Labour Party. It is the choice for progressive parties."

Knowing from past experience how these guys tend to operate, it is impossible to believe that this sudden spate of activity by the former Prime Minister and his allies was not in some way co-ordinated.

So what is Mr Blair up to? Is he simply trying to flog a few more copies of his book – or does he have a higher purpose in mind?

Could it be that the architect of New Labour is embarking on one last great battle to rescue the party he dominated for 13 years from the clutches of the "sons of Brown?"

The Blairites are back – and Ed Miliband had better watch his.

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James Higham said...

It is about the Labour Party constantly being at the cutting edge, being a modernising party – always being full of creative ideas and isn’t pinned in its ideological past.

How many decades since it was anything like that? And what were those "creative" ideas anyway?

G Eagle Esq said...

Salve Magister Jacobe [Hi, Master James]


It is refreshing to read such youthful enthusiasm & optimism - "cutting edge ..... modernising ....full .. creative ideas ..."


does one detect disillusion (or is it realism)hinting at its approach - "what were those "creative" ideas ..."


What about the Elephants in the Room

Mr Blair who heroically span the UK into the Iraq Tragedy

Masters Milliband Senr & Jnr and the impressive Master Ball who were all in the Treasury team that brought the Beloved Country to the Brink of Greek-style prosperity

AND do the Sons of Brown include Mrs Ed Balls = I seem to recall that this Young Lady was also part of Mr Brown's glittering Treasury Team