Tony Blair brought his own narrative to British politics

Here is my letter published in The Guardian today:

George Monbiot says that Tony Blair (like Bill Clinton) did not possess a narrative of his own with which to combat neo-liberalism and preferred merely to triangulate among other narratives (The deep story beneath Trump’s triumph, 14 November). Yet Blair repeatedly articulated a narrative in contesting both Thatcherism and Clause 4 socialism. This was that people do not thrive as atomised individuals, but when they are part of a strong society where people take care of each other and seek the common good. He embraced individual effort, meritocratic competition and people’s strong desire for their own families to be successful and secure; but only as part of a society where people could rely on the basics that every person needs if they are to reach their potential.
We may believe that Blair and his colleagues made misjudgements (as well as many good calls) about how best to translate this narrative into policies, and about the dubious compromises they made along the way. We may agree with Polly Toynbee that, scarred by the many dreadful years in the wilderness when Labour failed to attract a strong, progressive coalition, they were too timid as time passed about championing explicitly the strong statist and redistributive elements of their policies, for fear of frightening the horses. But the reason that they won three elections and achieved so many advances for our society is that they conveyed an underlying narrative which combined the merits of a strong society, commitment to the common good and the efforts and aspirations of individuals, families and businesses.
Post Trump, post Brexit, no narrative that departs too far from that synthesis is likely to attract a winning, progressive coalition in future.

2 thoughts on “Tony Blair brought his own narrative to British politics

  1. Excellent letter Andrew. I agree about the Blair ‘narrative’. I suppose the disappointment if not worse) with him arises above all from Iraq but also because of the gulf that arose between the ‘vision’ and the execution. And despite all the good work, which you mention, I think it truly was a gulf. Hope all well with you and Jenny post(?)-move and that we’ll see you both at the inhouse Amner meeting. All the best Robert

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Dear Robert, Thanks for this. Yes, there was a gulf, but I am more in the half full camp. Looking forward to seeing you in new year. Have a wonderful Christmas. I am just off to Tanzania. V. best wishes, Andrew.


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