Tony Blair at the Mile End Group

John Rentoul

BlairMEG 300x199 Tony Blair at the Mile End GroupTony Blair came to talk to the Mile End Group at Queen Mary University of London this morning. It was a seminar about “How Government Works” (as opposed to how academic theory says government works), and the video and transcript are up on the Mile End Group website.

Here he is with Dr Jon Davis, director of the Mile End Group and my co-lecturer on the “New Labour in Government” course, and me.

Blair ranged widely, from his advice to more than 20 governments on how to deliver change (“You come to power as the great persuader. You get into power, you’ve got to become a great chief executive”), to the definition of a Blairite.

An edited version of it will be in The Independent tomorrow.

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  • chrishaines47

    Plenty of advice on how to erode civil liberty eh Johnno?

  • Kippers

    “So the academy programme is a programme born out of the fact that bad schools do not deliver social justice. And if bad schools are delivering a bad education for the pupil, at some point you’ve got to understand whether this is a systemic change that’s necessary, and make it. That’s what it’s about. It’s about modern, progressive politics.”

    Non sequitur ad astra!

  • JohnJustice

    I see there’s a story in the Times today about Blair admitting during the talk that he should have made cuts before the crash. As someone who is supposed to be politically astute and media savvy surely he must have realised that such a remark plays straight into Tory propaganda on one of the key issues of the coming election. Since friends of TB have let it be known that it was Gordon Brown who stood in the way of these cuts I can only assume that Blair decided to put personal considerations before his party’s interests. If this is so he has done a great disservice to the party. It would be interesting to have your views on this matter JR.

  • mightymark

    Its interesting to consider your view in conjunction with Jonathan Freedland’s piece in Saturday’s Guardian in which he suggests that the current Labour leadership would be helped by Brown’s admission of errors on his part. Of course the errors are the opposite to those we are told Blair identified – mainly failure to see the crash coming and regulate the City sufficiently. Indeed Freedland goes on:

    “More importantly, he [Brown] could try to nail once and for all the notion that the increased deficit was due to incontinent Labour spending. Patiently, he should explain that the deficit mushroomed because of the great crash, which triggered an instant collapse in output and tax revenues.”

    I suppose Blair has his own legacy to defend and the role of villain in that story will inevitably be Brown’s, yet the fact that other’s seem to see Labour’s salvation in dumping on /getting a big “Mea Culpa” from Brown may point a way forward for Labour in which accusations like yours of “disloyalty” on Balir’s part might become rather difficult to sustain.

  • JohnJustice

    Blair’s admission works against “nailing once and for all that the increased deficit was due to incontinent Labour spending” which as Freedland rightly points out is the crucial piece of Tory propaganda that needs to be demolished. Any mea culpa on economic matters whether it’s from Blair or Brown will simply confirm in the public’s mind that that the car keys should not be handed back to those who drove the car into the ditch.

  • Kippers

    Blair’s intervention doesn’t work for a number of reasons.
    1) One of the Unique Selling Points of New Labour was supposed to be that it was going to be careful with money. A lot of the spin involved being tough on welfare claimants and other “scroungers”. And now Blair is implying that New Labour wasn’t careful with the money. There is a gap in the narrative somewhere.
    2) Blair is implying that he had little control over spending which implies that he didn’t know what Brown was doing. If that is the case, New Labour had serious problems.
    3) Blair himself wasn’t averse to big spending, on military interventions, aircraft carriers, Trident. He didn’t think about what they cost?
    However careful a Labour government is with money the Tories will accuse it of overspending, this will be echoed in certain sections of the press and it will become the dominant narrative. Brown and Blair committed Labour to careful use of money when they came to power and they should be defending their record on that now.

  • JohnRentoul

    JJ, you really ought to read the transcript and make up your own mind, rather than relying on The Times to interpret it for you. TB repeated what he said in his memoir about wanting to restrain the growth of public spending 2005-07, but went on: “these things are marginal compared with the overwhelming impact of the global financial crisis. And, you know, I think for the Labour Party to accept that, as it were, the crisis was created in Downing Street, it would be bizarre.”

  • JohnJustice

    I did read that part of the transcript JR. But TB should have realised that his words will be taken out of this particular context for Tory propaganda purposes. It’s the headlines that stick in people’s minds not the small print. Surely political nous is about anticipating how your opponents will interpret your words and modifying them accordingly.

    Since TB has political nous in spades it seems to me that legacy considerations came before the wider political considerations in this case.

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