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The Blairites bite back

14 April 2013

3:50 PM

14 April 2013

3:50 PM

Ed Miliband may have politely told Tony Blair what to do with his advice about the direction of the Labour party, but the former Labour Prime Minister’s allies aren’t quite so keen to let his New Statesman piece disappear into the party recycling bin just yet. On today’s political programmes, they popped up to drive home their belief that Blair should jolly well be listened to, not ignored.

Tessa Jowell was so keen to make this point on Murnaghan that she managed to turn the discussion on Margaret Thatcher around to how much Blair had to offer politics twice. She said:

‘I think that he has a lot to give to British politics, he’s got a lot to give to the Labour party, and this goes to the central question of this discussion, which is how do parties manage the relationship where any intervention by, in our case, Tony Blair, is seen as unwelcome, unhelpful and all the rest of it, then I think that is destructive. If you take someone like Bill Clinton’s position in relation to the Democratic party, he is a kind of honoured, experienced older statesman that still has value and currency… And I think exactly the same applies to the Labour party now and Tony Blair.’

Meanwhile, over on the Sunday Politics, Lord Reid was urging the Labour party to avoid becoming what Blair called ‘the repository for people’s anger’. He said:

‘The important thing to recognise is that as you move from the politics of opposition to the politics of a potential government that you have to be offering solutions and not just criticising the status quo.’

Asked what the evidence was for the centre ground moving left, Reid said:

‘I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Ed Miliband that. I don’t think that the centre ground is necessarily moving left. I think what is happening is what happened under Mrs Thatcher. There were some things that needed revolutionary change, but since she didn’t believe there was such a thing as society, she didn’t believe that you had to balance that change with social justice. That’s why the idea that Blair was somehow the legacy of Thatcher was wholly fantasy and certainly partly misleading…’

David Blunkett also pitched in on Sky with how own thoughts, arguing that the party needed to get out and out in the press more. He said:

‘If I have a criticism, it’s that many of my frontbench colleagues – not just the cabinet but junior shadow ministers – aren’t writing and speaking enough. I mean, the idea that every time you write… that it’s seen as a criticism, we are literally going nowhere.

‘So we’ve got to have the confidence to be able to say where we’re going, not just a narrative about what the Government is doing. And the two things go together – obviously a criticism of David Cameron’s government which, in many respects are even worse than the things that Margaret Thatcher did in the 1980s.’

The reason the Blairites are so agitated – and it’s not clear whether this was a co-ordinated fightback or not – is that Miliband dismissed Tony Blair’s warning on the centre ground. Reid made that very clear in his interview with Andrew Neil. Never mind the list of questions about housing and, er, DNA: Blair’s piece was a direct rebuttal of the claim that Miliband has been making for months that he believes the location of the centre ground is changing. They do not agree with him, and fear that failing to heed the advice of a man who knows a thing or two about changing a party’s electoral fortunes could cost Labour a 2015 victory.

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