Today marks the 25th anniversary of the election that put Tony Blair in power with a landslide, an event as catastrophic for Britain as it is widely misunderstood, especially by Tories.
The myth, promulgated by academics and the liberal/left-wing media, is that Britain was never comfortable with Thatcherism, that Tories only dominated politics until the 1990s because that Labor was seen as divided and far left. With the election of Mr Blair as leader of the party, pragmatic and fresh, the country breathed a sigh of relief at the idea of being able to join its European neighbors on the path of social democracy.
In reality, many middle-class Britons felt they could only afford to vote for New Labor because the Thatcher Revolution had transformed the economy; Gordon Brown has promised to emulate his “prudence”; and the Tories had become terribly tired and complacent. Sleaze had reached epidemic proportions. John Major was punished for being weak and insufficiently conservative on crime and taxation.
Although culturally liberal, Mr Blair ran to the right of the Tories on several key issues and, superficially, the new government looked more reformist than some of the Tory administrations that would follow; he was ready, for example, to tinker with the NHS. But appearances were deceiving. Gordon Brown spent huge sums of money on top of increasing tax revenues, expanding the size and powers of the state thanks in part to an unsustainable housing and financial bubble, which ended in crisis financial. Mr Brown has secured a bigger and seemingly permanent role for government in revolutionizing wellbeing – he has expanded tax credits so rapidly they would reach around £30billion a year by 2015, dramatically increased the maximum tax rate and massively expanded the scope of stamp duty.
New Labor remade Britain. Mass migration was encouraged at a speed that many voters of all parties were uncomfortable with. The constitution was scrambled, introducing human rights laws that still plague home secretaries today. Many more people derived a greater share of their income from the state. Decentralization was supposed to save the Union but has seriously undermined it and created not competitive laboratories of best practice but socialist strongholds, the most destructive of which is London City Hall. Critical decisions, such as the encouragement of a private care sector, have been sidestepped. New Labor has dragged its feet on expanding nuclear power.
It was socialism with better public relations, and conservatives had plenty to oppose on a philosophical basis. The centre-right flourished in Canada and Australia.
But the Conservatives have lost their temper. Overwhelmed by Mr Blair’s charisma, a new generation of MPs concluded the only way to beat the Blairites was to join them – and they became more obsessed with reforming their own party and its image than with reform of Great Britain. David Cameron’s government of 2010 was handcuffed to the Lib Dems, it’s true, and yet it still managed some important reforms. But the essential principles of Blairism and, above all, its institutional control via the public sector blob have remained unchanged.
Brexit should have been the time for a reset. The Red Wall rejected Blairism; voters demanded to “take back control” with the explicit understanding that a lot would change.
But rather than seize this historic opportunity to push back state borders and build a new coalition rooted in grassroots capitalism, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have done the opposite. The pandemic and lockdown can be blamed for the revival of Brownian socialism, but the choice has also been made to raise taxes rather than bet on growth – and after 12 years in power, the fiscal pressure is now at its highest. high since the aftermath of World War II.
Where conservatives have challenged the Blairite status quo, such as their Rwandan migration plan, it has proven popular – but they remain prisoners of their own misreading of the past, convinced that it is only by reaching a pseudo consensus -centrist as defined by a fusion of Blair/Brown and a more contemporary woke technocracy, which is really somewhere firmly on the left, can they win.
But where are the rewards? The government has worked devoutly from the Blairite playbook since 2016, adding a touch of net zero fundamentalism and introducing endless bans and rules. Yet Labor is now leading in the polls – overall, and on taxation, the economy, the environment, crime – and the local elections, which are taking place this week, are shaping up to be dire. Given the renewed sordid atmosphere of sleaze, the price of aping Mr. Blair has been to recreate the Major administration.
With the economy in the doldrums, inflation on the rise and the cost of living unbearable, many conservatives fear they have little legacy to run on – and by refusing to cut spending, they also have no leeway to reduce taxes in the future. But they can’t afford to wallow in defeatism, let alone give up. They have to regroup and win. History shows that believing that Labor has returned to the center enough to govern wisely is a huge mistake, that a leopard does not change its spots and that Sir Keir Starmer, with half a chance, would transform this nation again in a way we dare not imagine.
Conservatives must rediscover those essential points of principle that make them fully eligible, namely the promise of freedom, prosperity, security, mass ownership and free enterprise.