Political virginity

1 09 2010

My Ex's book

I bloody loved Tony Blair. I loved him.  From 1994 he took us through the wilderness, and we made it through. Tony we didn’t know how lost we were til we found you.

We’d been beat, incomplete. Britain had been had, it was sad and Tory blue but Tony made us feel… well he made us feel… shiny and new.

Which was the problem really. After years of expecting very little from our leaders we finally found someone to wrap their arms around us and tell us it would be ok. He made us strong and bold.

To the world Blair was a rock star but to us in the Labour Party he was the guy who’d come home to us and make us feel just dreamy. So we gave him all our love.

We built him up and he let us. Then came the first disappointment and then another and then another, we’d make up and it would happen again.  My main concern with Blair was how marginalized the Unions had become, then members, then PLP and finally much of the Cabinet. We weren’t invited to the sofa style government, we had to do all the hard work in the heat of the kitchen.

The response of Labour members and supporters fall into three categories. 1. The left walked around baying like an old Country singer telling any and all that their man “done them wrong”, it just wasn’t going to work out and walked out of the door heartbroken. 2. The vast majority of us who stayed in the party (including me) stood by our man though all the good and bad times or like gullible souls kept saying “he’ll change he’ll change it for our own good”, 3. Finally the Blairite Ultras got their kicks out of the experimentation presented by the bad romance. It was freaky and they loved it, though they knew it was wrong.

All three responses spell out one thing. We all loved him, even the people who hate him now loved him at one point or another. Whilst each of us have been trying to move on we all have that nagging memory of the good times. Remember 1st May 1997? A new dawn. Oasis in Downing Street, signing the Social Chapter, ahhh an ethical foreign policy,  the Good Friday agreement,  even preventing genocide in Kosovo, HAMMERING the Tories on Section 28, the Human Rights Act and Minimum Wage.

But it’s over. It’s been over for a long time and we have to move on.

Ever had trouble with an Ex? Ever got that night time call? They want to talk about the old times. Then they gently allude to the person you were with after them?  How were things between you two these days? The subtle criticism of your new flame. The gentle inference that things were better back then? Of course you have.

That’s what we got last night when Tony’s book release was being reported by the media. That’s what we’re going to get tonight when he appears on our TV screens. All the Labour tribes will react in the patterns they have fallen into and no one will say anything new on the subject… but we’ll all remember that we all loved him but we have to remember that its over.

We’re now out looking for a new leader. Someone to put  a smile on our face and a spring in our step. We’re looking for someone to love again. But as democratic socialists we should wonder whether we need to look to a leader to inspire us. We can and should find someone new but doesn’t heartbreak teach us the most important lesson of all? We don’t need to rely on someone else to make us complete. The capacity to be strong and bold is in each of us already.




5 responses

1 09 2010
Ben L

I love the angle!

An entertaining read with interesting message – great combination.

A question I ask myself about a political party ‘leader’ : are they expected to be the Brain, Face, Voice and Legs of the party?
If so, then it’s not really a team effort. And those expectations could get projected onto said leader who then starts behaving accordingly (and possibly say inappropriately).
If not, then why are they presented this way? Simple media focus? Easily digested by the public? What’s wrong with a leader saying “Not my specialism, best talk to X who knows all about that”.

Anyway – I look forward to the next instalment!

1 09 2010

Willie Thompson argues in “The Long Death of British Labourism” (written before the Blair era and a book I don’t generally agree with) that one of the consistent problems Labour has is that it never really challenges pre-existing power hegemony when in office.

So the Labour Party has historically taken power but does little to challenge the pretty hierachical society we live in. I think the Sex Discrimination Act, Race Relations Act, Equal Pay Act, the Human Rights Act, devolution, neighbourhood partnerships, Freedom of Information and child trust funds were practical first steps in this process but plainly a lot more needs to be done.

A prime example of this is how much we rely on the “charismatic leader” to buoy our fortunes and play to the press’ tune. I agree I would have loved to have seen the PM say. Well Alan Johnson has being doing a lot of work on that why not ask him? For one thing our leaders would age a lot slower! But it also passes power and influence across the Cabinet and then hopefully the PLP.

With more responsibility it also raises politicians game, makes the job more attractive to smart people and we start to get a brighter and more engaged group of legislators.

I’m not arguing against charisma I just want a system where more people use it!

1 09 2010

You seem to be suggesting something akin to Cabinet government. It’ll never catch on.

BTW I’ll happily read the Blair memoirs (when they’re out in paperback). He’s a great political highwire act and therefore highly entertaining, if slightly terrifying …

1 09 2010

I think I will read the book when I get a break. He is an interesting character but I’m more interested in the stuff that the Fabians are putting out and Compass and Progress (I’m a member of both which most Labour members think makes me crazy.)

19 09 2010
Art of the Possible

Well you might have loved Tony Blair (eeuwhrrrrrrrr) I certainly didn’t.

All I wanted was for him to behave like a decent person and do the right thing – naive I know, but hey I’m thirteen years older and about thirteen hundred times more cynical of politicians now, along with all the rest of us millions who feel so very very badly let down.

Probably just as well. Never trust a politician. And definitely NEVER love a leader.

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