We've had plenty of vibrant discussion here recently about what it was that Tony Blair stood for, whether David Cameron is a Blairite, and what it means to be an anti-Blairite when all of the likely next Labour leaders are firmly to the left of the party.
We will make education our number one priority
The Labour government introduced "Academy" schools, outside local authority control, and infused with private cash and management skills. This continued the process of "opting out" introduced under the previous Conservative government. The Coalition introduced "Free" schools, outside local authority control, and paid for on a bums-on-seats basis. The government puts up some capital to get the school up and running. The Coalition proposed to convert all local authority schools to Academies or Free schools, but this was dropped when someone pointed out that not every school would be in a position to run itself. The present Conservative government is putting up resources to support any school to become an Academy if it wants to; so any school that wishes to "opt out" in the old parlance ought to be able to.
Blairism in education is to release education from rigid structures; allow new schools to be set up and allow bad schools to fail. Parents ought to be able to choose schools for their kids, introducing a competition element into the sector. Standards ought to rise.
The improvement and expansion needed cannot be funded out of general taxation. Our proposals for funding have been made to the Dearing Committee, in line with successful policies abroad.
The costs of student maintenance should be repaid by graduates on an income-related basis, from the career success to which higher education has contributed. The current system is badly administered and payback periods are too short. We will provide efficient administration, with fairness ensured by longer payback periods where required.
This is the process which started with the introduction of loans and fees, largely completed by the Coalition. Students borrow from the state to pay for their higher education. If they do well in their careers they pay back the money over several years; if they don't do so well, eventually the debt gets written off.
Economic stability to promote investmentTough inflation target, mortgage rates as low as possibleStick for two years within existing spending limitFive-year pledge: no increase in income tax rates
We will introduce a Budget within two months after the election to begin the task of equipping the British economy and reforming the welfare state to get young people and the long-term unemployed back to work.
Speaks for itself. Sensible sound economics: stability, keep taxes down, get people off welfare into work.
A reformed and tougher competition law
Competitiveness abroad must begin with competition at home. Effective competition can bring value and quality to consumers. As an early priority we will reform Britain's competition law. We will adopt a tough 'prohibitive' approach to deter anti-competitive practices and abuses of market power.
In the utility industries we will promote competition wherever possible. Where competition is not an effective discipline, for example in the water industry which has a poor environmental record and has in most cases been a tax-free zone, we will pursue tough, efficient regulation in the interests of customers, and, in the case of water, in the interests of the environment as well. We recognise the need for open and predictable regulation which is fair both to consumers and to shareholders and at the same time provides incentives for managers to innovate and improve efficiency.
Free markets where possible, sensible regulation where not. 0.7% of GDP on international aid.
The key to "Blairism" to me seems clear: to have a relatively sensible set of policies which nobody can really argue against. Who isn't in favour of education?? Who doesn't think the water companies are a bit cheeky? Who could argue in 1997 or 2010 that the university funding system worked nicely for students and the taxpayer? So you set your stall where it is difficult to attack. By doing so you make it very hard for the opposition to score many points. The Tories in 1997 onwards had no idea whether to attack Blair from the Left or the Right. If they went Right, they were accused of being nasty; to the Left lies incoherence and general oblivion. Only when Blairism went off the rails and the truth of Brown's economic incompetence became more widely known could Labour be knocked off course. Both Coalition parties stood on Blairite platforms, and won. Ed Miliband was reduced to attacking Blairism with idiotic half-baked ideas such as "Predistribution" and populist anti-finance and anti-electricity rhetoric.
Cameron's team seem to have understood this throughout the last parliament. When they came up against a genuine backlash, such as over health reforms, they backed down. Live on, fight another day. Bring forward similar proposals a bit later. Win the election, send your enemies mad, then move the debate slightly in the direction you want it to move. Win the next battle, move on. Keep winning the war, because if you don't then someone else will capture the flag and move into Number 10.
There is very little in Blair's 1997 manifesto which moderate Conservatives then or now could be upset about. Obviously, those who want public spending to crash to 15% of GDP, or want a return to Fortress Britain (no red salmon here, folks), will never be satisfied. More importantly, nor will those who want to reopen coal mines and to return to damp cheese and pickle sandwiches on the railways.