Friday 10 July 2020

Weekend Read: Why I still can't get over Tony Blair

All these years later, we still see the Left blaming many of the problems of the UK on Margaret Thatcher. It does not really work so well now, but they have had an entire generation making-up stories to tell themselves and ignoring facts. 

However, I am beginning to feel sympathy for their plight. Not because they were right about anything, Thatcher remains the best Prime Minister since Churchill by some distance. 

No, I have sympathy because I feel the same way about Tony Blair. I was educating my kids the other day about why we have ended up in such a polarised policitcal situation in 2020 and I realised That it is basically entirely Blair's fault. I will try to be succint in explaining why. 

1) Winning the Middle class for Labour - Blair in the 1990's realised Labour needed middle class votes to win an election. To do this, he switched away from the unions and traditional Labour support and focused on first world problems. One such idea was to put more people through University, from around 20% of the population, up to 50%. He did this by making courses free and getting the state to pay. The Universities, always left-wing, were delighted beyond belief. But we did not see a rise in hard and useful STEM courses, no we saw a rise in media studies and psychology. 

As as result we now have very Left-Wing univerities and two generations inthe workforce with pointless and unneeded degrees. Of course, later on the Tories had to introduce tution fees as the cost of Labour's plans was too high a burden and it was hoped this might end the proliferation of Madonna Studies and Kite-Flying. Which it did, but only at the cost of making more generations angry at the Tories. 

It has also left a huge number of people feeling the world is not fair. University education was supposed to be their route to a nice middle-class life. But with the economy growing at normal rates, we now see lots of people over-quailfied for jobs and really their University tution fees were not worth it. They are angry people and also they have been indoctrinated into Left-Wing thinking at Uni and by their feeling of grievance. Man have a point, if you graduated with a psychology degree in 2009 your prospects were not good for your career. 

Not only this, often referrred to as Elite Overproduction, but future Labour leaders have continued their obsession with Middle Class issues - which has meant in the last decade an obsession with identity politics, green issues etc. This has led to the loss of the working class voters, abandoned by the Middle Class chasing Labour party, more of this later. 

2- EU & Immigration - Blair of course opened the door to Eastern European immigrants, hoping to get both new voters and a boosted economy. He also was passionate about the EU, signing up to treaties and handing back the rebates won by Thatcher. 

This enraged the working class and a huge section (around 40% of the Country, as we have since seen at every election) of people who had never wanted mass immigration and the change it brought about - whatever the supposed economic benefits. Amazingly, Blair came up with the most anti-working class strategy of any Government since the Victorian era - whilst leading the Labour party. 

What we have seen since his time then is the pressure rocket for a referendum, said referendum then won by the anti-EU people (now disdainfully called populists for pursuing policy which has a majority backing) and eventually the end of the red wall with Working class voters flocking to the Tories. 

3- Culture wars - These are more post-Blair but the two point above have created this situation, along with changes across the West and the rise of Chine economically and politically. We have a Middle Class steeped in a new kind of class hatred, that of identities and anti-patriotic who vote Labour and even some of the Upper Class, champagne socialists like Keir Starmer, join in, but only in the big cities. Blair was a key started in this by defining those opposed to mass immigration as racists.

Thus began the twisting of merging policy and morality opposition into the single venemous brew that we see today on the Left.

4- Economic disaster Gordon Brown of course wrecked the economy which as left us right up the creek ever since and now Covid-19 has dropped on top of this. Blair was happy to ratchet state spending to try to salve middle class issues. He did not really care or understand much about economics, his focus was elections. Of course, when the 2008 crash came we were woefully ill-prepared and also a population had become hooked on middle class tax breaks and benefits, like child benefit for all, which it has proved almost impossible to row back from even over a decade later. 

Meanwhile everyone else in England votes Tory to avoid the lunacy of Corbyn and to make sure the EU is left and hopefully immigration brought back to a sustainable level. In the regions those disliking both Westminster rule ad Labour have found nationalist parties to vote for. (I could say devolution is point five, hastening the rise of the SNP and potential break-up of the UK - one success Cameron did have against the tidal flow caused by Blair)

But overall May and Cameron were only ever passengers on the torrent of change wrought by the above. Both tried to balance the anti-EU sentinement and remain sentiment (which we saw of course became an identity thing for the Left - hence FBPE on twitter and other such extremism). Both failed miserably and ended their terms in ignominy. 

So there you have it, blame Blair, so clever that he did not know what he was doing. 


E-K said...
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E-K said...

"But overall May and Cameron were only ever passengers on the torrent of change wrought by the above. Both tried to balance the anti-EU sentinement and remain sentiment"

Three Tory PMs who have said immediately on winning elections, "OK. I just won the election. Now I have to ditch my manifesto pledges, think about the people who did NOT vote for me and follow a centrist path to unify the country."

When did Labour ever do this on winning elections ?

Boris' first comment was "I have to think of the Labour voters who have lent us their votes."

Lent ?

Thus the Labour Party is kept alive and we are getting more Labourite policies than I can ever remember.

Any excuse to ignore Conservative (big C) sentiment.

Cameron, May and Johnson are all Blairists too. There's your problem.

BlokeInBrum said...

They have a similar issue in the U.S.
The GOP are almost as anti Trump as the Democrats. Both sides more or less belong to the same uniparty and follow much the same policies.
How much of Britain and British way of life have the Conservatives conserved?
The more you look at it, the more exceptional Mrs Thatcher's period in power looks. She was never part of the Conservative elites inner circle and they have more or less disavowed her ever since.

DJK said...

I would just point out that it was John Major, and not Blair, who converted the polys into universities and started the big expansion of graduates.

Thud said...

Surely if you can get to university you can figure out if your degree will ever amount to much? I studied Politics and Philosophy at Liverpool and knew quite well a career was not in the offing in my chosen field......which was pretty much my aim as other other more tempting delights beckoned!

Elby the Beserk said...

"Of course, later on the Tories had to introduce tution fees as the cost of Labour's plans was too high a burden and it was hoped this might end the proliferation of Madonna Studies and Kite-Flying."

Nope. Labour introduced tuition fees. Having destroyed the whole point of universities...

"Tuition fees were first introduced across the entire United Kingdom in September 1998 under the Labour government to fund tuition for undergraduate and postgraduate certificate students at universities; students were required to pay up to £1,000 a year for tuition"

Blair should hang. Till the crows peck out his eyes. I fear we will never recover from what he and his mobsters did and are still doing.

Anonymous said...

Point of order, it was Labour who brought it the tuition fees, wasn't it? It was the Tories who tripled them with the LibDems...

There are a lot of parallels between Thatcher and Blair, both made decisions without foreseeing their consequences. In Thatcher's case, her treatment of Scotland and policy of controlled decay of the industrial areas gave Labour (and later, in Scotland, the SNP) a foundation to win elections and toxify the Tory "brand."

And in Blair's case, as you say, it made adult discussion difficult as you were immediately branded an -ist.

Blair's legacy has been to toxify the Labour "brand" just as bad as Thatcher did to the Tories, as the culture war noise is generally made by the 2-10%ers who they've ended up representing and finding their traditional voter base deserting them.

You've also missed a few things Blairs needs tarring for too - the introduction of "sofa" cabinet meetings, the capture of the NAO...

And some of the blame has to land on secondary education over the last several decades. If you dedicate your education system to producing workers, you get workers not thinkers.

And workers generally want dumb stuff after work, because work is exhausting, so the media provides it. Thinkers are usually still in the mood for a bit more thinking after working, mostly as they're a little less industrious than workers, but not necessarily less productive.

And politics followed suit.

Blair played to the audience he was given, and he did it well.

Hate the game, not the player, I guess.

Had we decided to educate for the sake of educating, and trust that needing to eat would pretty much mean we got a workforce anyway, we may have ended up in a world without Ex on the Beach, Geordie Shore and all that crap, and serious politicians.

On that note, Chris Grayling is still able to get serious work in government. Oh joy.

Elby the Beserk said...

Long read explaining how and why, despite having a "conservative" government, all our institutions have been taken over by the Left.

Jan said...

Couldn't agree more.........from day one I knew the oily barsteward was a disaster for the UK and his odious sycophantic wife just as bad.

In terms of world politics,the invasion of Iraq was a war crime in my book and somehow or other he's managed to get asway with all the senseless killing......... so far. I remember David Kelly too in all that.

He is beyond despicable and yet still occasionally has the gall to stick hid head above the parapet when he should have slunk away in shame.

Perhaps you can see I dislike the guy!

Lord Blagger said...

Every major problem in the UK has the state as the cause.

Politicians do not believe we have the right of consent.

Politicians hide the debts so they can deny they are the cause

Politicians act like firemen who light fires so they can be heroes putting them out.

Anonymous said...

For God's sake. Blair was the hired-hand. Talent-spotted as a gifted political salesman and promised wealth and power in exchange for selling other people's policies.

dearieme said...

Again I sing my song. Blair should be arrested, charged, tried, convicted, and hanged.

If that needed retrospective legislation, fine - that's just the sort of sleazy thing he believed in.

P.S. I don't recommend such treatment for Brown, Cameron, May, and so on. Just Blair - a uniquely evil little bastard.

Money Supermarkets said...

Introducing 3,000 mostly pointless laws was part of New Labour’s virtue signalling. That caused everyone to become a criminal. Speed cameras a case in point. Almost 35% of uk car drivers has received a fine or speed course or points, every year, since the cameras introduction.
What kind of law breaking can have almost a third of drives guilty of breaching it and be considered reasonable?

L fairfax said...

You forgot housing, the housing bubble he presided over has caused endless problems as well. It also means that in order to buy what a flat that in 97 could be bought on £15K p.a now needs £60K +!

Anonymous said...

@Money Supermarkets - the kind of law breaking that's the same as any other kind of law breaking.

There's a rule, it's broken, who broke it got caught breaking it, there are consequences.

There is the occasional justification for speeding, I somehow doubt all of that 35% had a solid one.

I've been a passenger in several cars that were speeding, the drivers knew exactly what they were doing, and I suspect it's the case for most of that 35%, so they were gambling on not getting caught, and their number didn't come in.

No point being a snowflake about it.

estwdjhn said...

@Anonymous at 8.29

The thing with speeding is that there is a constant ratcheting down of the posted limits. It used to be that there were only three sorts of limits used in significant amounts - 70mph motorways/dual carriageways, 60mph single carriageways, 30mph builtup areas.

Now you have to engage with endless changing limits 30-20-30-40-60-50-70-40-50... often far below what is actually a sensible speed for the road in question. If I'm driving some unfamiliar bit of dual carriageway, I often don't really know what the limit is, because I lose track whilst concentrating on important stuff like being in the correct lane approaching the next roundabout.

My route to work is a long straight single carriageway which has sightlines and bends good for 80-90mph. It used to be a 60mph national speed limit, to which most people more or less complied. Then the council decided it should be a 50mph after a couple of fatal accidents (not speed related - at least one was because a driver nodded off and drifted into traffic coming the other way). Now everyone still drives at around 60mph, but we are all law-breakers. Blair was a big part of starting this perpetual nannying process, which most normal people reject (as evidenced by the fact that something like 90% of drivers freely admit to ignoring some inappropriate speed limits).

It wouldn't make the politicians very happy if we all stopped speeding anyway - it would mean millions if not billions in lost revenue. The whole thing is set up on the expectation that everyone will speed, everyone will get nicked occasionally, and everyone will therefore donate £100 to HMRC's rainy day fund every three years or so. It would be fairer if they set sensible limits and stuck £30 on everyone's road fund licence, but I don't see that happening somehow.

dearieme said...

Elite Overproduction: Adam Smith warned against that when he discussed lawyers.

Pity the Wealth of Nations isn't read in the schools.

Anonymous said...
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jim said...

Aw, get over yourselves.

Since 1964 the Tories have held the ball for 32 years and Labour for 21. Blair/Brown made up a mere 10 years of nearly 60 years. Looking back, until 1979 we had a few years Tory and a few years Labour. Then the Long Tory of Mrs Thatcher followed by the Middling Labour of Blair/Brown. We are now in the second Long Tory era.

If we are in a sh**e state I think the blame can be more evenly spread. Indeed if Blair/Brown were as bad as you say then if harm existed it could easily have been mitigated by now. Charging for university education was a very American notion and the British finally took it up - too late. At the time the Tories loved the idea of easy access to uni degrees - but failed to fund or regulate. They also failed to foresee what was obvious from the American experience - McDegrees and McJobs versus MacDegrees and MacJobs.

I think we should take a step back and ask why we appear to be in sh**te state. Time to ask 'is it even possible to have a prosperous society for all'. The answer is obvious - no, the next question is well 'which sections of society are going to be prosperous?'. Since Blair's time the world has changed a lot. The lead up was leaving behind the Cold War era and dependence on heavy industry. Blair brought in the era of smarty-pants people working in Fashion, Finance, IT, Meeja, Law and Arts. The formerly poor nations took up the coal, steel, heavy industry. Aerospace and motor manufacture sit somewhere in the middle.

The big deal was Finance, the rest were small beer by comparison. The old heavy industry areas were neglected, no-one could think of a good use for them anyway. But Finance paid for all.

That shift to 'new' industry points to why we appear to be in sh**e state - it is not sustainable. It lived off former wealth and is not able to create enough new wealth. An unbalanced economic landscape results that does not match real people. We are now over run with unemployed lawyers, luvvies and arty-farty types. Worse, everyone else wants a slice of the Finance pie. The nations of the EU face much the same problems as the UK and need to fund themselves. The competition is hotting up.

At the core of our problem is lack of thinking and management from government. A lack of planned investment in the way an intelligent gardener plants out and renews old flower beds. In the past a laissez-faire attitude and lying worked OK, but in a tighter more competitive world (or garden) better planning is needed - and we ain't got it - and the Americans are not much of a guide.

Matt said...

@ Jim

Nonsense on the "more planning" part. Government can't even be trusted to give away free money without making a mess of it* so what chance do they have to make a decent hand of a planned economy?

Absolutely none. You've got it backwards - government need to get out of the way and let the people (market) decide on how to invest.

* See all of the complex schemes as part of the COVID-19 response.

E-K said...

Splooging other people's money around is the easy bit.

If women want to be taken seriously they need to be "cancelling" ditzy blondes who shame their sex.

(Sunak looks like a cross between Ed Miliband, a Muppet, The FA Cup and a camel.)

Elby the Beserk said...

jim said...
Aw, get over yourselves.

Since 1964 the Tories have held the ball for 32 years and Labour for 21. Blair/Brown made up a mere 10 years of nearly 60 years. Looking back, until 1979 we had a few years Tory and a few years Labour. Then the Long Tory of Mrs Thatcher followed by the Middling Labour of Blair/Brown. We are now in the second Long Tory era.

Yes. Of government. But all the ancillary institutions (Quangos - and btw, Dearieme, Brown needs to hang toO, as he spent his two years cramming them with Lefty apparatchiks) are of the Left, the civil service is, the NHS is, academia is, education (indoctrinating trainee teachers and our kids) - and it is they who hold sway on public opinion, not the government. The bugger about COVID is that it delays an assault on this. Meanwhile, depress yourself reading this long and excellent tome on the long march.

and write to your MP, noting that whilst the economy may be a problem, longer term this subversion of our institutions HAS to be addressed. And rapidly. Like a Conservative at the top of the BBC for example.

jim said...

@Matt (and others)

When UK was very large relative to other economies we certainly could take a laissez-faire view. Let the market do all the work. We had the biggest garden and the best tilled soil. Shrubs and flowers only had to turn up and find a handy hole.

Nowadays the UK is much the same as any other garden across the world. Everyone has more or less well tilled soil, a warm economic climate and welcoming holes for shrubs and flowers. We have overgrown weedy patches and the well tilled bits are very expensive and with few skilled gardeners.

The snag is we are now a specialist interest, there has to be a reason to put your shrubs and flowers in our garden. Unfortunately many have not realised this and our government is certainly very poor at economic gardening. Too many still look over the fence at America and say - 'they don't need to do much, why should we'. Not realising they too will have to put in the hard yards hoeing and digging and fertilising. More Bonsai than cabbage growing is where we are at.

This is the problem. As the world advances and gets more populated with well off people we need to keep ahead. What kind of gardeners do we need, Sackville-Wests and Gertrude Jekylls or Percy Throwers and Monty Dons? With all respect we can find competent diggers and planters anywhere, what is needed is competent garden designers with vision and time and money and the intellect to hire staff, delegate and see that it is done.

Sadly we lack the class and system to produce designers of the calibre of West or Lawrence, hire them in - from just over the Channel. Boris and Dommy and Govey still think dig-free gardening and lounging in deck chairs is the way forward. Starmer can't find the key to the toolshed.

Thatcher was useful for two years then got lost. Blair similarly then his psyche caught up with him and he just had to play with the big boys. Both ended up a failure. Brown was too close to the knitting to do anything, Cameron a dilettante, too posh to push. May had caught the curse of the Home Office and got the job when Cameron chucked it. Her psyche held her cards too close to know anything. Boris doesn't know and doesn't care, Govey and Dommy will stab each other in the back. In the end we might get Sunak who does seem to have a brain.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I'm quite capable at weeding my garden. Why would I pay a government employee with big feet to come and trample all over it?

CityUnslicker said...

Jim - the idea that somehow if we had kept heavy industry all would be well has a strong grip on many right-leaning and left leaning folks. I don't get it myself. Heavy industry relies on educted by cheap labour and access to raw materials. China wins by the cheapness of labour, America wins by access to raw materials. We had neither - the coal, oil and wood ran out. We made a sensible, market driven, choice to move to finance, trade and business services.

Our economy is far better placed than European bretheren who stuck out to defend industry like France and Italy. Only Germany has made a good fist of it but their industry had far more coal, still does, to keep the steel making and better quality industry than ours. The Mittelstand etc. This was driven culturally which I why I despair so much about Blair and the left. They have, since Thatcher, ruined our cultural capacity.

Look at the biggest companies in the world, the FAANG - which of them is a huge manufacturer? This argument does not stack up.

jim said...

Just to be clear, I am not pining for the glory days of heavy industry and manufacture. But we got rid of those without much of an idea what to replace them with. That requires some sort of plan and investment in the populace such that they fit in. We don't do plans.

As for the FAANGs. Any fool could have knocked up the software for a Facebook or a Google, but no European did, too small and slow off the mark or was the venture capital never available? Apple technology is not exactly way out there but it is well done and shiny. We invented the computer but never made much out of it. ARM was an offshoot of the glory days of microprocessors. We should have had several ARMS. Too busy tarting up properties.

So there we sit, stuck between the Yanks who want to hang on their lead in space and technology and the Chinese/S Koreans who are big in cars, semiconductors and telecoms. Too frightened of one and bullied by the other to commit to either side we are now isolating ourselves from our major local market. We are doing OK for now, the next decade may be rocky. Let us hope Dommy's deep data diving comes up with something useful rather than an old boot.