On Monday, it will be 20 years since the election of New Labour in 1997. To celebrate this anniversary of surely one of the least inspiring periods in British political history, New Labour godfather Tony Blair seems intent on making a comeback.
And what an appropriate moment Teflon Tony has chosen. In response to the British public demanding greater democratic control by voting for Brexit, Blair has decided to continue New Labour’s illiberal, paternalistic approach and oppose Brexit — for our own good as a nation, of course. Through his anti-Brexit group Open Britain, he has launched a ‘passionate’ attack on ‘Hard Brexit’, calling for the ousting of Brexit MPs in the General Election.
It should come as a surprise to no one that Blair shudders at the thought of the public having a greater say in politics. Since that May Day in 1997, under the leadership of Blair and his middle-class, PR-obsessed team, Labour moved firmly away from any notion that politics was about pursuing the aspirations and demands of working people, and embraced a technocratic, managerial-style of politics with a very small p.
Concerned with merely managing society and its habitants, rather than thinking about people’s economic standing or their futures, New Labour leaned very naturally towards nanny-state interventions into our lives. Contrasting itself against the harshness of the Thatcher years, it cultivated a ‘caring’ narrative that sugar-coated its invasive policies.
For example, under the guise of concern about child welfare, it introduced the Sure Start programme. Marketed as a helping hand for parents struggling to cope, actually Sure Start was more about removing parental control and instilling in people the idea that there was a ‘right way’ to parent. Sure Start paved the way for more political interventions into family life. Instead of engaging with what working families wanted – better jobs, better pay and better childcare – New Labour argued that the best way to improve people’s lives was to have the state peer into and advise them on pretty much everything they did.