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Blair’s winning formula in perspective

Mehdi Hasan has an excellent piece at the New Statesman today in which, following the Sun’s revelation about meetings between Ed Miliband and Tony Blair, he comments on what Ed should and shouldn’t learn from our former duce. The piece is well worth reading, and includes an excellent riposte to the über-Blairites mantra that he “won three elections in a row” which are worth summarising:

  1. Blair inherited a 13% lead from John Smith and won in May 1997 by the same margin.
  2. Labour lost 5m votes by 2010, 4m of them by Blair’s final victory in 2005.
  3. Labour was behind in the polls almost continuously from December 2005 until Blair left office – suggesting he really lost all 5m.
  4. Blair never faced a strong or effective Tory leader.
  5. Blair’s victories were won in spite of poor votes because of a divided opposition – Cameron failed to win a majority in 2010 on a higher vote than Blair’s in 2005.

One Comment

  1. Darren Williams says:

    V. good article by Mehdi Hasan, well summarised by Jon.

    It’s also worth noting that Blair presided over a huge drop in electoral participation: general election turnout went from 77.7% in 1992 to 71.3% in 1997, then to 59.4% in 2001 – the lowest level under universal suffrage – before increasing slightly in 2005 to 61.3%.

    Low turnouts in democratic elections tend to reflect a popular perception that the policy differences between the major parties aren’t sufficiently great that one’s vote will make a huge impact one way or the other. Certainly, there was a particular increase in abstentionism within seats regarded as Labour strongholds – reflecting a sense that the party’s shift to the right called into question the benefits for working people of Labour’s (re-)election. (This wasn’t simply a British phenomenon: electoral participation plunged in almost all established democracies between the 1970s and the 2000s – the period when social-democratic parties increasingly converged with their liberal and conservative rivals on the basis of neo-liberal policies.)

    The lower turnouts meant that Blair was able to win elections in 2001 and 2005 with fewer actual votes than Neil Kinnock had got in 1992 when the party lost.

    And of course, Labour party membership also plunged during the Blair period (after an initial increase up to 1997), dropping from 407,000 at the time when the party first won office to around 150,000 a decade later.

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