by Callum Anderson
As Labour’s most successful leader and prime minister, it has always struck me as odd (and rather self-defeating) that Tony Blair continues to be relatively unloved by the Labour mainstream.
Respected? Yes. But for a winner of three general elections, Mr Blair fails to stir the levels of positive emotions by the Labour faithful – in stark contrast to the cast majority of many Conservatives’ slavish adoration for Margaret Thatcher – even twenty five years after the end of her premiership.
In what could be a unique characteristic of the Left, too much analysis of Blair’s legacy focuses on the Iraq war and not enough on domestic successes (minimum wage, investment in schools and the NHS anyone?).
Yet, despite all this, as Steve Richards astutely observed, Mr Blair showed, once again, how he “remains the best communicator in British politics”.
As Mr Blair ventured, for the first time, into the 2015 general election campaign on Tuesday morning, we were reminded of the huge scope for a positive and patriotic argument regarding the UK’s position in Europe and, indeed, the world.
Not only did he make short, punchy jabs at Labour’s opponents – correctly asserting that the issue of the UK’s membership of the EU as “too important” to be treated as a “sop” to opponents, as David Cameron has done in response to the rise of UKIP; and UKIP’s nationalistic tendencies as “ugly” – but also made what was in all probability the most coherent case for Britain’s EU membership.
Indeed, with the Conservatives wheeling out clichés such as ‘Long Term Economic Plan’ and ‘securing a strong economy’, Mr Blair shrewdly highlighted that an EU referendum would cause chaos in the British economy. Any referendum would destabilise businesses, endangering inward investment into the UK, as Conservative MP Mark Garnier, JP Morgan and eight in ten small and medium sized businesses have all warned.