by Parker, Mon May 09, 2005 at 11:59:11 AM EDT
To fully appreciate Tony Blair's accomplishment in winning a third consecutive general election victory last week, you have to understand what the pre-Blair Labour Party was like. Well into the 1990s, Labour remained stubbornly committed to an Industrial Era politics of class resentment and public-sector expansion. (Remember these are fucking Democrats not REpublicans writting this shit) Its party platform embraced the hoary socialist goal of nationalizing most key industries. Its foreign policy views were quasi-pacifist and quasi-isolationist, hostile to both the United States and the European Community. Old Labour was broadly perceived, even by its supporters, as completely dominated by interest groups, and its activist base was so left-bent that a noisy Trotskyist faction was taken seriously. Electorally, the party was completely feckless, losing four straight general elections despite growing public unhappiness with Margaret Thatcher's radicalized Tory Party.
The modernization of the Labour Party, first tentatively undertaken by Neil Kinnock, became the central focus of Blair's New Labour project, which was explicitly modeled on our own New Democrat movement. Like Bill Clinton, Blair understood that the revival of progressive politics depended on a willingness to take seriously and address fundamental voter concerns about the values and goals of the historic center-left parties. And like the New Democrats, the New Labourites concentrated on exhibiting the toughness to govern. That's why Blair insisted on establishing Labour as a party that would be "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime," that could be trusted to wisely manage public finances while encouraging private enterprise, and that had a positive vision of Britain's role in the world as a bridge between the United States and Europe. And while the Tories and many Labour traditionalists misunderstood New Labour as a "shift to the right," Blair, like Clinton, consistently argued that this comprehensive message and agenda represented a basic commitment to speak and act as a serious governing party rather than a coalition of interest groups clinging to the progressive accomplishments of the past (ie Social Security, Overtime pay, Medicaide, Public Education, Right to Unionize, the Constitution... yunno those progressive accomplishments of the past).
Thanks to Britain's parliamentary system, Blair and his New Labour colleagues were able to briskly reform the Labour Party and government itself in a way that was simply impossible for their American counterparts. And this third straight electoral victory (the first ever for a Labour prime minister), despite its modest outlines, showed the fruits of their efforts. Many commentators in Britain and elsewhere have focused on Labour's reduced majority in the House of Commons, or have attributed Labour's success to the haplessness of the Tories. But our (DELUDED) take is that the results show Labour is now the natural governing party of the United Kingdom, leaving the Tories to wander in a political wilderness of ideological division and demagogic opportunism.
The May 5 election could hardly have come at a worse time for Labour, given broad public unhappiness with Blair's decision to participate in the invasion of Iraq (which unfairly but naturally identified him with the Bush administration's incoherent and unilateralist rationale for that invasion), and the natural "incumbency fatigue" that affects any party that has been in power for a while. That Labour still managed to comfortably win is a testament to the underlying strength Blair has bestowed to his party.
We're proud that Tony Blair went to school on the New Democrat movement before initiating New Labour. Now is a good time for Democrats to go to school on how he has managed to maintain a modernized progressive party in government in the toughest possible circumstances.
More of the same shit if we get Hilliary!!!