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Tony Blair preaches to his centrist disciples

The all-too-familiar future of Britain. Credit: Tony Blair Institute for Global Change/Twitter

July 18, 2023 - 4:00pm

Park Plaza Hotel, Central London

“Have you come to Church this morning?” a friend messaged as I arrived at the Tony Blair Institute’s “Future of Britain” summit in central London. “He is Risen!” He had indeed risen and was standing there before me in the flesh, addressing his disciples — those poor, huddled centrist masses yearning to be freed. Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel, Deborah Meaden and Jamie Oliver, Ed Vaizey and Anne Milton: all there to hear from the master. Even l’empereur des centristes himself, Emmanuel Macron, turned up digitally to give his Jupiteran blessing to the event from afar.

For a second, down in the depths of the Park Plaza Hotel, it felt for a moment as if they really were back in charge. You can just imagine the bromance that might have existed had Tony and Emmanuel been in power at the same time. Even now, Blair has the quality of somehow looking like he’s Prime Minister: all power and presence, tailored suits and security guards. And then, suddenly, you remember he’s not Prime Minister and hasn’t been for 16 years; that he’s 70 and no longer the future, as David Cameron once put it, even if he still delivers prophecies about the coming world with a certainty far more intense than anyone else in power today. It felt like a New Labour conference from 2002, only slicker and with lots more money, as if America were doing British politics for a day and we were rich again. 

And so up he came, the master of proceedings. After a few jokes, Blair hit his stride. “The British state is unsustainable,” he declared. “We are spending more than ever before in British history except in times of crisis or war. And taxing more. With poor outcomes.” Few could argue with any of that. But what about the solutions? Blair called for the complete reimagining of the British state, making people more free and governments more efficient. He called for digital IDs, national health records online, real-time data made available for hospitals and more health monitoring from “wearables”. Adapt or die: that was his message. 

Britain needs to be radical but also sensible, Blair declared. This is the chorus his followers love to hear. “The perennial bind of progressive politics is that very often the radical people aren’t sensible and the sensible people aren’t radical,” he concluded to laughter. It was hard to hear this and not think of Sir Keir Starmer, the ultimate sensible, also speaking at the conference alongside Blair.

Blair left it to an aide to set out the four policies his institute believes are both radical and sensible. The first is to reform planning laws; the second to reform pensions. Both sensible perhaps, but hardly radical — the Government itself has tried to do both. Blair’s third and fourth policy ideas are a little more controversial: to allow more immigration from the EU and for Britain to unilaterally align with EU rules. It is easy to see why he thinks such policies are sensible economically, but what about politically? Would he be pursuing them if he were Starmer? And even if he were, can such policies really form the “basis of a new consensus”, as Blair suggested? Both were part of the very consensus he embodied as Prime Minister and which was shattered by the Brexit referendum only seven years ago.

This is the disjuncture at the heart of Blair’s sermon. The sensible policies do not seem particularly radical, and the radical ones not particularly sensible. To reform planning law is one thing — even to loosen immigration rules for those from the EU — but a complete overhaul of the British state and its health infrastructure? To give every citizen, hospital and government access to digital IDs, health records and the like? The British state has not even managed to build a border to check goods coming in at Dover.

Watching Blair today it is hard to conclude how much of his lasting political appeal is radical futurism and how much is centrist nostalgia. He is the most naturally gifted British politician still alive; a man who still has much of Westminster hanging on his every word. He is persuasive and optimistic about the future, clearly more on top of the great, transformative changes taking place in the world than almost anyone in government today — too busy as they are concentrating on whatever crisis is happening right in front of their noses to be able to look up for more than a split second.

Blair has created the slickest, most interesting political conference in Britain, with ready-made programmes for any aspiring technocratic prime minister. And yet, in a sense, it remains the same-old radical centrism he has always preached, only now with a magic sprinkling of technology.


is UnHerd’s Political Editor. He is the author of Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election.

TomMcTague

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Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
9 months ago

Early noughties centrism failed. It brought us the Iraq War, the Global Financial Crisis and the surveillance state. It was the worst of both worlds – the surveillance and the anti-terrorism was combined with a hollowing-out of the state apparatus that left us unable to deal with disasters such as Covid. These comments are not country-specfic: the same malaise set in in the USA, UK, Germany, and Ireland, as far as I can see.

But to stop these centrist zombies from making occasional public appearances, inspiration from the UK is needed: they need to be given an ASBO, a 28-day detention-without-trial period, followed by a long sentence in a privatized prison, delivered by some not-entirely-illegal administrative court.

Sam Hill
SH
Sam Hill
9 months ago

This is the key point, and as you correctly say it’s not just specific to Britain.
What Centrism brought was a brittle economy run on the crossed-fingers belief that JIT would never be problematic, asset bubbles, a vision of globalisation that was at best naive, a hollowing out of national capacity (if covid hadn’t exposed it, something else would) and woke thinking. All of that is to say nothing of Iraq.
I just wonder exactly how far down the rabbit hole the Blair legacy has to go before the centrists will accept that, to say the least, it did a lot of people no favours. In his defence perhaps Blair personally can be seen as a product of his time.
20 years of centrism has left European countries dependent on the US for security, on China for corporate profit and on Russia for energy. If they really can’t see why the people balk at the idea of more of the same then it’s a bad sign for our politics.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

I can’t help butt in here and say that Britain at least is almost certainly going to vote for more of the same within a year or so.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

I can’t help butt in here and say that Britain at least is almost certainly going to vote for more of the same within a year or so.

Glyn R
Glyn R
9 months ago

This is copied from an old petition:
“Tony Blair MP revoked certain Treason laws that have clearly allowed some elected members of parliament to work in a way that is not in Britain’s best interest, these laws were put in place to protect the British people and should never have been removed without the consent of the people.”
Blair ensured he and his ilk were protected from the consequences of any questionable activities (dodgy dossiers etc) – funnily enough the above petition was rejected by a Tory government.

Sam Hill
SH
Sam Hill
9 months ago

This is the key point, and as you correctly say it’s not just specific to Britain.
What Centrism brought was a brittle economy run on the crossed-fingers belief that JIT would never be problematic, asset bubbles, a vision of globalisation that was at best naive, a hollowing out of national capacity (if covid hadn’t exposed it, something else would) and woke thinking. All of that is to say nothing of Iraq.
I just wonder exactly how far down the rabbit hole the Blair legacy has to go before the centrists will accept that, to say the least, it did a lot of people no favours. In his defence perhaps Blair personally can be seen as a product of his time.
20 years of centrism has left European countries dependent on the US for security, on China for corporate profit and on Russia for energy. If they really can’t see why the people balk at the idea of more of the same then it’s a bad sign for our politics.

Glyn R
Glyn R
9 months ago

This is copied from an old petition:
“Tony Blair MP revoked certain Treason laws that have clearly allowed some elected members of parliament to work in a way that is not in Britain’s best interest, these laws were put in place to protect the British people and should never have been removed without the consent of the people.”
Blair ensured he and his ilk were protected from the consequences of any questionable activities (dodgy dossiers etc) – funnily enough the above petition was rejected by a Tory government.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
L
Lennon Ó Náraigh
9 months ago

Early noughties centrism failed. It brought us the Iraq War, the Global Financial Crisis and the surveillance state. It was the worst of both worlds – the surveillance and the anti-terrorism was combined with a hollowing-out of the state apparatus that left us unable to deal with disasters such as Covid. These comments are not country-specfic: the same malaise set in in the USA, UK, Germany, and Ireland, as far as I can see.

But to stop these centrist zombies from making occasional public appearances, inspiration from the UK is needed: they need to be given an ASBO, a 28-day detention-without-trial period, followed by a long sentence in a privatized prison, delivered by some not-entirely-illegal administrative court.

Matt M
Matt M
9 months ago

Britons have been instructing politicians to reduce immigration for 10 years. They still keep saying “I know! Let’s increase immigration”. If Starmer gets in and goes down that route, he will be out on his ear after one term.

Glyn R
MR
Glyn R
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I’m afraid he intends to be in power for a long time. One of his first actions will be to reduce the voting age to 16 and to continue to grow the client state.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

That is obviously his intention: it’s what “Growth. Growth. Growth” means.

Glyn R
Glyn R
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I’m afraid he intends to be in power for a long time. One of his first actions will be to reduce the voting age to 16 and to continue to grow the client state.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

That is obviously his intention: it’s what “Growth. Growth. Growth” means.

Matt M
MM
Matt M
9 months ago

Britons have been instructing politicians to reduce immigration for 10 years. They still keep saying “I know! Let’s increase immigration”. If Starmer gets in and goes down that route, he will be out on his ear after one term.

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
9 months ago

Blair is an absolute charlatan and that’s the nicest thing I can say about him. Worst PM in history and directly at fault for most of what’s wrong with this country. I’d have him on a treason charge.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
9 months ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

Apologies – I just used the same word in my comment before reading yours. Charlatan really is the best word for this waste of space. Minor quibble – Brown was worse. But I do agree that the only way he should have left Parliament was via Traitor’s Gate at the Tower. And any MP who joined in his valedictory standing ovation deserves the same fate.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Boris was even worse

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Boris was even worse

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
9 months ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

I agree that Blairism can now be seen – 20 years after his ‘modernisation’ revolution- to have effected a catastrophe on this nation too. One does not need to add an overseas war to the butcher’s bill. By letting Capitalism run free till the 2008 Crash to fund his Progressive revolution of governance and culture, he could appear radical centrist. He was not. In concert with the newly empowered ultra federal EU, he set about dismantling the powers of the nation state, the Executive, so weakening forever Parliament and democracy. The disaster of Devolution. The disaster of Judicial over reach from his new Supreme Court. The disaster of the Groupthinking Bank of England, the appalling but ever growing NHS and the New Model Blob Army of useless unelected Regulators whose precautionary principles have over time uterrly hamstrung both enterprise and the creaking public sector. Every single key ‘market’ has been ruined by the cancer of Blair/Brownite redistributive Interventionism. Tax credits have screwed the labour market.So too avowed Welfarism as they expanded the sickly Benefits & human right Entitlement culture. Then there is his near criminal support of mass uncontrolled migration which forever changed our society with an sudden inflow over twice the population of Norway with zero preparation of our social infrastructure. The monstrous destruction of anti meritocratic educational standards to feed his Soviet style social engineering project to force 50% of children into his corrupt Ponzi University system. Everywhere, in state media and law and culture, pulsate the sickly Blairite progressive ‘values’ of victimhood and greviance and the fostering too of the now extreme mind virus of extreme Equalitarianism and its twin woke identitarianism which has eroded the basic liberty of free speech and communal cohesion. Forget Iraq. Blairism like the man seemed safe and centrist. But he unleashed the Progressive dogs of war on us here and the taste is very bitter. Ruin.

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
9 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

All of this excellent comment sums up my views on Blair, the destroyer of my country.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Mass immigration that has been tripled by the Tories……

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
9 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

All of this excellent comment sums up my views on Blair, the destroyer of my country.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Mass immigration that has been tripled by the Tories……

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

Voting for him twice is the only real regret I have in my life. What an absolute nonce I was. I am living proof that the voting age should never been revised downwards – only upwards. To at least 21…but I think 25 would be even better.

Glyn R
Glyn R
9 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Labour intend to reduce it to 16.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago
Reply to  Glyn R

Yes I know that’s why I said it.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago
Reply to  Glyn R

Yes I know that’s why I said it.

Glyn R
Glyn R
9 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Labour intend to reduce it to 16.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

Which comment rather shows you are a bit of a extremist, and incoherent to boot!. Being a charlatan is not a treasonable activity, even if we accept this ridiculous analysis. What specific reason would you have to justify a treason charge.

I am no Blair supporter, but most people who saw him in action saw him as a formidable politician. Rightly or wrongly, he transformed the British state as only Attlee and Thatcher managed since World War 2. The latter-day Blair-hatred: I can see a fashionable bandwagon when I see one. The most successful Labour PM ever, of course neither the Left or the Right like this very much. Even with the Iraq War, the Tories and many others were even more gung ho. How soon we forget and start to rewrite history.

Peter B
Peter B
9 months ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

Apologies – I just used the same word in my comment before reading yours. Charlatan really is the best word for this waste of space. Minor quibble – Brown was worse. But I do agree that the only way he should have left Parliament was via Traitor’s Gate at the Tower. And any MP who joined in his valedictory standing ovation deserves the same fate.

Walter Marvell
WM
Walter Marvell
9 months ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

I agree that Blairism can now be seen – 20 years after his ‘modernisation’ revolution- to have effected a catastrophe on this nation too. One does not need to add an overseas war to the butcher’s bill. By letting Capitalism run free till the 2008 Crash to fund his Progressive revolution of governance and culture, he could appear radical centrist. He was not. In concert with the newly empowered ultra federal EU, he set about dismantling the powers of the nation state, the Executive, so weakening forever Parliament and democracy. The disaster of Devolution. The disaster of Judicial over reach from his new Supreme Court. The disaster of the Groupthinking Bank of England, the appalling but ever growing NHS and the New Model Blob Army of useless unelected Regulators whose precautionary principles have over time uterrly hamstrung both enterprise and the creaking public sector. Every single key ‘market’ has been ruined by the cancer of Blair/Brownite redistributive Interventionism. Tax credits have screwed the labour market.So too avowed Welfarism as they expanded the sickly Benefits & human right Entitlement culture. Then there is his near criminal support of mass uncontrolled migration which forever changed our society with an sudden inflow over twice the population of Norway with zero preparation of our social infrastructure. The monstrous destruction of anti meritocratic educational standards to feed his Soviet style social engineering project to force 50% of children into his corrupt Ponzi University system. Everywhere, in state media and law and culture, pulsate the sickly Blairite progressive ‘values’ of victimhood and greviance and the fostering too of the now extreme mind virus of extreme Equalitarianism and its twin woke identitarianism which has eroded the basic liberty of free speech and communal cohesion. Forget Iraq. Blairism like the man seemed safe and centrist. But he unleashed the Progressive dogs of war on us here and the taste is very bitter. Ruin.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

Voting for him twice is the only real regret I have in my life. What an absolute nonce I was. I am living proof that the voting age should never been revised downwards – only upwards. To at least 21…but I think 25 would be even better.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

Which comment rather shows you are a bit of a extremist, and incoherent to boot!. Being a charlatan is not a treasonable activity, even if we accept this ridiculous analysis. What specific reason would you have to justify a treason charge.

I am no Blair supporter, but most people who saw him in action saw him as a formidable politician. Rightly or wrongly, he transformed the British state as only Attlee and Thatcher managed since World War 2. The latter-day Blair-hatred: I can see a fashionable bandwagon when I see one. The most successful Labour PM ever, of course neither the Left or the Right like this very much. Even with the Iraq War, the Tories and many others were even more gung ho. How soon we forget and start to rewrite history.

Ian McKinney
IM
Ian McKinney
9 months ago

Blair is an absolute charlatan and that’s the nicest thing I can say about him. Worst PM in history and directly at fault for most of what’s wrong with this country. I’d have him on a treason charge.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
9 months ago

Why does anyone pay any attention to this war criminal? Chilcott, Dr David Kelly. He has no place in public life.

Susan Grabston
SG
Susan Grabston
9 months ago

Why does anyone pay any attention to this war criminal? Chilcott, Dr David Kelly. He has no place in public life.

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
9 months ago

Great! More people to be free, then hit them with oppressive digital ids track their every movement, add in CBDCs and more lockdown and then they will all just kill themselves through total subjugation! Wow how inspiring. The fact they all sound so scared of what humanity could achieve outside of the globalist WEF and trilateral commission of which is ruled by the worlds richest shows they fear people. They fear that they will rise and see how fearful and pathetic these people are. They may have control through monopolising the world and now making everyone sick and dumb, but that only shows how weak they are, and Blair is just another useless sock puppet weakling.

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
9 months ago

Great! More people to be free, then hit them with oppressive digital ids track their every movement, add in CBDCs and more lockdown and then they will all just kill themselves through total subjugation! Wow how inspiring. The fact they all sound so scared of what humanity could achieve outside of the globalist WEF and trilateral commission of which is ruled by the worlds richest shows they fear people. They fear that they will rise and see how fearful and pathetic these people are. They may have control through monopolising the world and now making everyone sick and dumb, but that only shows how weak they are, and Blair is just another useless sock puppet weakling.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
9 months ago

I remember the quote from 26 years ago – ‘Blair … like a chameleon crawling over a kilt.’

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
9 months ago

I remember the quote from 26 years ago – ‘Blair … like a chameleon crawling over a kilt.’

Peter B
Peter B
9 months ago

Always was a charlatan. Nothing’s changed.
He had his chance to do something about planning laws and pensions. He had 10 years to do something about these.
But talk’s cheap. What did he actually do ? Allowed his pal Gordon Brown to initiate the destruction of private pensions in Britain. Did nothing to reform or improve planning laws. Built no new power stations or any other infrastructure whilst allowing the population to increase rapidly.
“All hat and no cattle” as they say in Texas.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

He introduced academies in education for one thing. It’s a shame that people prefer to rant rather than make any reasonable or balanced assessment. The swivel eyed commentariat on here is always claiming to speak for the British people but is simply vastly out of touch,

The British state is often sclerotic, that is true. Of course this has absolutely nothing to do does it with institutionalised nimbyism and the worship of rising housing prices…… Who actually are you comparing him with?

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

He introduced academies in education for one thing. It’s a shame that people prefer to rant rather than make any reasonable or balanced assessment. The swivel eyed commentariat on here is always claiming to speak for the British people but is simply vastly out of touch,

The British state is often sclerotic, that is true. Of course this has absolutely nothing to do does it with institutionalised nimbyism and the worship of rising housing prices…… Who actually are you comparing him with?

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Peter B
Peter B
9 months ago

Always was a charlatan. Nothing’s changed.
He had his chance to do something about planning laws and pensions. He had 10 years to do something about these.
But talk’s cheap. What did he actually do ? Allowed his pal Gordon Brown to initiate the destruction of private pensions in Britain. Did nothing to reform or improve planning laws. Built no new power stations or any other infrastructure whilst allowing the population to increase rapidly.
“All hat and no cattle” as they say in Texas.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago

“Blair has created the slickest, most interesting political conference in Britain, with ready-made programmes for any aspiring technocratic prime minister.”
Aye, and therein lies the rub. A technocrat exists to administer and manage an existing system. When the system itself is broken, technocrats are homeless, useless. The hour of the visionary has arrived.
This is why Rishi – despite the obviously high IQ – is doomed to failure. It is why Starmer, with all his high-octane boringness, is also doomed to failure.
Quite why Britain needs Tony Blair coming back like the undead is unclear. Lack of any decent alternative, probably. How sad is that? None of what he is saying is particularly new or visionary…so basically this conference is just a bunch of nodding dogs from an old world coming together in a collective delusion that they are still somehow in control.

Last edited 9 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Another thought on visionaries: as I said, when the system is irretrievably broken, it is the hour of the visionary.
And yet Britain in 2023 is simply not a political landscape hospitable to visionaries. (Exhibit A: Dominic Cummings). It is too deeply divided, each side of the political debate is completely alienated from, even despises, the other. I can see why you might start developing nostalgia for centrism in such circumstances…but the past won’t offer any real solutions for the future. (Apart from having taught you not to vote for Blair.)
To build any kind of new system, a new consensus has to be established – a new normal which can get enough people on board for proposals for solutions not to dissolve into yet another Brexit-fuelled slanging match. Britain’s very own, countrywide parallel consent.
That random idea of mine that I suggested under another article for Britain to come up with its own kind of internal peace accord is growing on me. Only something like that can form a firm foundation for a new, or “reimagined” system.

Peter B
Peter B
9 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

But that’s not how step change is achieved. Mrs Thatcher didn’t change the direction of the country by waiting for concensus to emerge (or stealth). The only way is to find someone with vision who can persuade and lead people to “take the risk of winning” and tolerate the temporary pain of major change. Alas, the country has been living with a “free stuff” mentality for over 30 years and there’s no appetitite for reality.
PS – You should be proud of learning from your youthful mistakes. If only everyone did. My teenage son is becoming more interested in politics and economics and I’ve just realised that it’s probably better not to simply tell him that socialism doesn’t work – better he works it out for himself.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Very good points.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Very good points.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think the two ends of the political spectrum do despise each other, but the majority are in the middle and pretty fed up with each end of the spectrum. We’re yearning for some sensible moderation in the middle. Which is why likes of Blair generating interest, rightly or wrongly. He won 3 times because he got the sensible middle on-side, at least for a period.

Peter B
Peter B
9 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

But that’s not how step change is achieved. Mrs Thatcher didn’t change the direction of the country by waiting for concensus to emerge (or stealth). The only way is to find someone with vision who can persuade and lead people to “take the risk of winning” and tolerate the temporary pain of major change. Alas, the country has been living with a “free stuff” mentality for over 30 years and there’s no appetitite for reality.
PS – You should be proud of learning from your youthful mistakes. If only everyone did. My teenage son is becoming more interested in politics and economics and I’ve just realised that it’s probably better not to simply tell him that socialism doesn’t work – better he works it out for himself.

j watson
JW
j watson
9 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think the two ends of the political spectrum do despise each other, but the majority are in the middle and pretty fed up with each end of the spectrum. We’re yearning for some sensible moderation in the middle. Which is why likes of Blair generating interest, rightly or wrongly. He won 3 times because he got the sensible middle on-side, at least for a period.

Katharine Eyre
KE
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Another thought on visionaries: as I said, when the system is irretrievably broken, it is the hour of the visionary.
And yet Britain in 2023 is simply not a political landscape hospitable to visionaries. (Exhibit A: Dominic Cummings). It is too deeply divided, each side of the political debate is completely alienated from, even despises, the other. I can see why you might start developing nostalgia for centrism in such circumstances…but the past won’t offer any real solutions for the future. (Apart from having taught you not to vote for Blair.)
To build any kind of new system, a new consensus has to be established – a new normal which can get enough people on board for proposals for solutions not to dissolve into yet another Brexit-fuelled slanging match. Britain’s very own, countrywide parallel consent.
That random idea of mine that I suggested under another article for Britain to come up with its own kind of internal peace accord is growing on me. Only something like that can form a firm foundation for a new, or “reimagined” system.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago

“Blair has created the slickest, most interesting political conference in Britain, with ready-made programmes for any aspiring technocratic prime minister.”
Aye, and therein lies the rub. A technocrat exists to administer and manage an existing system. When the system itself is broken, technocrats are homeless, useless. The hour of the visionary has arrived.
This is why Rishi – despite the obviously high IQ – is doomed to failure. It is why Starmer, with all his high-octane boringness, is also doomed to failure.
Quite why Britain needs Tony Blair coming back like the undead is unclear. Lack of any decent alternative, probably. How sad is that? None of what he is saying is particularly new or visionary…so basically this conference is just a bunch of nodding dogs from an old world coming together in a collective delusion that they are still somehow in control.

Last edited 9 months ago by Katharine Eyre
j watson
j watson
9 months ago

Quite impressed UnHerd feels Blair still relevant to warrant an Article.
And as Author implies he had something in order to get elected 3 times. The squandering via Iraq will always been there though.
Digital IDs -for those who want more control of immigration it’s always surprised how few appreciate this is going to have to be one of the necessaries to manage it properly. Blair never got ID cards through in his time although he tried, and one can sense the regret.

Peter B
Peter B
9 months ago
Reply to  j watson

It is not digital IDs themselves that are the problem, but what governments will or will not do with them. There would be both benefits and risks.
But suppose we had had digital ID 15 years ago. And suppose we had employed an army of inspectors to check these things. And suppose we had discovered there were more than 1 million illegal immigrants in the UK (there’s little doubt that the number is higher than that today). What should a government then do with this information ? Arrest or deport the illegals ? Refuse them state services ? Presumably, the government would be required to enforce the laws on the statute book.
Far easier not to check. And pretend there’s nothing wrong.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I suspect some would prefer not to check, but my point was for those who want more controls ID card policy has to have a role and it is v informative that many pushing for better controls are silent on the matter. Now that may be because they haven’t really given much thought to the fact most illegal immigration is overstaying visits just walking off an aeroplane or similar (as opposed to a rubber dinghy), or perhaps they want to use immigration for electoral purposes and don’t actually want to fix it with honesty about the trade offs? I suspect it’s bit of both.
Would obviously help with accessing pubic services too, and of course we are heading this way with the franchise.
There are some safeguards needed of course, but I struggle to see why the general principle not getting more traction. So much of our daily lives now involve digital ID already.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I suspect some would prefer not to check, but my point was for those who want more controls ID card policy has to have a role and it is v informative that many pushing for better controls are silent on the matter. Now that may be because they haven’t really given much thought to the fact most illegal immigration is overstaying visits just walking off an aeroplane or similar (as opposed to a rubber dinghy), or perhaps they want to use immigration for electoral purposes and don’t actually want to fix it with honesty about the trade offs? I suspect it’s bit of both.
Would obviously help with accessing pubic services too, and of course we are heading this way with the franchise.
There are some safeguards needed of course, but I struggle to see why the general principle not getting more traction. So much of our daily lives now involve digital ID already.

Glyn R
Glyn R
9 months ago
Reply to  j watson

There is no regret only determination to impose them by any means. Hence his gross excitement during the covid hysteria and the pushing for vaccine passports. He is involved – along with the EU etc – in pushing for biometric information passports. Mark my words, they are coming and the next government will bring them in.

Peter B
Peter B
9 months ago
Reply to  j watson

It is not digital IDs themselves that are the problem, but what governments will or will not do with them. There would be both benefits and risks.
But suppose we had had digital ID 15 years ago. And suppose we had employed an army of inspectors to check these things. And suppose we had discovered there were more than 1 million illegal immigrants in the UK (there’s little doubt that the number is higher than that today). What should a government then do with this information ? Arrest or deport the illegals ? Refuse them state services ? Presumably, the government would be required to enforce the laws on the statute book.
Far easier not to check. And pretend there’s nothing wrong.

Glyn R
MR
Glyn R
9 months ago
Reply to  j watson

There is no regret only determination to impose them by any means. Hence his gross excitement during the covid hysteria and the pushing for vaccine passports. He is involved – along with the EU etc – in pushing for biometric information passports. Mark my words, they are coming and the next government will bring them in.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago

Quite impressed UnHerd feels Blair still relevant to warrant an Article.
And as Author implies he had something in order to get elected 3 times. The squandering via Iraq will always been there though.
Digital IDs -for those who want more control of immigration it’s always surprised how few appreciate this is going to have to be one of the necessaries to manage it properly. Blair never got ID cards through in his time although he tried, and one can sense the regret.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
9 months ago

He banned Hunting, destroyed the Upper House, he took racing management away from The Jockey Club ( despite almost every other country in the world modelling their system on our Jockey Club) ….. For certain of us, that alone made him Satan incarnate.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago

Goodness, he was better than even I thought.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago

Goodness, he was better than even I thought.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
9 months ago

He banned Hunting, destroyed the Upper House, he took racing management away from The Jockey Club ( despite almost every other country in the world modelling their system on our Jockey Club) ….. For certain of us, that alone made him Satan incarnate.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

Not a single dissenting comment from all the free thinkers below lol. Unherd should re-brand by dropping the “un”

Last edited 9 months ago by Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

Not a single dissenting comment from all the free thinkers below lol. Unherd should re-brand by dropping the “un”

Last edited 9 months ago by Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

Screw radical ideas.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

Screw radical ideas.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago

If ever I feel critical of any of the UnHerd contributors, one glance at the spit flecked rants in the comments section makes me put any failings of analysis into context! Tony Blair is a “charlatan”, he has “utterly ruined” Britain (two entirely contradictory views!) etc etc. He should be “put on a treason charge”. He is a “war criminal” – (no he isn’t, on any definition), though I’m pretty certain 90% of the right wing critics were not on the anti war marches at the time. 20:20 hindsight always on proud display! A conspiratorial mindset entirely but wilfully ignorant of the obvious fact that the future is unpredictable. Then apparently Blair launched all the progressive bogeys on our time, although he was and is loathed by the Left. People who like the sound of their own ranting.

With regards to the Global Financial Crisis, there was massive moral hazard in what was done, but the counter factual was a full scale 1920s style Depression. So in my view the much maligned Gordon Brown, who catalysed the international response deserves a great deal credit – of course he will never be granted any.

Of course you can say centrism “failed”, but what do you then say about the post Brexit short termist chaos that has enveloped the country since 2016? David Cameron certainly failed, but so did Dominic Cummings (you need to actually be a grown up and work with people, if you are serious about initiating fundamental change), Nigel Farage (who used to so strongly advocate the “Norway option” – he is never taken to account about this), failed, Theresa May failed, Boris Johnson didn’t even have a coherent programme, but certainly failed in regards to “levelling up” and essentially lied about immigration.

The Tory Party is fundamentally split between free market Thatcherites and Nationalists, with the former still dominant. Even Margaret Thatcher, whose monetarist policies didn’t work and were dropped, and left the country hugely divided and without a proper response to huge scale de-industrialisation, failed.

No-one has got hold of the problem of Britain’s mediocre productivity. We are a mediocre country now in many respects, rapidly falling down the wealth league, as is becoming more and more evident to everyone. The blame doesn’t all fall on Tony Blair’s shoulders.

Maybe, as the different but equally entrenched problems France has, there aren’t the quick fixes people think there are to deeply engrained state inadequacies. And just perhaps, especially with “planning reform” some of this has something to do with deeply entrenched vested interests, not least those property owners who rather like the value of their houses going up steeply in real times.

It’s also true that radical progressives have captured many institutions set up by the Blair government, but this is because there is a cultural revolution going on, and the progressives work harder and more systematically to gain their goals than people on the anti-woke right, for whom a combination of shouting imprecations and a series of saviour figures (most ridiculously Liz Truss) seems to be the preferred solution. Since the “takeover” includes non-governmental institutions long pre-dating Tony Blair’s government, such as obviously the National Trust, again, simply blaming him is ill targeted, poor quality analysis.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Bruce V
Bruce V
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Very good points. It probably won’t get the visibility it deserves.
As a non-Brit I’m always curious if there’s a legal reason why you can’t just immediately stop this 600k / year influx of migrants or is it just a political will and competing interest type situation?
Mechanically it could be done. You still have some vestige of a navy that could intercede and do turn backs near to the point of origin.

Bruce V
BV
Bruce V
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Very good points. It probably won’t get the visibility it deserves.
As a non-Brit I’m always curious if there’s a legal reason why you can’t just immediately stop this 600k / year influx of migrants or is it just a political will and competing interest type situation?
Mechanically it could be done. You still have some vestige of a navy that could intercede and do turn backs near to the point of origin.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago

If ever I feel critical of any of the UnHerd contributors, one glance at the spit flecked rants in the comments section makes me put any failings of analysis into context! Tony Blair is a “charlatan”, he has “utterly ruined” Britain (two entirely contradictory views!) etc etc. He should be “put on a treason charge”. He is a “war criminal” – (no he isn’t, on any definition), though I’m pretty certain 90% of the right wing critics were not on the anti war marches at the time. 20:20 hindsight always on proud display! A conspiratorial mindset entirely but wilfully ignorant of the obvious fact that the future is unpredictable. Then apparently Blair launched all the progressive bogeys on our time, although he was and is loathed by the Left. People who like the sound of their own ranting.

With regards to the Global Financial Crisis, there was massive moral hazard in what was done, but the counter factual was a full scale 1920s style Depression. So in my view the much maligned Gordon Brown, who catalysed the international response deserves a great deal credit – of course he will never be granted any.

Of course you can say centrism “failed”, but what do you then say about the post Brexit short termist chaos that has enveloped the country since 2016? David Cameron certainly failed, but so did Dominic Cummings (you need to actually be a grown up and work with people, if you are serious about initiating fundamental change), Nigel Farage (who used to so strongly advocate the “Norway option” – he is never taken to account about this), failed, Theresa May failed, Boris Johnson didn’t even have a coherent programme, but certainly failed in regards to “levelling up” and essentially lied about immigration.

The Tory Party is fundamentally split between free market Thatcherites and Nationalists, with the former still dominant. Even Margaret Thatcher, whose monetarist policies didn’t work and were dropped, and left the country hugely divided and without a proper response to huge scale de-industrialisation, failed.

No-one has got hold of the problem of Britain’s mediocre productivity. We are a mediocre country now in many respects, rapidly falling down the wealth league, as is becoming more and more evident to everyone. The blame doesn’t all fall on Tony Blair’s shoulders.

Maybe, as the different but equally entrenched problems France has, there aren’t the quick fixes people think there are to deeply engrained state inadequacies. And just perhaps, especially with “planning reform” some of this has something to do with deeply entrenched vested interests, not least those property owners who rather like the value of their houses going up steeply in real times.

It’s also true that radical progressives have captured many institutions set up by the Blair government, but this is because there is a cultural revolution going on, and the progressives work harder and more systematically to gain their goals than people on the anti-woke right, for whom a combination of shouting imprecations and a series of saviour figures (most ridiculously Liz Truss) seems to be the preferred solution. Since the “takeover” includes non-governmental institutions long pre-dating Tony Blair’s government, such as obviously the National Trust, again, simply blaming him is ill targeted, poor quality analysis.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew Fisher