Labour marketing

Sadly, Anthony Barnett ("Please stop patronising us", 28 June) falls into the same trap as so many others on the left. He clings to the belief that Tony Blair's heart is in the right place but that, temporarily, he has lost his way. I recommend to him the perceptive letter from W Stanners in the same issue.

Stanners got it absolutely right: "He is, heart and soul, with the other side."

Blair's arrogance in the wake of the appalling Euro election results, the dismal results in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament elections and the loss of Sheffield City Council and of 19,000 votes in the Leeds Central by-election was breathtaking. His message to Labour MPs was that he had won the last general election with a thumping majority, so what was all the fuss about? Louis XIV put it succintly: "L'etat c'est moi."

It is surely time for the left to bite the bullet and acknowledge the demise of the Labour Party and its replacement by an American-style election campaign machine geared to the re-election of President Blair. Perhaps, on the eve of the millennium, we might recall the aim of those far-sighted trades unionists who, in 1900, began the creation of a party whose objective was to provide in parliament a voice for the working man.

Leslie Moody
London SE3

Blair is a well-educated, middle-class Christian democrat, in favour of the "status quo", in whatever guise, and wary of "ideology". He is centre-right and overlaps with like-minded members of the Conservative Party. Above all, he sees himself as the member of an elite. The term "new Labour" should by now be seen for what it always was: camouflage and a brand name deployed with superlative marketing skill.

As with Clinton, so with Blair in his election strategy: he successfully balanced those who would support and vote for him against those whom in his heart he was supporting, that is, those who would fund him, deliver a friendly press and who know that, once elected, Blair would eviscerate or abandon legislation that offended them. In short, Blair commanded the Labour Party vote by seeming to present a social democrat manifesto for it to support, but in office he delivers only to his true constituency. His government even passes laws in the fields of welfare and Home Office policy that the Major government would have jibbed at. No wonder Hague is redundant.

To paraphrase David Frum, oft-quoted analyst of Clinton's high-wire act, "Blair makes speeches, Brown makes policy, Campbell spins, the left gets words but the right gets deeds."

There will be no second time around for Blair as there was for Clinton. Come the early summer of 2001, the Labour Party at large will not re-elect a Christian democrat prime minister to lead a Tory administration. For the solid core of the Labour Party, now stunned and silent, there does, indeed, seem "nowhere else to go". But there is, for we must return to principled social democracy, break the Clinton spell, banish the conundrum and resume politics.

Ben Francis

This article first appeared in the 05 July 1999 issue of the New Statesman, He makes us nice enough for export