Ed Miliband and Tony Blair at Westminster Hall in 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Blair's surprising agreement with Miliband on inequality

The former PM, who once said he didn't mind how much David Beckham earned, says he agrees "completely" with the Labour leader on the subject. 

The most striking moment of the Q&A that followed Tony Blair's speech on the EU came when he remarked that he agreed "completely" with what Ed Miliband was saying "about the central challenge of inequality". Striking, because the two men have often at odds on this issue. When Miliband was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University in 2003 he played his class a video of the former PM being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman during the 2001 election in which he was asked six times whether the gap between the rich and the poor mattered - and six times refused to say that it did. It was this encounter that produced Blair's memorable declaration that "It’s not a burning ambition for me to make sure that David Beckham earns less money". Miliband has often cited this quote as evidence of New Labour was too "relaxed" about inequality (although child poverty and pensioner poverty were significantly reduced between 1997 and 2010, the gap between the rich and poor slightly increased having widened dramatically under the Conservatives). 

Similarly notable was Blair's response today that the party has "excellent policies" to address this issue. Since Miliband became leader Blair has made little attempt to disguise his disagreement with measures such as the reintroduction of the 50p tax rate. It's worth noting that Blair's comments were made in response to a question on Miliband's stance on business. By simply replying that he agreed with him on inequality he avoided a potentially troublesome answer. But it's also possible that Blair, like many others, now feels that the gap between the rich and poor, a side-issue during the long boom, can no longer be ignored. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Both Labour and the Tories have decided the 2017 election was a victory

As Westminster heads for the beach, at least one party is on course to look very foolish.

For the second time in seven years, Westminster heads for the beach after an election that no one won.

Jeremy Corbyn went into the election looking for “brilliant defeat” and he got it – a triumphant advance for him and his party, and with it, the Labour leadership for however long he wants it. Now most of his party seems to have remembered the brilliance, and forgotten the defeat.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there is a thriving cottage industry among the right-wing commentariat that is very keen to remind us all that Labour lost the election. This is certainly true, but it's also true that the party turned around a catastrophic picture as far as both the polls and local elections were concerned, and emerged with an electoral map that, unlike the grim vista Corbyn inherited from Ed Miliband, suggests that defeat for the Conservatives might be accomplished in ten months not ten years. So, yes, not a defeat of the Tories. But still a result with something to cheer for Labour.

The version of history being spun by the leader's office: that the 40 per cent of the vote Corbyn got in 2017 is part of the general unravelling of the English-speaking establishment that we saw with the votes for Donald Trump and Brexit, and that the tide of history is moving their way, isn't implausible. Certainly, I'm yet to meet anyone at Westminster willing to bet large sums of money that Corbyn won't end up in Downing Street these days.

Team Corbyn at least have something resembling a narrative. On the Conservative side, what looks to be happening now is that a large chunk of the right has told itself what went wrong is that they didn't talk about austerity enough, and that a bunch of 30- and 40-somethings decided to vote Labour because of something Corbyn said about tuition fee debt in the NME.

It's true that the new operation at Downing Street has proved that it can successfully drive the story in the right-wing press. Labour's flat-footed response to the non-story did expose vulnerabilities in the opposition's set-up. But while showing they can launch a rocket of any kind is a big step up for the post-Cameron Conservatives, it should worry that party that they don't seem to have noticed that this one didn't have a ballistic payload attached. Labour may be better prepared next time.

The contrast with 2010 is marked. As one minister pointed out to me recently, after that contest, centre-right think tanks bustled with activity and ideas. Conservative Party conference was full of suggestions about what they'd do if they won a majority. An extensive post-mortem into “what went wrong” – after an election in which the Tories gained 97 seats in one night, a post-war record for that party – occurred, both publicly and privately.

It might be that I'm not as fashionable as I was two years ago, but I was invited on to more panels discussing how the Tories could do better after the 2015 election, a contest they won, than I have in 2017, after an election they lost. Policy Exchange, that old generator of Cameron-era ideas, seems to be focused on foreign policy nowadays. As for the rest of the right-wing think tanks, they are almost entirely devoted to position papers telling us all that Brexit is going brilliantly.

It's not entirely fair to say that after 2010, the Conservatives recognised they'd lost and tried to fix it, while Labour decided the 2010 election had been a type of victory and tried to re-run it in 2015, but there is more than a grain of truth in that statement. At the moment, it looks as if both parties have decided that the 2017 election was a victory and that “once more, with feeling” is all they need to get over the line next time. At least one side is on course to look very foolish. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.