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British politics

Blair was more right-wing than today’s Tories

Dan Kitwood/Getty

Since Tony Blair’s days, the “centre of gravity” of British politics has lurched drastically to the left, says Daniel Hannan in The Daily Telegraph. It’s impossible to imagine a Tory minister today saying “we are all Thatcherites now”, as Peter Mandelson did in 2002, or that regulation has a “suffocating” effect on the nation, as Blair did in 2005. The Labour PM “sought meaningful reform” for the NHS by bringing in private providers; he fought to keep illegal immigrants out of hospitals, and to make it harder for lawyers to block deportation orders. Gordon Brown, on a trip to Tanzania in 2005, asserted that Britain “should celebrate our past rather than apologise for it”.

So what’s happened since? First, the bailout of the banks by ordinary taxpayers in 2008 “destroyed the consensus behind capitalism”. Second, social media has enabled a “surge in identity politics” that makes MPs of all parties terrified of saying anything controversial. “Third, the lockdowns made voters more collectivist, more authoritarian, more demanding of state intervention.” Fourth, and perhaps most important, Blair came to power when the fall of the Berlin Wall – and the historic failure of socialism – was a recent memory. He knew he had to distance himself from that “rotten ideology”. But its appeal comes back in every generation, as it has now. Free-marketeers need “a measure of courage” in making their arguments afresh. “There are no permanent victories in politics.”