Guest blog by Ian Shuttleworth, a parody of Blair’s “Even if you hate me, please don’t take Labour over the cliff edge” in today’s Guardian
The Labour party is in danger more mortal today than at any point in the over 100 years of its existence. I say this as the current record-holder for putting the Labour Party in mortal danger. The leadership election has turned into something far more significant than who is the next leader. It is now about whether Labour remains a party I approve of.
Governments can change a country. Though mine didn’t, at least not the way you wanted, ahaha. And three of the four current candidates have made clear that they think it’s so important to get into power to be able to change things that they’ve promised not to change anything if they get into power. Labour in government changed this country. We changed the nation’s zeitgeist. We made socialism a thing of the past. We forced change on the Tories by occupying their territory and freeing them to move further to the insane right which they now get to define as the “centre”. We gave a voice to those who previously had none: instinctive Tories too scared to admit it by joining the Tories. We led and shaped the public discourse. Shaped it by amputating its left leg. And, yes, governments do things people don’t like, and in time they lose power. That is the nature of democracy. Even if you were all wrong to get rid of me, and I will always follow you FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE.
Being in power can make a difference to those we represent. It can profoundly and permanently disillusion them about our commitment to making a difference. The reality is that in the last three months the Labour party has been changed. Its membership has virtually doubled. Because there may be a chance of dispelling that disillusionment. Many are now joining specifically to support the Jeremy Corbyn campaign; some with heavy organisation behind them. WOO-WOO-WOO! Scared yet? It’s me, Tony Blair; now are you scared? Relative to the membership of a political party, they’re easily big enough to mount a partial takeover. We’ve identified as many as 1200 people in a leadership electorate of 420,000; that’s nearly 0.3%. OK, I said a partial takeover. Some actually disdain government. But frankly, it’s all gone to pot since I had to leave.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the left, right or centre of the party, whether you used to support me or hate me. But please understand the danger we are in. I might get my way all over again.
This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes “disunity”. It is a moment for you all to unite behind me and do exactly what I want you all to do.
This is not the 1980s, when I was first elected and had to lie about having some kind of socialist values in order to get in, tee-hee. This is by many dimensions worse and more life threatening. Because I’m not there any more. I’M HERE, BEHINNNDDDDD YOU!
The party that assembled after the 1983 defeat knew its direction: rightward. Maybe we didn’t know how far or how fast, but we knew, and the new leader Neil Kinnock knew, that we had to start to modernise. And our objective was to return to government. And, after the sterling work done by Neil and by John Smith, I grasped the nettle and realised that we had to ditch the last of our principles, and so I whored the party to Rupert Murdoch and anyone else who got a kick out of seeing us swallow their corporate jizz.
What we’re witnessing now is a throwback to that time, but by the gallon. The big unions have remembered what their purpose is. And the people do not have that same old-time loyalty to me.
If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader it won’t be a defeat like 1983 or 2015 at the next election. It might not even be defeat, and that scares the willies out of me. I mean, what would I have been for? If he wins the leadership, the public will at first be amused, bemused and even cemused – do you see what I did there? But as the years roll on, as Tory policies bite and the need for an effective opposition mounts – and oppositions are only effective if they oppose – the public mood will turn to demusement at me and my years of discouragement of any such meaningful opposition. They will seek to punish me. They will see themselves as victims not only of the Tory government but of my self-indulgence.
Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t offer anything new; I can say this with some authority, as the most significant yesterday’s-man in the country (when I’m in the country). Those of us who lived through the turmoil of the 80s know every line of this script, because we mouthed it at the time before we thankfully were able to stop pretending we believed a word of ity, all that nonsense about social democracy, communitarianism and common responsibility and struggle. These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled, but because a majority of the British people thought they too could get away with pissing on them. And by the way, they were rejected by electorates round the world for the same reasons, although an increasing number of those electorates are now recognising the error of that rejection and returning towards policies of a real centre rather than the one I’m occupying out here on the right.
[I’m sorry; the next paragraph just proved beyond satire.]
I don’t doubt that his campaign has sparked interest. Why wouldn’t it? There is something fascinating about watching a party wrestle with its soul. It doesn’t mean it is a smart place to be. Take it from me, there’s nothing smart about having a soul; that’s why I gave mine away a quarter of a century ago. I didn’t sell it, just gave it away. And, yes, some young people will be enthused. But they don’t know the truth like I do, or like I did when I was their age, even though I was saying exactly the same things they are now whilst harbouring contrary opinions in my secret heart. Many Young Labour members were enthused in 1997 and are enthused by modernising Labour policy today. But modernising doesn’t mean getting rid of my policies from the last decade and the one before that. No.
The tragedy is that immense damage has already been done by a policy debate that, with one honourable exception, is defined by the total absence of either policy or debate. They’re unnecessary. You must all just vote for who I want. We should be discussing how technology should revolutionise the way you all do what I want; how young people are not in well-paid, decent jobs but instead have the chance to start doing what I want for less than the already inadequate minimum wage; how Britain stays united behind the policies I want and in a Europe that does what I want; what reform of welfare and social care can be possible in the teeth of what I want.
Instead we’re talking about bringing back Clause IV, which was something I never wanted so I got rid of it. There is a vast array of policy questions to avoid. We’re not even asking them right now, which makes avoiding them even easier. Except that Corbyn fellow; he’s asking them, the awkward bastard. We know where this ends. We have been here before. It ends with people thinking for themselves. But this sequel will be a lot scarier than the original. Because people see through my smile now. So write reasonable, reasoned proposals if you want to. Go over the edge and into principle and responsibility if you want. But think about the person I most care about and how to help me before you do. Where do I send the invoice for £150,000?
Ian Shuttleworth is the senior theatre critic on the Financial Times.
That new Blair editorial's pretty strong pic.twitter.com/JYWregz1dy
— Chris Applegate (@chrisapplegate) August 12, 2015