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The 'Blairite' Badge Is Now an Unwanted Label and It Shouldn't Be

03/08/2015 22:30 BST | Updated 03/08/2016 10:59 BST

It was clear from Tony Blair's recent intervention in the Labour leadership contest that the former Prime Minister is not held in high regard in this country.

He is lambasted for taking Britain into two nasty conflicts in the Middle East, of which we are still dealing with the consequences.

Yet there is also a new undercurrent of toxicity towards Blair's wider legacy. This toxicity isn't coming from Conservatives who are bitter about Blair's success at winning three elections.

Instead, it is coming from within the Labour party and the left more generally; evident in comments from the Communication Workers Union likening the Blairites within the party to a "virus".

Indeed, the term 'Blairite' is now bandied about with the same kind of venom that is apportioned to the right wing favourites of 'Thatcherite' and 'neo-liberal'.

Whilst the animosity reserved for the latter two phrases is at least partly understandable given the recent financial crash and the blame that has been apportioned, rightly or wrongly, to the 'fat-cats' in the City of London, it astounds me that Tony Blair is viewed with such dislike by some on the left.

Blair's rebranding of the Labour party into 'New Labour' was a masterstroke that allowed him to win three elections on the trot.

He redefined his party as one that was capable of governing Britain in a world that was becoming increasingly globalised. He accepted that you couldn't have social mobility - a key progressive principle - without economic efficiency, which was the hallmark of Thatcher's brand of Conservatism.

As a consequence, he has been accused of being a 'Tory in disguise'.

Imagine if, when he became leader of the Labour Party in 1994, Blair had ditched the modernising reforms that had been proposed and enacted by John Smith and Neil Kinnock before him; if he had instead stuck firmly to the socialist commitments of nationalisation and a planned economy.

Where would he, and more importantly Britain, be now? Well for a start, Blair would have probably lasted a couple of years as Labour leader before his party kicked him out in the realisation that Old Labour was no longer palatable to the British public in an age of individualism and consumerism.

As for where Britain would be, a fourth successive general election victory for the Tories in 1997 would not have been beyond the realms of possibility, and despite the successes of Thatcherism, any party needs a period in opposition to refresh itself.

Without said refreshment, a Tory government in its fifth term would likely not have been a pretty sight.

Yet Blair didn't look backwards, he looked forwards. He and the modernisers at the top of the Labour party accepted the new economic reality created by Thatcherism and utilised the wealth generated by it to fund such progressive policies as a doubling of the health budget and a colossal increase in the education budget.

Despite the ineffective use of some of those resources, that meant hundreds of new hospitals and new schools and consequent better healthcare and education for millions.

Additionally, New Labour implemented the national minimum wage, a policy that had existed in Michael Foot's 1983 election manifesto, which was later dubbed 'the longest suicide note in history'.

Blair had made a key social democratic ideal a workable reality rather than just a cuddly principle that previously had no realistic hope of being implemented.

Blair also implemented workers' rights legislation and the fox hunting ban, two other policies that were in Foot's doomed manifesto.

The thinking behind New Labour lay in the so-called, 'Third Way'. It was an attempt to fuse social democratic principles with the new economic reality that Thatcherism had created.

What, after all, is so wrong about wanting to have the best of both worlds? Blair wanted to find a hybrid between economic prosperity and social justice and many would argue that he managed to achieve it.

The current Labour leadership election highlights my point exactly. Liz Kendall, the overtly 'Blairite' candidate, is trailing in a miserable fourth place, whilst the socialist Jeremy Corbyn is odds-on favourite to win the contest outright.

What that says is that Labour are once again too concerned with principle and ideology, they are no longer interested in actually delivering real change and solutions to the problems they identify in our system, but instead want to shout from the sidelines and achieve nothing.

Tony Blair is rightly unpopular for a number of reasons, yet what he achieved as a politician, in revolutionising his party after 20 years of upheaval, was nothing short of remarkable.

Real prosperity and real investment was delivered and I just can't understand why today's party is prepared to turn its back on that in favour of becoming an electoral irrelevance.