Labour has been left devastated by its election result. It is not just the scale of the defeat but its unexpected nature. Now the voices come thick and fast, advising on what went wrong and what should happen now. Amongst all of these comes Tony Blair.
Brand Blair has been damaged by how the media have portrayed his post-office work but mostly by the decision by led for the invasion of Iraq. These are difficult for many to set aside but in purely Party terms, he won three elections and still deals with states people across the globe.
In Dan Jarvis' piece announcing his intention not to run for the leadership, he highlights the failure to deal with the issue of economic competence. The ability to show that Labour could be trusted to run the economy was one of Blair's most significant achievements. He also positioned the Party to take over traditional Conservative issues such as 'law and order'. For these reasons, if nothing else, Blair needs to be listened to.
Ambition is already emerging as the new buzzword. It is hard not to listen to Blair, Campbell, Mandelson and now David Miliband as well and not be impressed by their analysis. That is not say that everyone agrees with them but they have ideas and a contribution to make, if the Party will let them.
The Conservatives have no similar qualms. John Major's time in office was not stellar and he took them down to the 1997 defeat but they value his contribution and were happy to hear from him during the election. Labour, on the other hand, looked nervously at its feet when Blair spoke about Britain's role in Europe.
Blair chose an article in the Observer to enthuse and energise the Party. He called for it to make a renewed pitch for the centre ground, consider how to create wealth and look for a new role for Government in that.
The danger of looking left is that the SNP territory is no longer open to the Party, as Blair suggests. It is also not where England appears to be. Some in the trade union movement are already warning about the Party turning in a Blairite agenda but it is difficult to see a more left leaning programme securing the support needed to get the Party back into government.
Critically, Blair looks at the implications of the defeat in terms of the Conservative Party. Instead of merely engaging in internal discussions and debates, he urges the Party to take heart from the failure of the Conservative Party to reform. Indeed, Cameron has failed to challenge his own party. From a wish to be the greenest government ever, the green 'crap' has been cut. One of the challenges Cameron's new majority government faces is to show that it can govern as 'one nation', not the 'nasty party'. If it's the latter then the Lib Dems may at least be able to claim a pyrrhic victory.
Labour talks about being proud of some the achievements made during the Blair / Brown era but doesn't articulate them. Unless it can overcome this fear of the past then its future is not bright. The Party's attitude towards Blair is symptomatic of this.
Labour has very few leaders who have 'been there and done that' so it needs to listen to the one[s] it does have. It needs ideas about how to reconnect with the country at large and build its own coalition of support. It should not be forgotten that, the Blair era aside, it is rare for Labour to win General Elections - they were the exception rather than the norm.
If the Party choses to dismiss Blair as a product of the past, the embarrassing relative that is only seen as family occasions, then it will be doing itself a massive disservice.Suggest a correction