Last week Tony Blair contributed £106,000 to 106 Labour candidates battling elections in marginal seats. In what promises to be one of the closest fought elections in history, and against a Conservative Party bankrolled by the city, this is not an insignificant act. Labour has been out of power for five years and one would imagine their prospective candidates are eager to recapture the glory of their past successes. However, it appears a couple of candidates have forgotten which parts of their history should be seen as a success.
"Received donation from Tony Blair. Instinct was to not accept.", tweeted Dundee East candidate Lesley Brennan. How brave and courageous it is to follow your gut in times of great moral dilemma. That must have been a tough decision to take in the Dundee East Situation Room. The incumbent in Dundee East happens to be a member of the SNP. This is the same SNP threatening to wipe Labour out in Scotland, eliminate their chance of a majority and restart the debate over Scottish independence. It is, therefore, reassuring to see that Labour's great defence against this is more intent on some sort of attention seeking moralising that serves no purpose other than to embarrass a former party leader, and to draw attention to a debate Blair was trying to put to rest.
The lowbrow gesture politics of Brennan, Sophie Gardner and Sally Keeble is an open goal for the Conservatives and the SNP. It allows them to focus on the rift between Blair, which is by proxy Labour's last period in government, and the current leadership. This in turn helps them smear Labour's record and lessens their ability to draw on past successes as a reason to vote for them once again.
Most political commentators, regardless of creed, would agree that a pretty essential part of governing and carrying out any sort of positive change is winning. Tony Blair is the most successful leader in the history of the Labour Party. He understood that the Labour Party had the people, ideas and intentions to implement meaningful change, but that none of this mattered if they were in opposition. Labour has too often lost sight of this throughout its history and the public has been a great deal worse off because of it. A theme of Blair's struggle to make the Labour Party electable was his crusade on amateur mistakes and actions. He wanted the party to be serious about governing and once they stopped making decisions and gestures to the contrary they would be trusted by the public. The actions of the three candidates who rejected Blair's donation are not the actions of those serious about governing.
The coming election will most probably remain too close to call until the votes are counted. A majority the size that Blair enjoyed is not on the horizon for Labour in 2015, but they still have every chance of being a part of the government formed in the days after May 7th. To keep this chance alive they will need to fight tooth and nail in each of the 106 constituencies as well as many more around the country. They will need as much money as they can to combat the Tory war chest and make up ground on the SNP's popularity. Candidates could do a lot worse than look toward their most successful leader for guidance. This is not the time for a return to the 1980s. This is not the time for an amateur Labour Party. This is the time for a Labour party serious about governing.