This is an extract from my latest column in the International New York Times about the Labour Party leadership contest in Britain. Read the full article in the INYT.
In truth, Mr. Blair is neither saint nor sinner. His election victories were as much the product of the exhaustion of the Conservative Party after 18 years in power as they were of his political acumen. And he did not so much rob Labour of its soul as recognize that it could no longer be the party that it once was — a party built on a trade union movement whose power had been neutered.
Labour had become a party without a social base or political foundation. Mr. Blair’s solution was to transform it into a technocratic organization built on “triangulation” — a strategy of stealing policies of one’s opponents in order to capture the middle ground, an approach borrowed from Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign.
The Blair strategy allowed Labour to regain power while the Conservatives were in disarray, but it failed to provide a long-term solution to the party’s need to create a new constituency and social role.
The current leadership battle reflects this dilemma. Mr. Corbyn’s bid to recreate the old Labour Party rooted in the power of the unions suggests a failure to recognize how much Britain has changed. Yet his critics offer no alternative political vision that would engage voters looking for social change.
Read the full article in the INYT.