It is, one supposes, the first time that a multimillionaire has ever graced Trimdon Labour Club with his presence as a visiting speaker. And it is a mark of the desperation and political bankruptcy of new Labour that it has pulled ex-prime minister and war criminal Tony Blair out of storage and is using him in its election campaign. There must have been many peace and political activists in the country who experienced an uncomfortable sense of deja vu when the oily face of Blair appeared once more on the television screens yesterday, hurrying into the Trimdon club under police escort. It's one of the few good things to say about politics in the Brown era that, somehow, the world seemed rather cleaner without the arch-opportunist and apologist for capitalism anywhere in evidence. But returned he is, and with the ascendance of Peter Mandelson in Cabinet and the creeping back into the public eye of Alastair Campbell, the set's complete.
Complete, that is, if you ignore the vanished coterie of disgraced new Labourites who have bitten, or are about to bite, the dust in various scandals involving influence-peddling and MPs' expenses. That's quite a substantial number, incidentally. But what does the political resurrection of Mr Blair tell us about the Labour Party in this election? In short, it tells us that the party hasn't learned a damn thing from the events of the last few years. It hasn't learned that the Blairite love-affair with the City led inexorably to the abuses that precipitated the banking crisis. The sense of invulnerability that came from having a capitalism-friendly Labour administration and a complaisant Tory opposition gave the banks and their tame speculators a licence to fiddle, free rein to invent ever-more ludicrous financial "products" to enable them to extract yet more paper "profit" from dodgy transactions and a society so based on greed and the acquisition of personal wealth that their behaviour could be passed off as acceptable. Capitalism, never exactly savoury, became casino capitalism, in which gambling was passed off as trading and skimming was considered legitimate. So difficult has new Labour found it to establish any real difference from the Tories that they are now reduced to arguments not about what, but about when. Not about attacking or defending the welfare state, but about how soon and how often to attack it. This unsurprisingly makes election campaigns difficult.
The electorate may be misguided at times, but it certainly isn't blind and anyone to the left of centre is finding it increasingly difficult to support a party which has demonstrably lost its way along with its progressive principles. Thus, the recourse to Tony Blair. It's back to the politics of spin over substance, back to a sales technique rather than a political manifesto and a return to the fight to command the centre rather than drive politics in a progressive direction. Not that there was ever much chance of a Brown administration being vastly progressive, but it has shown an increasing tendency to revisit the recent past, to try to recapture the "glory days" of the new Labour project that everyone except Labour's leaders realises is stone dead, even though as yet unburied. Mr Darling had a chance to become the defender of public services. He was driven into fighting to avoid an instant bloodbath of cuts. But he has wasted that opportunity and with it, rejected Labour's best chance of a principled victory in a general election. A vote for Labour is, in most cases, still necessary to defend against the wild excesses of a Tory Britain, but the retreat into spin represented by Mr Blair's resurrection hugely diminishes Labour's chances of electoral success. The Blairite dream of a Labour middle class is dead, but they still won't let it rest.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.