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Why was Tony Blair so successful?

(151 Posts)
ComingUpTrumps Fri 18-Aug-17 23:44:30

Random AIBU - I know. And one that might not be to everyone's taste. Sorry about this.

My AIBU is that I'm really curious to find out what it was that made Tony Blair such a successful Prime Minister (by 'successful', I mean the fact that he won three consecutive elections). I'd like to find out what you all think.

When he first became PM, I was five, so had no idea about what politics or government was or anything like that. I started getting interested around 2003, when the Iraq War started - I still remember watching the news when they showed Saddam Hussein's statue being toppled.

I fully understand that TB is a controversial figure, and I'm still making my mind about him, to be honest. I borrowed his autobiography from the library a couple of week ago. The one thing I can say is that I think he's a very good writer, but apart from that, I'm still trying to find out about him.

In a sense, I feel that TB's a bit like Donald Trump, in that he tends to divide opinion and is quite controversial as people seem to love him or hate him.

Also, a bit like with Trump (although I think that TB is smarter than Trump), I still can't quite work out what TB's agenda was and is (Power-hungry? Genuinely believed/believes that he could make a difference to Britain and the world? Wanted to see how far he could get in politics after becoming an MP? A mixture of all three?)

ILoveMillhousesDad Fri 18-Aug-17 23:47:47

I think he brought a kind of new hope to us working class. He was young, britpop was around, noel Gallagher supported him (when Oasis were cool), his theme tune was 'things can only get better' and we all bought into it.

It went tits up tho and I think people were clinging on to the hope.

Queenioqueenio Fri 18-Aug-17 23:48:38

He managed to appeal to the centre, centre left & centre right. The country was sick of the Tories and he was a breath of fresh air. It was s very unique set of circumstances.

LuxuryWoman2017 Fri 18-Aug-17 23:53:10

I was 29, and the day that labour was elected felt to me and many like the sun came out. In my memory the country felt full of hope and optimism after some dark years and change came fast, really fast. TB was young and glamorous and seemed in touch with the electorate and for a while there was a very 'cool' vibe about the country. The old famous politicians were gone and things felt fresh and hopeful in a way not I've not experienced since. Hard to believe or articulate now but that's how I felt back then - hopeful.

ComingUpTrumps Sat 19-Aug-17 00:01:03

This is so interesting to read so far - thanks for posting, everyone.

Further down the line, for the elections in 2001 and 2005, I'm curious to find out about what it was that made people still vote for him.

Was it because people didn't want the Conservatives to get in? Did people still believe that Labour could help the country? Did people still support him and Labour's policies?

SilverySurfer Sat 19-Aug-17 00:01:58

He was a good liar.

Queenioqueenio Sat 19-Aug-17 00:01:58

I was 18 and had known nothing but a Tory majority. It was a massive pivotal point, the country was coming out of a depression and like a PP said full of hope & optimism- not sure how that will ever be re-created.

SomewhatIdiosyncratic Sat 19-Aug-17 00:10:16

I was born in the early 80s so was taking my GCSE exams by the time I'd experienced anything other than a Conservative government. They scraped through in 1992 as much to do with the unpopularity of Labour as any confidence in them (sound familiar?). John Smith took over after Neil Kinnock and began to revitalise Labour and shake off the associations from the 1970s. Sadly he died suddenly in 1994 and Tony Blair came to be leader. He was young, he was fresh, it was New Labour.

The early years were good. There was investment in the public sector. Teaching conditions and retention improved. Hospital waiting lists were cleared. The minimum wage was introduced.

Iraq was definitely a major turning point and has come to be the definitive issue of his term as Prime Minister. New Labour is also tarnished by much investment being via the more Conservative style of privatisation/ investment, and borrowing which has become a burden in the past decade since the global banking crisis/ stagnation.

With the 20th anniversary of Diana's death approaching, the footage of Tony Blair talking about The People's Princess was a prime example of how he could be very successful at catching and using the public mood. That sounds cynical with hindsight, but at the time it was what society needed to hear, and we weren't so politically cynical, jaded and mistrustful of snappy sound bites. Most people also recently had 5 TV channels unless they had Sky. Much less rolling news. Few people had internet access and no social media. The millennium was approaching, the economy recovered from a recession and it was an optimistic era when terrorism referred to the troubles in Northern Ireland which was increasingly seeing ceasefires and working towards achieving the Good Friday Agreement.

Well such are the nostalgic recollections of my late teens anyway!

PickAChew Sat 19-Aug-17 00:11:36

he was smug (the original lightbulb smile) and thoughtless.

LuxuryWoman2017 Sat 19-Aug-17 00:12:32

Further down the line, for the elections in 2001 and 2005, I'm curious to find out about what it was that made people still vote for him.
Well, from my memory things went well for a while,, we felt quite well off as a nation, even if we weren't really. I bought my first house for a song just after they were elected and I mean a song (a not fantastic salary, asking price in the SE, 40k!) so we felt quite rich and that continued a while. we felt I think that could go on and we'd ride any storms and the Tories at that time were over* really, they were just dead in the water,, so ^old there felt like no alternative just like labour were until recently. We were best buds with the USA.
Really, it was a different world and for a while it was good.
That's my memory at least.

ComingUpTrumps Sat 19-Aug-17 00:12:35

Queenio good point - I'm not sure either about how it can be, or whether it can be, recreated. I think that Emmanuel Macron's win in France suggests that it can still happen elsewhere though. I'm worried that he may turn out to be very similar to TB.

I read somewhere - can't remember where - about how Britain has mostly had Tory governments and has a bit of a bias towards them. I'm not sure why - could it be because until the 20th century (I should find out when) only the ruling, landowning classes could vote - and it was clearly in their interests to vote Tory?

SomewhatIdiosyncratic Sat 19-Aug-17 00:13:22

We'd even done respectably in the Euros which were held in England the previous year, and it was the peak of Britpop music.

There really was a strong, fresh cultural vibe.

Anyone got a time machine?

LuxuryWoman2017 Sat 19-Aug-17 00:15:00

Wow, sorry about all those italics, it's late!

ILoveMillhousesDad Sat 19-Aug-17 00:15:21

I think this is a very interesting thread OP and I am looking forward to reading more responses.

I was quite young when he got in and tbh had not much understanding about his NHS privatisation and the iraq war.

Now I am aware of his priministership (obvs sic), I wish I was more politically aware when I was younger.

gillybeanz Sat 19-Aug-17 00:15:57

He allowed tax credits at their highest, investment in all education including tertiary and higher education, very low fees, childcare improvements and cc element of tc.
Everyone got cb.
The lower and middle earners were loads better off.

MagdalenLaundry Sat 19-Aug-17 00:22:46

Right time
The country was ready for a move left but unfortunately he was a neo liberal not labour at all
John Major would have been a better bet
Margaret Thatcher was his hero, says it all

ComingUpTrumps Sat 19-Aug-17 00:23:44

They scraped through in 1992 as much to do with the unpopularity of Labour as any confidence in them (sound familiar?)

I wonder if we might see a Labour government get in after the next election? Maybe....

Margaret Thatcher was in power from 1979 to 1997, so eighteeen years. If we don't have another election before 2022, the Conservatives will have been in power from 2010 to 2022, so that'll bring it up to twelve years.

Queenioqueenio Sat 19-Aug-17 00:27:41

Yes Gilly, but we are paying the piper now.
This was well after the initial 'golden period'. When I had my first child, there was massive investment in the NHS, loads of children's centres - anyone could attend, tax credits threshold was approx £60k, all childcare virtually 80% paid, massive increase in child welfare benefits which has proved unsustainable.

MargaretTwatyer Sat 19-Aug-17 00:29:53

In 1997 the Tories were a disaster. Major had the awful 'back to basics' campaign which demonised 'immoral' single mothers while at the same time the 'cash for questions' scandal happened where Tory MPs took cash in brown envelopes to ask questions for dodgy people (including Al Fayed) and then lying and committing perjury to cover it up and also fucking each other eh John and Edwina all of which was much more morally questionable than single mothers. So the opposition was a shambles.

New Labour were also the first to apply modern marketing and PR techniques to a political party. 'Spin' was the new thing and media management and cultivating the press and cross promotion of politics via culture and celebrity (like Cool Brittania) was a new thing. People were a lot less cynical about being promoted to in that way and really bought into it. (Perhaps not having experienced this sort of targeting is what makes the young much more receptive to the likes of Momentum?). When Blair said he was 'a pretty straight kind of guy' people believed him because it was new - nobody had spoken to them like that before and they took it at face value.

The Conservatives were absolutely knocked for six and took a long time to become an even slightly credible opposition. Put it this way, Labour had Cool Brittania and the latest Britpop bands and artists (Hirst, Emin), designers and models coming to No. 10 to make Tony look cool and relevant.

When the Tories tried to look cool and relevant they had William Hague in a baseball cap.

So, yeah, combination of a weak opposition and very clever use of marketing.

WinterIsComingKnitFaster Sat 19-Aug-17 00:31:22

The conservatives left an open goal. Also there was a huge redistribution of wealth which massively benefited the people at the lower end but didn't particularly hurt the people at the upper end (why it didn't hurt the upper end is a huge story with many possible answers).

In the "what the Romans did for us" camp you'd start with Bank of England independence, then the Good Friday Agreement, then the minimum wage, then NICE. There's more, but of course there is another side to the scales.

MargaretTwatyer Sat 19-Aug-17 00:31:58

The lower and middle earners were loads better off.

This is sooooo not true. Unless they bought a house pre 2000. If you hadn't the increase in housing costs wiped out any extra income and then some.

averylongtimeago Sat 19-Aug-17 00:32:04

In 1997 the tories had been in power for years, ordinary people felt ground down and we were worried about the lack of investment in schools, the NHS and housing.
The Labour Party reinvented its self under Blair (New Labour) and the old Union dominated front bench MPs were pushed aside.
When the results were in on election night it was like a huge wave of hope. And they delivered. Schools had a big increase in funding, hospital waiting lists were cut, people got back to work. Britain seemed to be getting better and better.

Then came the Iraq war, which at the time seemed justified, after all, there were weapons of mass destruction and stockpiles of chemical bombs, weren't there?
Don't forget there was no social media and rolling news like now, it took a while for the truth to dawn.

gluteustothemaximus Sat 19-Aug-17 00:33:47

He's very believable.

He's charismatic.

He gave everyone hope after some terrible Tory years.

He was more centre, than left.

MargaretTwatyer Sat 19-Aug-17 00:35:07

Good Friday Agreement - the peace process was actually largely a Major achievement which Labour capitalised on and stole the glory from.

WinterIsComingKnitFaster Sat 19-Aug-17 00:39:05

That's true, that Major had laid the vast majority of the ground work. It's a shared achievement but Blair deserves a share of the credit- God
knows enough promising peace deals have fallen apart within twelve months.

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