Sayeed’s overriding theory is that Blairism was ultimately the triumph of right-wing politicsby Burhan Wazir / January 25, 2018 / Leave a comment
Richard Power Sayeed’s well-researched history of Britain in 1997 is framed around three central markers: Tony Blair’s landslide general election in May; the manufactured nationalism of Britpop and the Spice Girls over the summer; and the mourning that followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in Paris that September. Sayeed’s overriding theory is that Blairism was ultimately the triumph of right-wing politics. What initially seemed like the logical conclusion of the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s was in fact a Trojan horse for deregulation and privatisation which, he believes, betrayed the founding tenets of the Labour Party.
Sayeed captures neatly how Blair’s drive to modernise the UK left behind large sections of the country, most notably working class people. The events of 1997 might not have directly unleashed Brexit, but they have played a role in shaping the country’s current predicament.
The book falters, however, when it lends too much weight to the importance of Oasis, Blur and Pulp and the death of Diana. Britpop was ultimately corrupted by business, Sayeed argues—but which post-war musical movement hasn’t succumbed to the same fate?
Bands like Massive Attack may have reignited some interest in social exclusion, but chart-toppers like Oasis never sent anyone to the polls, for all that Noel Gallagher was happy enough to be photographed with Blair at Downing Street. Sayeed also argues that the manner of Diana’s death—and the manner in which it was covered—has led to our present, privacy-obsessed monarchy. That’s hardly a surprise.