The party faces threats it does not understandby John Harris / December 11, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
In September 2005, back in the days when parties’ annual gatherings would still occasionally crackle with energy and intrigue, Tony Blair gave his 12th conference speech as leader of the Labour Party. As ever, it was an impassioned and daring address, so full of self-confidence as to seem almost unhinged. Blair had often seemed to lecture his party about the realities of the present and future. But on this occasion, he went much further. He enthused about an “open, liberal” economy that was “unforgiving of frailty,” but full of opportunities that would go to those “swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change.” I can vividly recall watching the speech from the upper balcony of the Brighton centre, and thinking: who exactly were these people? In the most high-flown passages, it sounded as if Blair was not just admonishing Labour for its timidity and conservatism, but despairing of the same instincts among millions of ordinary people.
Towards the end, Blair extended the scope of this sweeping critique to Labour’s past. He recalled a 90th birthday party for the former Labour…