Andrew Marr: Are we seeing a revival of Tony Blair's New Labour?

18 July 2023, 18:53 | Updated: 18 July 2023, 19:05

Tonight with Andrew Marr
Tonight with Andrew Marr. Picture: LBC

By Emma Soteriou

Andrew Marr questions whether a revival of Tony Blair's New Labour is on the cards as polls suggest they are likely to win the next general election.

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Opening LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, the presenter gave is analysis of Keir Starmer's vision for the government after the Labour leader spoke at the Future of Britain conference in London.

"Most of the time on the show, we talk about the government," Andrew said. "Well they are the people whose decisions actually change lives.

"The opposition? Well they’re just the people who’d one day like to.

"Even so, this was quite the day in the recent history of the Labour Party.

"Again and again the polls suggest they are likely to win the next general election and form the next government and as that happens, quite rightly, they come under closer scrutiny - what would they do?

"There's a big argument going on right now about the two-child cap on benefits, a policy introduced by George Osborne, which Labour has said is unfair to larger families, is driving many children and their parents into poverty and is - to use their words - heinous, cruel and disgraceful.

"But so worried is Labour about making uncosted spending commitments that now Keir Starmer says he’ll keep the policy.

"I haven't yet found a Labour frontbencher or MP who is genuinely happy with this - but Labour keeps losing elections in part because we don't trust it with public money - so perhaps this is the price that must be paid for our hypocritical determination to get politicians to offer us something for nothing.

"Anyway, there was a moment of history, in a small way, made today when Sir Keir shared the stage with Tony Blair, at the former Prime Minister's Future of Britain conference in a London hotel."

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Andrew Marr on Sir Keir Starmer's vision for government

Andrew went on to say: "Before their chatty conversation, Starmer had given, what seems to me, his most lucid explanation so far of what his politics is really about. And it starts with class.

"Again and again he returned to two things - the absolute importance of growth in the economy, for that is where he hopes to get the money to sort everything else out from; and he talked about optimism - and the danger of what he called a mindset of decline after a botched Brexit deal, taking us to a new age of insecurity.

"So the question is really this - are we seeing a revival of Tony Blair's New Labour? New Labour take 2? New New Labour for the age of The Weeknd and Taylor Swift, not the Cool Britannia heyday of Blur and Oasis?

"It was blatantly obvious that the former Prime Minister has been talking deeply and privately to Keir Starmer and much of their analysis - about reforming public services and the importance of AI - dovetailed almost suspiciously neatly.

"And they agree on the importance of party reform - Starmer told Blair he had to be like Kinnock, Smith and Blair rolled into one in just a few years.

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"What I found most interesting, however, was the body language and the tone of language between the two men.

"Conspiracy addicts are already saying that Starmer is somehow Blair’s private creature, the stodgier, less charismatic pupil rather overawed by the triple-election-winning Master.

"Somehow today it didn't feel like that. Starmer wasn’t sitting there waiting for Blair to tell him what to say.

"He seemed, if anything, more self-confident than the older politician.

"He was rehearsing themes he's used many times before and he seems at least as tough, at least as prepared for a fight, at least as focused on winning at all costs. Doesn't mean he will be a great prime minister, of course.

"We will have no idea really what kind of leader of the country he might make until he's been there for a while.

"If he gets there, and he himself is far from certain, will he face his own Iraq war moment? Will he have to deal with a second, even angrier, Donald Trump presidency? Will the British economy revive under him or continue to slither around, like a legless drunk, in the mud?

"One thing’s for sure. There really isn't going to be a flood of promises before the election about what he's going to do."