The success of Tony Blair is inevitable when discussing party leaders. He tapped into the hearts of the nation in 1997 by transforming the Labour Party from its socialist core to a centrist political establishment. ‘New Labour’ brought inspiration from the Reagan and Thatcher economics, and implemented social reform. The Clinton-Blair years of neoliberalism saw an age of prosperity, but also an age of austerity. Once Labour became the minority in parliament in 2010 after 13 years of power, a new message from Labour was born to transform the party again, with a fresh new face in Jeremy Corbyn taking the helm in 2015.
There are many differences between the leadership of Blair and Corbyn, that it’s hard to comprehend that they affiliate with the same party. The main opposition they have is pretty clear: war. As President of the Stop the War Coalition for 3 years, it is without a doubt that Corbyn disagrees profusely with Blair’s invasion of the Middle East.
Blair has been vilified for his inclusion in the Iraq war, something that eventually led to his diminishing support in his own party. Corbyn has always been consistent on his stance on international conflict, with him famously opposing the Apartheid crisis of South Africa at a demonstration in 1983.
Corbyn is an advocate of not renewing Trident, a nuclear programme that protects our own nation from nuclear war. Blair, on the other hand, renewed Trident and sent thousands of troops into the Middle East with pressure from President Bush. His relationship with Bush has been considered hierarchical, with Blair coming across as a pushover to satisfy the UK-US special relationship.
Views on the Economy
Secondly, their views on economics are entirely different when it comes to reworking the British economy. Corbyn wants state ownership of privatised companies, meaning companies are less likely to bust under the government rule.
He criticises the Blair years for its lack of council houses, and instead an inflation of rent from private landlords who promised “affordable housing”. Corbyn wishes to implement a rent cap for all struggling tenants if he becomes PM in the near future, something that would anger some hard-right conservatives in Parliament.
On the other hand, Blair believed in ‘free market’, where businesses can rule by themselves as well as being advised by the government. The privatisation of major industries in the Thatcher years continued under Blair, outlining his centre-right position when it comes to the economy. What Blair failed on, is that the independent rule of private companies meant they became too big to fall, and if went bust were forced to rely on government handouts to help. This arguably led to the 2008 financial crash both here and across the pond, which saw the popularity of Tony Blair and Republican George Bush decline rapidly.
Whether one is a fan of Blair or Corbyn, the Labour Party as a whole has changed. Politics has changed in general, meaning the neoliberalism of the past cannot function. Millennials are keen to back a socialist government promised by Corbyn, with a huge surge of young voters turning up to vote for Labour in the recent snap election. With the threat of the hard-right looming with Trump and plans of a hard Brexit, the left-wingers need to adopt a hard-left approach to counteract their opponents. When discussing Blairites at a rally in Southampton, Corbyn is quoted as saying:
“I hope they would recognise politics has changed, the idea of trickle-down of growth in wealth of people simply doesn’t work”.
The aim of the redistribution of wealth during an age of austerity is promising. In a timSet featured imagee where 4 million children live in poverty, and the NHS is hit with crisis after crisis due to underfunding, its fair to say the public is fed up. Corbyn brings a breath of fresh air that Blair also once did, but its now out with the old and in with the new. The surge of democratic socialism is inclining fast, and the popularity of Corbyn and his similar counterpart in the US, Bernie Sanders, exemplifies just that.
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