The Left

Humble Tony?

Some quick early thoughts after Blair’s speech.

Certainly it was not one of his greatest speeches but overall it was impressive and probably appropriate for the times.

Some poor jokes that didn’t work and I am not sure he totally carried off the new ‘humble Tony’ act but at least he realised he needed to do that.

The key messages were:

1. I’m listening, we are going to talk to the voters.

For me this was the strong point. Talking of a great debate across the country. Sends the signal that he is not turning into a Thatcher figure isolated from the public. Hit me as a rejection of focus group, spin politics and a return to a more open approach.

“the biggest policy consultation ever to have taken place in this country. The Ministers from me down, our MPs out in every constituency hosting discussions that engage with the whole community.”

Great idea – let’s see if it happens.

2. This Tony’s not for turning:

“Get rid of the false choice: principles or no principles.
Replace it with the true choice.
Forward or back
I can only go one way.
I’ve not got a reverse gear.
The time to trust a politician most is not when they’re taking the easy option. Any politician can do the popular things. I know, I used to do a few of them.
I know it’s hard for people to keep faith.”

Sack the speech writer responsible for this tosh. The true choice – forward or back? Please. If this was supposed to be the TV soundbite bit (and if it isn’t one has to wonder why it was in the speech) then it was badly misjudged. And keep the faith?

I thought he dealt well with Iraq though – winning the peace, respecting those who disagreed with him.

“There was no easy choice.

So whatever we each of us thought, let us agree on this.

We who started the war must finish the peace.

Those British soldiers who died are heroes.

We didn’t regret the fall of Milosovic, the removal of the Taliban or the liberation of Sierra Leone and whatever the disagreement Iraq is a better country without Saddam.”

Also significantly there was no strong attack on the left – it was an attempt to heal while not giving ground.

The usual New Labour themes were all there, of course and the defence of the government’s achievements was robust.

But it was clear the old Blair confidence has gone – which actually might not be a bad thing.

(If you didn’t see it the full text of the speech is here.)