Blair and New Labour: I told you so

‘During the 1997 election I put up a handmade poster in the house where I lived that read: “A Vote for Labour is Not Necessarily a Vote for That Sanctimonious Git Blair.” I-told-you-so is never an attractive quality, but while my sign may have been factually incorrect, I was spot-on when it came to the man himself, which was why my tick was placed elsewhere in 2001, 2005, and will be again come May.

‘I’d had a bad feeling about Blair since he’d begun sopping up the limelight as shadow home secretary; his posturing on law and order was reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s policy triangulation – an effective tactic, but utterly unprincipled. This was Blair’s underlying gittishness – but as for the sanctimony, it came off him in waves and I couldn’t understand why others on the left didn’t sense it. But people mostly believe what suits them, and when Blair told them they could have it all – unlimited economic growth spearheaded by unbridled capitalism and enormously improved social provision – they developed a faith strong enough to sustain them through the next 13 years of disillusionment.

‘Not me. On the May morning when party activists bussed in to Downing Street played the part of a deliriously happy flag-waving citizenry (while Tony and Cherie played the part of modest victors), I sat staring at the TV and suggested to my then girlfriend (now wife) that we might consider emigrating. Of course, we didn’t – we just moved to Stockwell. My attention was not focused on the Blair government during the first three years it was in office. The rock-bottom of my long-term alcohol and drug addiction had coincided – in a rather spectacular fashion – with New Labour’s election, and until I finally got clean and sober in October 1999, it was all about me – not him. I did, however, clock the egregious hamming it up for the cameras that Blair did after the death of Diana Spencer, and again I wondered, how could anyone be taken in?’

Read the rest of Will Self’s piece about New Labour from the Observer New Review here.