May 042012

The Independent reports this story thus:

A source close to Mr Blair was quoted in Public Affairs News magazine: “He wants to re-engage in the UK. He has things to say and he thinks it’s the right time. The question is how he re-enters the UK scene without re-entering domestic politics and interfering with the Labour Party.”

He has Ed Miliband in a bit of a bind here – though at least from the outside looking in this would appear not to be the case:

Last night a spokesman for Mr Miliband said: “Tony Blair is a very big, successful Labour figure who won three general elections. He talks to Ed regularly and we would be delighted to see him re-engaging in British politics.”

So how could he re-enter domestic politics without interfering with the Labour Party?


I’ve got it.

He could set up his own party.


Well, actually he could.  He has the financial resources, connections and presumably long list of favours to call in (I don’t say this in bad faith but, rather, as a political reality any long-serving politician is bound to acquire); he has the considerable confidence that moving between the revolving doors of business and politics provides one with; and, whether you now like him or not, the ability to talk the hind legs off a horse.

If Mr Blair didn’t care to mess around with internal Labour politics any more, he could quite easily impact on British politicking in many other ways.  In a society where private power is more dominant than public democracy, anyone can enter the spheres of political influence without climbing the greasy poles of party structures.

So perhaps, if I read the situation correctly, Mr Blair will enter British politics – as, since the last general election under this band of millionaire ministers, it has now become – in much the same way as the Osbornes and Camerons of this world.

The difference?  Perhaps he has had time to reflect on his unalloyed successes and contextualise them decently in terms of his undeniable failures.

We are where we are precisely because he taught us – after a good dose of Thatcher’s political spanking – that personality politics did not have to be such a dangerous matter.  I’m inclined to believe it is, mind – now always will.

We are where we are not only because of the legislative groundwork Blair laid.  We are where we are because in a crowdsourced and collaborative age, politicians like Mr Blair continue – with their force of personality – to impose their very particular (perhaps peculiar) visions of society on its citizens.

There is, however, an alternative.

If you missed it yesterday, read this post from yours truly which highlights great political thought on either side of the Atlantic.  To rid ourselves of right-wingers who use the deniabilities of “charismatic authority”, we do not necessarily need to use the same tools and structures as our enemies.

We do not need powerful figures in order that we may exert a mediated power through a sad and sorry papering-over-the-cracks.  We simply require organisational structures which through confidence, trust and sensible belief allow us to exert that power directly.  Does Mr Blair have a place in such a proposal?  Does Mr Blair care to belong to the past or the future?

I’m really not sure.

Surely it will depend far more on Ed Miliband – and how fundamentally he has really changed Labour.  If Labour will truly become a political party of the 21st century, where people control and organise what happens in structures that follow and interpret rather than force and impose, then Mr Blair himself will need to show he understands the profundity of sociocommunicative – as well as sociopolitical – change in such a democratic environment.

If, on the other hand, Miliband has managed (whether by design or by inertia) to change very little, Mr Blair need not alter an iota of his political behaviours.  The Party will remain essentially as he had left it, and its levers of power will act in very familiar ways for him.

At the mercy of a savage Coalition government, perhaps we will all – in some way, then – prefer the devil we know to the devil we most recently voted for.

It all depends – quite curiously – not so much on Mr Blair and his public persona but, instead, on how effectively Mr Miliband has restructured the internal workings of Labour.

Is it the organisation which still fits hand-in-Tony’s-glove – or has it properly (or even significantly) grown up and out of such a time?

Anyone out there any idea?

It’s not clear to me whether, indeed, this has actually happened.

May 042012

With the results coming in on the mayoral referendums in ten cities, it would seem that not everyone is happy with the idea of elected mayors.  Whilst Liverpool has gone ahead with the process without prior consultation, and I am happy to see Labour has won in the city, the truth of the matter is that where a strong man or woman rules – and that person is effective – many good things can happen quickly.  But by the same token, of course, where a bad politician is in charge, one who may rule through force of personality alone, many bad things can happen just as fast.

Which brings me to London.

Especially in the light of David Cameron’s professed wish:

The prime minister had said he wanted a “Boris in every city” – a reference to London mayor Boris Johnson.

The battle between Boris and Ken has been dirty and disagreeable for the rest of the country for sure.  It may have engaged Londoners or not – I can’t say: I’m not a Londoner myself nor speak very often with politically minded people who profess an abiding love for the city’s politics.

Nor, really, do I understand such politicking.

But it does make me wonder if the initial results and possible impact of the mayoral referendums across the country, as to whether mayors should rule in other cities, has actually become – for the rest of the nation – a referendum on what we all think of Boris and Ken.

Carl isn’t happy with either.

Nor am I.

If I had had the opportunity yesterday to vote on whether I wanted the system extending, in the light of Boris and Ken I would most certainly have voted against.

And if you don’t agree, here’s a piece of history to be going away with on the subject of the personality politics that mayoral elections and structures tend to generate:

A poll of 160 historians, political scientists and urban experts ranked Daley as the sixth best mayor in American history.[15] Daley’s ways may not have been democratic, but his defenders have argued that he got positive things done for Chicago which a non-boss would have been unable to do. While detractors point out that he did nothing to integrate what had then become known as the most segregated city in the nation, others argue that he was acting on behalf of his constituency, who did not want an integrated Chicago.

This is what you get when you ask for more personality rather than less in your politics.  Positive things done undemocratically.  Segregation as a result of popular will.  Curious how both anti-democratic and yet simultaneously populist dynamics can influence what gets done in a mayoral city.

Boris or Ken – they’re two sides of the same mayoral coin.

And it would appear that the rest of us are beginning to wonder if we really want to repeat the pattern.

Especially in those cities which seem to matter so very little to the impervious bubble that is Westminster.