The neoliberal consensus: a nice little stitch-up

Many people, including me, have remarked on how Tony Blair was more Tory than Labour. When he won the 1997 General Election, one of the first things he did was to invite Thatcher around to Number 10. Some people said this is what newly elected PMs do; it was a mark of respect and courtesy. Of course, that’s a fallacy: Thatcher didn’t invite Sunny Jim Callaghan around for tea nor did John Major. In 2005, David Cameron told the press that he was “the heir to Blair”. This was no slip of the tongue. He meant every word of it.

According to The Independent’s Steve Richards, an informal alliance was formed between Blair and Cameron. This is the neoliberal consensus.

For David Cameron there is a much more significant alliance than the one with Nick Clegg, a coming together that has defined his leadership from the beginning and will do so until the end. The alliance is not formal and never will be, but it is at the heart of his project as leader in a way the Liberal Democrats are not.

I am referring to the informal alliance between Cameron and Tony Blair, one that extends to some of those who worked closely on policy with the former Labour prime minister. The partnership started when Cameron as the new Conservative leader supported Blair’s school reforms in 2006. Cameron went on to make the mischievous yet sincere observation that the Labour leader evidently wanted to go further and would do so if it were not for his wretched party and chancellor. The heir to Blair assured him that he would carry on with the reforms when he won a general election. He has done so.

The rapport goes well beyond two leaders. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, a close ally of Cameron’s, describes himself without irony as a Blairite. Famously he and others at the top of the Conservative Party regard Blair’s memoirs as the equivalent of the Bible. Blair reciprocates. His interview in The Sun yesterday was reported as an endorsement of Cameron’s policies and a warning to “Red Ed”. The actual quotes were no different to those he had delivered in various broadcast interviews last week, but it does not take very much to present them as The Sun did. Blair appears to broadly support Cameron’s public service reforms, and in his memoir argued in favour of George Osborne’s contentious deficit-cutting strategy.

You can read the rest here.

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