Before the last election the New Statesmen’s Helen Lewis wrote that only once Labour had come to terms with its ’embarrassing Uncle Tony’ could it convincingly defend its record.
She believed that process was beginning to happen – that Labour was coming to terms with itself.
How things have gone backwards from there.
Blairite, now used as a term of abuse for anyone who does not think Jermey Corbyn can win a general election, is used ever more frequemtly, ever more easily, with ever more venom. The man himself is scorned and with this any mention of New Labour or its record is met with disgusted exasperation, even by some MPs.
We have, for most of our recent history, struggled to come to terms with ourselves – and some discomfort can be understood. We certainly made mistakes, domestically with PFI, seeming too comfortable with people getting ‘filthy rich’ and most notably in foreign policy with the Iraq War.
The party may never get over the man himself, but we must come to terms with our record.
If we cannot defend our own time in power, how can the country trust us to rule again?
What’s more, we shouldn’t defend our record reluctantly – we can defend our record proudly.
– Introduced the National Minimum Wage and established the Low Pay Commission
– Tripled spending on our NHS, an increase of over £66bn – more than doubling health spending per capita – investing in 44,000 more doctors and over 89,000 more nurses
– Invested in 42,400 extra teachers and 212,000 more support staff – including an extra 123,100 teaching assistants
– More than doubled Britain’s overseas aid budget, helping lift an estimated three million people out of poverty each year
– Introduced the Human Rights Act
– Created Sure Start, with 3,500 centres opened across the country
– Lifted 900,000 pensioners out of poverty
– Established Tax Credits meaning a single mum working part time could be over £6000 better off
– Achieved peace in Northern Ireland
We left Britain in a far better place than we found it. We invested in our country, our communities and we genuinely changed lives for the better. The sooner we can say that without sneering, but with pride, the sooner we step back on the route to power.