Comment at end
18th March 2010
I thought exactly the same as Andrew Sparrow below when I read this from Michael Gove. Yes, I know it’s mainly to annoy Gordon and to highlight his dependency on the Unions. And I know that Gove has long loved Tony Blair. In a man way, of course. Like Dave does.
At least they have taste.
“Gove seemed to be saying that the Conservative party was now the party that embodied New Labour’s Blairite values. So I asked him directly if that was what he thought. Yes, he replied.”
ATTABOY, Gove. Glad SOMEbody has found some values and vision in your party. Now all you need to do is to get Blair to join your party and in no time we may have a real communicator and a real leader once again! Who knows, I might even vote for you.
Correction: in that (unlikely) event I WILL vote for you! Not that I suggest you shoehorn him in or anything. Or Milburn, or Purnell, or Byers, or Kelly. As if.
Shadow schools secretary embraces Tony Blair in order to attack Gordon Brown
Michael Gove: Tories are heir to Blair, he said. Photograph: Sutton-Hibbert
With New Labour somewhat out of fashion, it’s not often these days you get MPs making speeches praising Tony Blair. But one senior figure was brave enough to have a go this morning. And, no, it wasn’t Peter Mandelson. It was Michael Gove.
Gove, the shadow children’s secretary, was speaking at the Tory union-bashing press conference. He argued that today’s Labour party bore “only the most superficial resemblance to the Labour party that swept to power in 1997”. And, to make this argument work, he had to lavish praise on New Labour.
Gove said that in 1997 people were “inspired by a message that politics could be different, that wealth and fairness could go hand-in-hand”. He commended Blair for changing his party, reducing its financial dependence on the trade unions, selecting people with non-Labour backgrounds as candidates and ministers and championing modernisation.
He even praised four Blairite ministers:
James Purnell – the man who finally got the wheels of welfare reform in motion; Stephen Byers – standard bearer for schools reform and the man who was brave enough to openly question Labour’s link with the unions; Alan Milburn – the most reform-minded health secretary of the past 13 years. Ruth Kelly – a politician of rare courage and integrity and a model of common sense in the field of education.
The selection was deliberate. All four are standing down at the election. Gove was trying to make the point that Blairite modernisers have no place in the modern Labour party.
Gove seemed to be saying that the Conservative party was now the party that embodied New Labour’s Blairite values. So I asked him directly if that was what he thought. Yes, he replied. He went on.
There are a number of things that Tony Blair did with which I disagree, and there are a number of aspects of the style of politics that Tony Blair brought to Downing Street which I deprecate. However, at its best, New Labour was a recognition that the values of enterprise and aspiration could be fused with a commitment to social justice and fairness. And the party that best exemplifies that view now is David Cameron’s Conservative party.
We are the party most squarely in the centre ground, the party that’s done most when it comes to candidate selection to ensure that we have a more diverse group of people coming into the House of Commons, the party that has done the most under David’s leadership to shine a light on the deep structural causes of poverty which scar our society, the party which has done the most to make the case for carrying on with the zeal and radicalism of public sector reform of Blairism at its best.
So, in that sense, I do believe that for anyone who is in the centre ground of British politics, for anyone who’s a natural moderate by temperament, who recognises that we need radicalism to deal with our deep-seated problems, the Conservative party is your natural home.
The press conference was largely devoted to an attack on Charlie Whelan. Gove and his colleagues sought to depict him as a sinister influence on the government, and on British politics in general. Although Gove didn’t say it, this was another example of the Conservative party embracing Blairism. Tony Blair couldn’t stand Whelan either.