If I had a time machine, the first thing I would do is turn up in Edinburgh in May, 1953 and quietly suggest to the Blairs that Marmite would be an appropriate name for the son they were about to have.
One mention of the dreaded ‘B’ word has people reaching for their statistical play-books, marching forth on twitter like political evangelists taking on the might of the non-believers.
I have the same feeling towards Blair as I do Marmite – indifferent. Although, I’m not sure I’d want to put Blair on my toast.
I neither love him for his supposed messianic qualities, nor loathe him for his apparent systematic destruction of the world via ‘illegal’ means. He’s just … OK.
I know, right? How could it be *possible* for a Labour Party member to hold no strong, polarising opinion on their most divisive figure? Maybe we’ll (yes, we, there are quite a few of us!) donate our bodies to medical science in years to come).
Perhaps I should start yet *another* faction within our ranks: The Blair Indifference Society.
Has quite a ring to it, doesn’t it? The BIS.
Unlike many of you reading this, I didn’t really get into politics until very recently – and why would I? I grew up in an area where, although we’ve had a Labour MP for as long as I remember, nobody knocked on our door – in fact, they still haven’t to this day. Nobody really cared about the fact the local kids had nowhere to go, had difficult home lives, needed some encouragement, they just ignored it. Why would a fairly intelligent kid like me want to get involved when nobody was listening?
And then, Tony Blair came along.
He didn’t make me pick up a Bevan biography or rush out to devour Erskine and May, but he did make me think. There was a man on the TV, who seemed to think everybody mattered; who had a young family (I take no shame in admitting I found his son quite fit!); who promised things would be different.
And for some, they were. To dismiss the good things Labour achieved would be absurd, and we should never, ever do that.
But I still wasn’t convinced – he was just a face on the TV, smiling for the cameras.
When I saw how the schools around ours suffered from lack of resources and crumbling buildings, and how parents started their own youth projects because nobody else came to our estate, I didn’t think “oh, the Government will fix this for us!” – I’d think it was sad, but normal, and carry on with my schoolwork.
Exit Tony, enter Gordon. Now, I liked Gordon. I still do.
He didn’t come along and magically fix all of the problems Tony didn’t, but he appealed to me – a quiet, hard-working man who wasn’t about smiling for photo opportunities or holding babies, but getting on with the job. Against the preppy arrogance of Cameron, the contrast was startling – there was no doubt in my mind which of these two men represented the people I grew up with more, at least in attitude.
But? We lost.
You can blame the war, you can blame Gordon for not being the media luvvy you missed in Blair but – the truth is – they were both at fault. Neither of them caught on that Labour were no longer listening to those that mattered; the public.
A problem that started, really, as early as 1998/9 and continued. Both were in Government, both missed it – arguably the damage was so severe by the time Gordon became PM that no person would have been able to reverse it, and I tend to agree with this assumption.
And what’s the point of all of this?
We are still not listening.
There are people out there who want to talk and be listened to; people who aren’t really happy with the current government but so far they see no alternative – they see an opposition obsessed with winning old arguments, wallowing in the past instead of looking to the future.
So how about we drop the old and new Labour tags, we refrain from mentioning Blair or Brown or, more recently, which Miliband is our favourite?
How about we stop talking altogether and just listen.
Most people are indifferent to Marmite – let’s not make them indifferent to our party, too.