Could NuLab be forced into playing a different tune?
A key part of the success of Tony Blair’s New Labour has been the way it has occupied traditional Tory policy positions thus forcing the official opposition to the right. Time and time again the Tories have found themselves with little to say on an issue because Labour has adopted their position. This might be about to change.
For the current debate over Labour’s education reform programme is giving a glimpse of how a Cameron-led Tory party plans to deal with Tony Blair and gives a good pointer as to how UK politics could evolve in the next few years. Rather than the full frontal attacks that have characterised the Hague, IDS and Howard leaderships the Cameron plan is to agree with ministers where it is to the Tory advantage.
As Steve Richards points out in the Independent this morning Cameron is “the first Tory to see the advantage of backing Blair when he’s at odds with his party”.
Richards notes that Mr Cameron welcomed the Government’s proposals and his only concern was whether Tony Blair’s cabinet and party would let him carry through the reforms. “He made it clear that if Mr Blair was blocked by those old Labour dinosaurs, John Prescott and Gordon Brown, it would fall on the Conservative party to carry out the task.”
The article goes on: “There are important differences between the Government and Mr Cameron’s approach, but the aspirant Conservative leader has seized the broader political initiative. He is the first senior Tory to recognise that it is to the Conservatives’ advantage to support Mr Blair when he is at odds with his party and most of those on the centre left. .Mr Cameron’s strategic positioning has several consequences, all of them potentially fatal for the government if it is misguided enough to give him the political space. Most dangerously it places the battle for the centre ground firmly on the right of the political spectrum. In effect Mr Cameron is stating: Conservatives approve of a market in schools. As true believers we can do it better..If Mr Cameron is allowed to pop up too often with a message of support for the Government there will be only one loser. It will not be Mr Cameron.”
These are very early days but it does raise questions about what up until now has been the brilliant Blair approach of isolating the Tories by occupying their policy ground.
But Blair has always been the supreme strategist and watching him deal with a new Tory approach is going to be fascinating.