— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) April 5, 2013
Henry G Manson with a “What if” scenario
Tony Blairâ€™s remarks that â€œhe could have given Cameron a run for his moneyâ€ have raised a few eyebrows this morning. Itâ€™s opened up an intriguing â€œwhat ifâ€ scenario. Itâ€™s easy to look back in rose-tinted spectacles, and a number of commentators such as John Rentoul have an interest in keeping the Blairite flame alive. However as I remember it he had to go:
Blair was in trouble in 2005 with the Tories winning more votes than Labour in England. This was despite the blues led by Michael Howard, a leader never regarded as the likely victor by many in the press. Blair was increasingly electorally toxic with Labour MPs in marginal seats refusing to put his face on literature and accept his visits.
The Parliamentary Labour Party was already in a near state of civil war with increasingly large rebellions taking place such as over higher education fees, trident renewal and 90 day detention powers. Divided parties lose elections and the divisions, already significant, would have amplified even further.
The Labour Party itself was verging on bankruptcy as a result of Blair and his circle relying heavily on a series of huge loans for the 2005 election that had to be repaid, rather than cut the cloth accordingly. Over Â£20m of debts had been amassed which meant that Labour was shedding staff when it needed to recruit them. There was no way the trade unions would have been able to bail out a Blair-led party and the rich donors were already fleeing to a party that had a better chance of winning and could arguably give them more of what they wanted.
Itâ€™s also worth pointing out that although derided by many commentators, Gordon Brown beat expectations to deny David Cameron a majority. Cameron was racking up large poll leads against Blair but Brown cut them in the last six months and a spirited finish to the campaign meant Labour held on to many seat that even the party was expecting to lose. I donâ€™t believe Blair would have been able to achieve this.
Brown had his weaknesses, theyâ€™ve been chronicled to excess, but it was he and not Blair that ultimately gave Cameron a run for his money and denied him the majority many thought was inevitable.