Is there anything to this wrong type of voter claim? For Neal, Blair bent over backwards to keep his tent as broad as possible. The hairy-arsed trade unionists, who didn't have anywhere else to go, were made to sit in the corner like an embarrassing relative. The prime spots were reserved for the rich, whether they paid their taxes or not. It was the nearest politics has ever come to a group hug, but as Neal puts it "what meaningful project includes everyone?" Quite. Neal however gets it the wrong way round. As a socialist and a Labour person, I am intensely relaxed about the wealthy supporting us. It would be a good thing if Tory-leaning voters wherever they are took their ballots and scribbled their crosses against our candidates. I want these people to vote for us. The problem with Blair is not so much the constituency he attracted, but the programme he ran on.
New Labour didn't win three elections on the trot because it was New Labour. It won because it was a much better option than the alternative. In 1997 at the height of Blair mania, Labour polled half a million less votes than Major's Tories did five years before. I was around then, I don't remember a tsunami of true blue enthusiasm crashing over the country before or after. By 2001, New Labour's vote fell to beneath the amount Kinnock polled nine years before and not a great deal more than 1987's performance. The hype surrounding Blair's political genius is just that.
New Labour's programme was preferable at all times to the burnt offerings overcooked by Major, Hague, and Howard, but ultimately it did heavy damage to the party's medium and long-term interests. A lesson long ago learned by the Tories is never to attack your constituency. Under Blair, his fawning in front of business and dull managerialism saw the introduction of policy after policy that made life for working people more insecure. It was under his watch that the great pension roll back took hold, where employers - public and private - were given licence to take payment holidays, allowing them to later claim the funds were unsustainable. Schemes were closed, pension entitlements reduced, and retirement ages raised. It was under Blair that marketisation and outsourcing came into play, undermining the living conditions and security of workers who should be Labour's natural constituency. Under New Labour British manufacturing was allowed to spiral down further, destroying hundreds of thousands of relatively well paid and secure jobs. Too many times low paid and insecure agency work filled the employment gap. And when people were out of work, they were harassed and threatened with forced labour on workfare and a punitive sanction regime. The difficulties Labour are experiencing now and why many millions of the people our party was set up to represent won't give us time of day now is because then it ignored them.
I want the "wrong voters" to support us for the right reasons, not because we're stuffing their mouths with gold because we're kicking our people in the teeth. The "right reasons" in 2015 is not a programme calling for the nationalisation of the top 100 monopolies and the raising of the red flag above Buckingham Palace. It is a practical strategy putting insecurity and combating it at the start, and makes the argument that Britain can only prosper if people feel secure and comfortable in themselves. Hardly radical stuff, really. Only a programme of this kind can undo the damage the Blair period did to our party. Our future lies in knitting our constituency and our class back together.