Mr Blair in Opposition decided to build a new brand, called New Labour, so he could win an election.
His media strategy had two prongs. In the first he trashed the Tory brand, and in the second he decontaminated the Labour brand. Both strategies were designed to tell people “things could only get better”.
He trashed the Tories by endless repetition of three claims – that they put up taxes, they were the party of boom and bust, and they were sleazy. The first two claims all centred around the disastrous decision to be too European, by joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism which damaged the UK economy. This was a consensus decision of all three political parties, but one Mr Blair distanced himself from very neatly when the idiocy of it came home for all to see. Mr Blair even had the gall or self confidence to claim in a less important soundbite that the Tories were isolated in Europe and too divided on Europe, because a few of us had opposed the deeply damaging economic policy the three front benches had supported.
What are we to make of Labour’s main claims now? The party that complained of boom and bust imported from Europe has now put us through a far more violent boom and bust of their own making. The party which complained of Tory tax rises has hiked taxes overall by more through their stealth taxes. The party which found a few examples of Tory sleaze and made much of them has now presided over many a Cabinet level resignation and the whole expenses row.
Decontaminating the Labour brand entailed one main claim – that Labour was no longer the party of nationalisation. Mr Blair staged a “fight” with his left wing, and took nationalisation out of his party’s aims. He said Labour would be wedded to prudence, and run the economy on sound lines. There would be no more excessive borrowing and trips to the IMF. He added that Labour was no longer the party of the Trade Unions, that it would accept the Thatcher Union reforms. It was to be sound on defence.
How hollow all those claims look now. Never has a Labour government nationalised so much, if you look at the scale of nationalisations compared to National Income. At last they saw the opportunity to nationalise the banks, a bridge too far for previous Labour governments, though one their core supporters always wanted to cross. They fought successfully to prevent those of us with an alternative to nationalisation from getting air time to put the case, and used a left wing Lib Dem, Mr Cable, to help them win their battle.
Prudence was not only divorced quite early, but in more recent months they have held a drink and drugs party on her grave. The scale of extra spending and borrowing is enormous, well beyond anything any previous peace time government has attempted.
The Trade Union reforms have been modified in some areas, as the party has come once again to rely almost entirely on Union funding. The senior politicians now meet Union bosses to hammer out common policies.
In recent years, when more and more money has been thrown at most parts of the public sector, the old Labour dislike of defence has left that budget struggling with cuts and inadequate resources. Labour has increased the spending on social security at the expense of spending on national security.
“New Labour” turns out to be a media strategy, not a brand. A successful brand requires its architects to live the message, to implement the promises, to be proud of what it stands for. New Labour’s alleged brand values of prudence, justice, fairness, honesty have failed because the government forgot that it not only needed to say them, but also to do them.