25 Years On: What Happened to Tony Blair’s Unbeatable Coalition?

By Scott Cresswell

It “was the greatest day in the history of the British Labour Party,” historian Peter Hennessy wrote. “Conservatives losses poured in” as Labour won a landslide victory against Winston Churchill’s Tories in the 1945 general election.

Hennessey’s words were written in 1992, the same year as Labour’s fourth successive election defeat. It appeared that the party was to remain in opposition forever. But five years later, the new 1945 came for New Labour.

Under Tony Blair, Labour won its largest number of seats in a general election and the largest of any party since 1931. At the time, it seemed like the beginning of a new chapter in British history as the youthful Prime Minister spoke with glee that “a new dawn has broken, has it not?”

After the events of Black Wednesday and a woefully tired and divided Conservative government led by John Major, it seemed inevitable that Labour would finally take up power after two decades in the political wilderness. The party’s landslide victory in 1997, along with the subsequent landslide in 2001, caused many to believe that Labour would become, after a century of constant defeat broken by rare victories, the natural party of government.

Blair’s landslide 25 years ago today was achieved, as are most landslides, by the creation of a coalition of voters. For Labour, it was a unique and shockingly successful one.

The Labour landslides of 1945 and 1997 were both depicted by conservatives as disrupters to the established order; Winston Churchill had foolishly warned that a Labour government would require “some form of Gestapo” to govern Britain.

More than a century-and-a-half later, John Major’s Conservative campaign used the “New Labour, New Danger” advertising campaign to attack Tony Blair’s party for spin. However, it went directly against the public mood of a country tired after eighteen years of Conservative government. The Tory campaign lacked a coherent message as simultaneously, some Tories attacked Blair’s project as simply Old Labour in sheep’s clothing, believing that Blair would somehow morph into Michael Foot upon entering Downing Street.

Blair depicted himself as a young changemaker after two decades of an outdated status quo. But image wasn’t everything.

Both coalitions in 1945 and 1997 were united with a common goal. During Attlee’s leadership, Labour created a health service and a reliable welfare state for all people of Britain. Class divisions had been temporarily dissolved during the Second World War as people united to save democracy. The failure of Lloyd George’s government from 1918 to 1922 to achieve long-lasting reform after promising “ a country fit for heroes to live in” left Britain undeveloped after the First World War. People were tired of conservatism.

Blair’s coalition was different. In 1997, Labour’s election-winning manifesto was entitled “New Labour, New Life For Britain.” Blair tried desperately since becoming leader in July 1994, two months after John Smith’s sudden death, to reform Labour into a “radical centre” party with social democratic policies. One line from Labour’s manifesto, written by Blair, defines New Labour:

“I want to renew faith in politics by being honest about the last 18 years. Some things the Conservatives got right. We will not change them. It is where they got things wrong that we will make change. We have no intention or desire to replace one set of dogmas by another.”    

Blair was incredibly honest about the achievements of the Thatcher era. He aimed to win the vote of the “Essex man,” a stereotypical example of a working-class Tory who had purchased their own council home and made the leap from Labour to Conservative in the polling booth.

Blair’s message was not so much about converting those voters back to Labour; with great force he shifted Labour to a more populist homeowning platform. This also included New Labour’s tendency to respond to more conservative questions on crime and the economy. The disenchantment of some on the left began immediately, but without these changes, Labour would cease to be progressive and government-material.

However, this analysis spells only half of Blair’s coalition. While the former displayed New Labour’s conservative leanings, the project also possessed a more egalitarian streak. An area that New Labour described as a Thatcherite failure was the huge inequality of the eighties.

While New Labour was, in the words of Peter Mandelson, “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich,” they applied an almost socialistic expansion to Thatcher’s Britain. This included the abolition of Section 28, the creation of Sure Start centres, and Gordon Brown’s stealth taxes on the rich during the early 2000s. Equality was a key theme of New Labour.

But in essence, this created the perfect centrist balance for victory. Blair said New Labour was not about replacing one dogma with another. While Harold Macmillan attempted to create conservative reforms to Clement Attlee’s more egalitarian society, Blair aimed to do the opposite with Thatcher’s unequal legacy.

Before his election victory, Blair seriously considered that the Liberal Democrats had a part to play in his coalition. His conversations with their leader, Paddy Ashdown, have been well-documented and the two stealthily collaborated both to embarrass John Major in the Commons and to maximise the Tory defeat in 1997. Blair’s landslide majority of course made any possible coalition between the two parties pointless.

Although Blair supported the idea of Liberal Democrats joining the government, he was outnumbered by many in his Cabinet, most notably John Prescott and Gordon Brown. Perhaps such a coalition would have been balanced by more left-leaning figures such as Ken Livingstone, as Blair once extraordinarily considered. This larger ‘big tent’ approach had the potential to unite a broad progressive force that would have kicked the Conservatives out of power for generations. However, such a coalition in Downing Street would have been unmanageable and politically schizophrenic and inconsistent.

Blair attempted to emulate US President Bill Clinton and his centrist coalition nicknamed ‘the New Democrats’, itself a hugely successful political endeavour. Blair noticed how Clinton was the first Democrat to win two successive presidential terms of office in six decades after shifting his party to the centre. It provided a good blueprint.

In the end, a landslide majority of 179 proved the coalition was a success. Labour won 43.2% of the national vote with 418 seats. It was made possible because of Blair’s inclusive coalition. The huge unpopularity of the Conservatives enormously helped. John Major obtained 30.7% for his party, their worst showing since 1832. However, the distance between a winning Labour Party and the Tories was the largest ever recorded in a general election at a large 12.5%.

The successful coalition had won power, but for how long? According to John Rentoul’s biography of Blair, many had been predicting the collapse of Blair’s coalition from an early stage:

“On the last weekend of the campaign, Observer editor Will Hutton put the Reich argument to Blair, suggesting that the coalition he had built was broad but shallow and could not hold. Leaving Europe to one side, ‘the coalition is stable and rational,’ Blair replied. ‘Remember when Mrs Thatcher build up her coalition, people asked: “How can this be? She has got traditional Labour support coming out for the Conservatives.” We are doing the same in reverse.’

With time, Hutton’s analysis proved correct. However, the coalition is painted by many on all sides to be far bigger than it actually was.

Certainly, Blair had won Labour its most decisive victory, but the press wasn’t fully on-board. While the Sun famously backed Blair in the election, the traditional Tory press stayed loyal to John Major’s party. Blair’s visit to Murdoch in the opposition years was definitely not a waste as papers such as the Daily Mail neutered their attacks on Labour, albeit temporarily. In essence, Labour was no longer vilified as it had been in the eighties.

The same applied to business. In 1996, a Management Today poll found that 63% of industry leaders would still vote Conservative in the following year’s general election. Blair might have failed to win a majority of business voters, but the fear factor once attached to Labour cancerously had diminished.

Nearly half of the Labour MPs elected in 1997 were new to Parliament, many of them Blairites and subscribers to the New Labour project. This meant that the Labour government did not require the backing of the Bennite Socialist Campaign Group, which claimed just seven per cent of overall Labour MPs. Blair’s majority, although enormous, meant that potential rebels had no qualms about defying the government and this caused some early splinters in the coalition. 

Due to Gordon Brown’s plan to stick to the spending plans of the previous Conservative government for the first two years of New Labour’s government, the new hope after nearly two decades of Toryism seemed to diminish. To the annoyance of many, including Blair himself at times, the radical elements of New Labour had to be postponed.

The woes of the era are easily forgotten now, but the Lone Parent Benefit cut in December 1997 exposed some of the weaknesses in Blair’s coalition; 47 Labour MPs voted against the cut and 14 abstained. More damningly, 65 Labour MPs voted against the government on the issue of Incapacity Benefits cut in May 1999.

Obviously, such a large majority meant that New Labour’s anti-Bennite credentials would remain intact, but Blair’s lack of government experience played a part too.

 In his biography of Harold Wilson, Ben Pimlott explained that during Wilson’s first term from October 1964 to March 1966, the prime minister purposefully got to know backbench MPs to win over their support. For Wilson, this move was characteristically strategic; Labour only possessed a majority of four in the House of Commons.

With the exception of Chris Mullin (a convert from Bennism to Blairism), no member of the Socialist Campaign Group voted for Tony Blair in the 1994 leadership contest. Certainly, Blair would never have likely received much measurable support from the faction.

However, Blair’s unwillingness to work with the left meant that, under his leadership, Labour was not as united as it was under Wilson; a very small fraction of members left in 1996 to create the Socialist Labour Party, led by the antiquated Arthur Scargill. Certainly, Labour was more united under his leadership than at any time since the Wilson era, but there was a clear distance between Blairite high command and the rest of the party.

The left’s displeasure with Blair became extremely prevalent in the 2000 London Mayoral election.

Blair was a master at understanding Middle England and the voters who had deserted Labour in favour of Thatcher’s Conservatives, but London was different. Ken Livingstone had led the Greater London Council from 1981 to its abolition five years later. His radical leftist politics were scorned outside the capital; he would never have been a successful national Labour leader. However, he was a popular and electorally successful figure in London.

Although on the left, Livingstone’s politics had shifted slightly towards sensibility by 2000. But, by Blair’s own admission, the divisions within Labour during the eighties had scarred him. Livingstone as Labour’s candidate for London Mayor would, he thought anxiously, lead many voters to believe that New Labour had become Old Labour.

Blair’s flippant reaction was not his finest moment. Frank Dobson was narrowly selected as Labour’s candidate in a contest described by many as a fix. In the end, Livingstone easily won the Mayoralty and Dobson came a distant third with just 13.1% of the vote. Although Livingstone was endorsed by Labour in the 2004 election, the damage had been done. Blair may not have been alone in his control-freakery in the grand league of prime ministers, but it did him little favours and served only to divide Labour from its left-wing roots.

The Livingstone fiasco is the only instance of note where Labour’s left was purposefully silenced. Tony Benn and Livingstone himself often attacked New Labour for not allowing debate and honest discussions. However, as history proves, debates were often had, and rebellions were common. Perhaps leftists preach this artificial history because of their frustration at being outnumbered and on the losing side.

By the time of the 2001 poll, Labour had been a stable and strong government; perhaps the first Labour government in history to complete a full first term without any doubt of a second on the way. Labour easily won the 2001 election with a landslide majority of 167 seats, but with 40.7% of the vote on a turnout of just under sixty per cent.

Four years prior, sleaze was the tactic to boot the Tories out of office. But as the scandals of Peter Mandelson and Ron Davies broke, along with the Bernie Ecclestone affair over apparent lobbying to stop the government from banning cigarette advertising for Formula One racing, the public saw New Labour as the stable natural party of government, but not radically different from the Tories. Apathy is the word to describe the 2001 election; people had enough of politics as all politicians were, wrongly, perceived as conviction-less sleazeballs.

Therefore, Blair’s coalition began to crumble at a stage many today believe to be the party’s new golden age, but that collapse was only going to accelerate after the attacks of 11th September 2001.

New Labour’s second term in office was, domestically speaking, more successful than the first. The government was no longer bound to the spending plans of the previous Tory government and the results of public expenditure were becoming positively clear in education and the health service. However, how damaging was Iraq to New Labour’s coalition?

The War in Iraq did certainly have an impact on Labour’s standing in the polls, but it did more to discredit Blair’s own reputation. John O’Farrell, himself a staunch Labour supporter, wrote in Things Can Only Get Worse (pages 97-98) that:

“Back in 1996, I had been delighted when Tony Blair declared that his three priorities in government would be ‘Education, Education, Education’. But now it felt like it was nothing but ‘Iraq, Iraq, Iraq’. Everything was tainted, and ministers doing great work in other areas found that their jobs had suddenly become much harder. I could feel the hostility to New Labour’s academies policy growing as the Iraq War and its aftermath triggered a 180-degree turn in most people’s opinion of Tony Blair and everything he stood for.”

Parliament backed the motion to invade Iraq on 18th March 2003 by a convincing margin. However, it was the largest rebellion against Blair’s leadership. 254 out of 410 MPs (three were Tellers) backed the US-led invasion. A total of 153 Labour MPs either abstained or voted against their own government: the largest government rebellion since the Corn Laws.

There was no way that Blair was ever going to win over the Socialist Campaign Group over any conflict, especially after the creation of the Stop the War Coalition in the aftermath of 9/11. However, Blair lost a significant amount of support from the Kinnockite centre-left.

Robin Cook and Clare Short, previously two fervent pro-interventionists, resigned from Blair’s government over Iraq and both called on him to resign soon after Labour’s 2005 election victory.

Much of this left-wing moderate support dispersed to the Liberal Democrats, led by Charles Kennedy who had unbound his party from being seen as, once said by Jeremy Paxman, “Labour’s country cousins.” On the issues of public spending and Iraq, the Liberal Democrats were strongly to the left of New Labour.

Meanwhile, the Respect Party gobbled some leftist Labour votes, but much of the left remained faithful to Labour, but not New Labour. Iraq wasn’t the only factor that sent the Bennite wing into further hatred of Blair. The Higher Education Act of 2004 introduced “top-up fees” for university funding and Blair faced yet another rebellion; the bill passed just five votes as 71 Labour members voted against the government.   

New Labour was extremely lucky that the opposition was so lamentable; Iain Duncan Smith became one of just two Conservative leaders to neither face a general election nor become prime minister.  However, even with Iraq, Labour remained ahead in the polls and there was little doubt of the party winning a third successive term. As for Blair, Iraq destroyed him. He banked on some Falklands fortune but ended up with a Suez slaughter.

Whether or not the Iraq War was, as Blair repetitiously said, “the right thing to do,” didn’t matter. Blair was doomed the moment Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Centre’s North Tower; he was either going to be seen in the aftermath as an American poodle or a western traitor for inactivity. Blair, once the fortuitous political master and great premier, was falling.

In his fairly unceremonious autobiography, Blair admitted (page 523) that “The Tories had one issue to beat us with: immigration” in the 2005 general election campaign. The dog-whistle politics of the Tory campaign was morally objectionable and often opportunistic, but it struck a chord among a minority of voters. It planted the roots of something that almost destroyed Labour over a decade later.

At the height of his popularity in the 1964 United States presidential election, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson fought Republican Barry Goldwater for the White House. Although Johnson soundly beat Goldwater, the Republican Senator represented a conservative-libertarian movement that, decades later, won landslides and victories for Reagan, H. W. Bush, W. Bush, and Trump. He converted conservative Democrats scared of change into ardent Republicans.

On a smaller scale, the Conservatives achieved something similar. Howard’s 2005 campaign stunk of the rhetoric that the Leave campaign used eleven years later in the Brexit referendum. Phrases such as “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” or “It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration” were beginning to have an effect.

In 2004, ten new countries joined the European Union. The right-wing press, most notably the Daily Mail and Daily Express, had a field day and used their usual fearmongering tactics to frighten the public. Furthermore, the United Kingdom Independence Party beat the Liberal Democrats for third place in that year’s European Parliament elections.

Labour has never been able to comfortably discuss immigration. Nearly four decades previously, Conservative Enoch Powell had made his famous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in Birmingham. It won significant working-class support and it can’t be a coincidence that Labour has continued to lose most general elections in England since 1970. in 2005, the nationalistic anti-immigration rhetoric was beginning to resonate with those Red Wall voters who would, fourteen years later, desert the party.

Labour lost 5.5% of the vote in 2005, leaving the party with 35.2% of the national vote. Although Blair returned with a safe majority of 66 seats, the vote share on another low turnout was disturbing for Labour. While it was the Liberal Democrats who gained substantially from Labour losses in terms of the vote, the Conservative campaign run by Howard and Australian strategist Lynton Crosby foreshadows the grim events of the 2010s and the path taken by the right.

Marginally, the Tories won more votes in England than Labour. Blair had always hoped for his party to dominate England just as the Conservatives did in the twentieth century and Liberals in the nineteenth. However, Labour had shed votes to the anti-immigration Tories and the anti-Iraq Liberal Democrats; England has been off-limits since.

Although Blair’s majority was dramatically cut down, the rebels were in no mood to provide sympathy or support. Blair was, in his own words, “less popular but more experienced to do the job” in his third term, but he lacked the consensual skills that became essential when a government’s majority is sharply decreased.

In the space of twelve months, Blair’s government was defeated four times in the Commons. The Terrorism Act of 2006 was the most notable; it included 90-day detention for terrorist suspects, but the motion was defeated as left-wing Labour rebels allied themselves with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.   

By this point, Blair was living on borrowed time. The pressure from Gordon Brown became too much and Blair was forced to announce a departure date. Blair’s own inner circle was also divided from an early stage because of Brown’s personal ambition. However, Brown was crucial to New Labour’s economic reputation and his absence from the government would have been disastrous for Blair.

Blair had left Britain in a far better state than it had been left by John Major and especially Margaret Thatcher. The economy was still booming, education standards were rising, and the health service was in admirable shape. Britain had entered the new millennium confidentially and with stability. However, it didn’t stop Tony Benn from describing Blair as Labour’s worst leader in history. The Bennite/Corbynite left will never forgive Blair for Iraq, Labour’s use of the private sector, and a failure to build new housing.

That said, it’s no coincidence that Tony Blair is, presently, the most recent Labour leader to have won a general election. Part of the New Labour appeal, even in those later years, was the man himself. One of Blair’s most famous phrases was from his last speech at a Labour Party conference as leader. “They say I hate this party and its traditions. There’s only one tradition I hated… losing.”

It was an apt speech for the only leader in Labour’s history to win three successive election victories, but an element of Blair’s appeal as a coalition builder was that he wasn’t true Labour material at all.

Throughout his life, Blair’s conviction has always been present, but it is more religious than political. In his youth, he was undeniably a Christian socialist. However, as the country changed under Thatcher, he was in tune with the public’s progressive tendencies. In the late Kinnock-era, Blair was a clear social democrat, one who a decade before might have joined the Gang of Four’s SDP.

Upon becoming leader and reforming Labour’s Clause IV and economic policies, Blair was the most successful Christian democratic centrist leader in Britain’s modern history. A combination of his religious morality and centrist policies was the political appeal was the political appeal behind Blair, along with his young and different approach to politics.

Labour is always successful when it is a modern social democratic party. New Labour was Labour after the Thatcher age. Tony Blair is definitely no Tory; social justice has never been a conservative goal. By the end of his premiership, Blair didn’t just represent New Labour, he was New Labour. With his departure, New Labour lost its integral centrepiece, and it has failed to understand Blair’s success.

Although there was no conceivable way that Blair could remain as leader because of Brown, would the result of a 2010 election have been any different with Blair leading Labour? Perhaps Blair could have provided a sturdier base for Labour to negotiate on during coalition discussions with the Liberal Democrats and therefore remain in power, but his reputation as a once-great PM would never have recovered.

Unlike Bill Clinton, Tony Blair never truly changed his party permanently. Since Clinton, both Obama and Biden have followed the pathway of Clintonite politics and not regressed to New Deal Rooseveltian ideas. When Blair left, Old Labour began its return. 

With Blair gone, all that remained of the original New Labour coalition was Middle England, the Thatcherite group who voted for New Labour for its economic competence. Gordon Brown had ensured a growing economy for ten years. However, soon after his rise to the premiership, he was extremely unlucky.

The collapse of Northern Rock in September 2007 resulted in a bail-out government nationalisation scheme. Brown, like Blair, was terrified of the press’s attacks on Labour in the eighties and nationalising a bank seemed like a death sentence. But as the global recession hit and living standards decreased at home, the fact that Brown was credited by economists worldwide for “saving the world,” as he accidentally stated in the Commons in 2008, didn’t matter.

David Cameron and the Conservatives craftily painted Labour with the responsibility of the recession. There was no way back. Cameron’s façade Blairite project was enough to convince Middle England that the Conservatives represented them once again. Compared to Blair, Cameron had little challenge winning over the Thatcherite crowd.

By 2010, the New Labour coalition was dead. While Labour may have prevented the Tories from winning an outright majority, Labour won just 258 seats with a vote share of 29% (the second-worst showing for Labour since 1918).

Much of the student vote, which had stayed loyal to Labour, deserted the party after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg made his infamous pledge to abolish tuition fees. New Labour’s coalition was gone; the party was left with its traditional and faithful base. In His Journey, Blair wrote (page 679)

“Labour won when it was New Labour. It lost when it stopped being New Labour. This is not about Gordon Brown as an individual. It is true he is unsuited to the modern type of political scrutiny in which characters are minutely dissected. But had he pursued New Labour policy, the personal issue would still have made victory tough, but it wouldn’t have been impossible. Departing from New Labour made it so.”

Although Brown was an architect of New Labour, the party in 2010 was not the Blairite machine it had once been. New Labour could only remain ‘New’ for so long. In terms of policy, Labour returned to its 1992 platform. Unfortunately, Labour was always bound to lose in 2010. However, there is something in Blair’s message.

Since 2010, Labour has been in political limbo. It had either offered nothing of note, or policies which are profoundly unattractive to the public. Despite five young candidates standing for Labour’s leadership in 2010, none of them enthused the public. Apart from David Miliband, all the candidates ran on anti-New Labour platforms. 

Ed Miliband’s marginal victory against his brother David was a clear sign that after thirteen years in government, Labour was slipping back into the wilderness. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition imposed harsh economic and austerity measures, but Labour failed to offer anything attractive or radical to a public that deeply disliked the government.

The New Labour coalition may have collapsed, but Labour’s basis of support has continued to erode. The austerity measures and aftermath of the Thatcher government angered voters above the border. With Labour gone, the Scottish didn’t want a Tory government, and certainly not one that was backed by the Liberal Democrats.

The Scottish Nationalist rise in the 2014 independence referendum and the following year’s general election cost Labour a voting base that had been faithful to them since 1964. Labour won just a quarter of the vote there in 2015 and one seat. And under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour was usurped by the Tories as the unionist opposition in Scotland in 2017. Two years later, Labour won its lowest vote share since 1910 in Scotland.

The collapse of Labour’s working-class vote was also shown in full force in the 2019 election. Those Red Wall voters had been life-long Labour voters, but as Blair noted, immigration has never been Labour’s strong point. Perhaps that famous encounter in 2010 with Gillian Duffy, a retired council worker, summed up Labour’s silence on the issue as Gordon Brown called her “bigoted” for asking about “all these eastern Europeans what’re coming in – where are they flocking from.”

Brexit fuelled a fear of immigration, especially in England. Powell’s speech all those years ago continues to resonate. In 2017, Labour may have done shockingly well to increase their vote share by 10.3% in England alone, but the Tory vote also increased sharply. The collapse of UKIP, which successfully transferred some traditional Labour voters to their cause in 2015, aided both parties two years later.

However, when Corbyn’s already-precarious leadership fell into disaster, the party became unelectable. Boris Johnson’s crafty rhetoric about “getting Brexit done” was enough to sway Labour’s working-class base and the party was left with just 202 seats, 216 MPs less than were elected in 1997. Under Corbyn, Labour may well have won back the student vote, but it lost its much larger and more precious base which, over a century ago, had helped create the British Labour movement.

A century ago, the Liberal Party once dominated Britain. Over time, its coalition of voters collapsed and the emergence of Labour as a new political force resulted in a shift. If a new broad-tent progressive movement emerged in the 2010s, then Labour may well have fallen into irrelevance like the Liberals. They are lucky that no party can or will challenge their place as Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition.

However, that just isn’t good enough. Under Tony Blair, Labour understood something which successive leaders since have failed to recognise. 1979 was a turning point.

Margaret Thatcher’s government radically changed the country and not totally for the better. Much of England has benefited from Thatcher’s reforms, but not Wales or Scotland. Policies such as the Poll Tax accelerated angry nationalistic movements.

Labour needed to win in all regions for any hope of forming a government, but the aspirations of the English were completely at odds with the demands of the Welsh and the Scottish. Thatcher had made one-nation politics, as a whole, unattainable.  

Perhaps a more radical Labour Party would have prevented Labour losses in Scotland and Wales, but that wouldn’t have resulted in national power. Tony Blair and New Labour had to respond to Thatcherism and part of doing that was to accept it. Harold Macmillan did the same with the Attlee reforms of the 1940s; like Blair, much of his party despised him for agreeing with the opposing party’s reforms. It explains why leaders since have failed.

However, there are managerialist lessons to be learnt from Blair’s coalition. Future Labour leaders must emulate Tony Blair’s impressive skill at winning over English voters while keeping voters in other regions onside, but they must go further and sustain the coalition over a long period. As for sustaining Labour’s parliamentary coalition, that has proven to be no easy feat. Blair was somewhat successful in this regard, but an ambitious Labour prime minister would look in awe at Harold Wilson’s unbelievable success at unifying the divided Labour party in the Commons.

All coalitions inevitably collapse. Margaret Thatcher’s stayed intact for the duration of her successor’s premiership, but it spectacularly collapsed in May 1997. Blair’s coalition launched from its highest point, but it shed votes quickly and failed to expand over time. It’s even more ludicrous that Labour leaders since, especially Jeremy Corbyn, did not believe in coalition-building at all; he did all he could to stop people from voting Labour in 2019.

Labour should not shy away from the Blair and Brown governments. Their thirteen years of government stand tall with Attlee’s ministry as one of Labour’s most successful governments, but greater thought must be considered when Keir Starmer is looking to create his own winning coalition.

Like Blair, he must create a broad coalition, but more than that, he must sustain it in the long-term over successive governments and prime ministers. He must change and make the political weather for decades to come.

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