by Daphne Liddle

FORMER Prime Minister Tony Blair has delivered a final bitter and divisive attack on the Labour Party as he launched a book of memoirs carefully timed on the same day that polling begins in the new Labour leadership contest.

He refuses to admit that the illegal war on Iraq was a mistake and pours bile over his successor Gordon Brown — saying Brown was a “strange guy” he found “maddening” to work with and that he always knew Brown would be a poor premier.

It is not surprising that someone as phenomenally arrogant, anti-working class and war-hungry as Blair would find Brown — more cautious, more realistic and less egotistic — difficult and frustrating to work with. Labour leadership candidate Diane Abbott accused Blair of “putting the knife” into his successor.

But it’s Brown’s policies that Blair blames most, his “abandonment” of New Labour policies, the break with the Murdoch media empire and the adoption of some Keynesian measures — like building a few new council houses.

Ironically the most recent economic growth figures have vindicated the effect of Brown’s spending policies in delivering a modest level of growth in the economy — soon to be shattered as the Con-Dem coalition slash and burn economic policies kick in.


Clearly Blair would have been far happier working with Cameron and Osborne in his Cabinet.

Peter Mandelson has also been vociferously defending the discredited “New Labour Project” and attacking Ed Miliband for being fractionally to the left of his brother David.

Mandelson said: “What we should all be doing in the party is building on our achievements” and that Labour would be left in an “electoral cul-de-sac” if its next leader tried to create a “pre-New Labour Party”.

But the public support of Blair and Mandelson is not necessarily going to be an asset for David Miliband in the contest for the Labour leadership and he knows this.

But it does lend support to the perception that there is a significant difference between the two Miliband brothers. Ed Miliband has responded to Mandelson’s criticisms by calling for a break with Blairism and a fresh start.

But when Brown resigned the Labour leadership after the May election and both Miliband brothers decided to stand for election, some speculated that Ed was protecting his brother’s chances of winning by splitting and confusing any possible left opposition.

Voting for Ed to keep David out would be like voting Lib-Dem to keep the Tories out.

alternative vote

And since it is an alternative vote ballot, where the second preferences of voters for the least successful candidates are transferred until one candidate had over 50 per cent — we can guess that both Miliband brothers will call on their supporters to put the other brother as second preference — giving other candidates very little chance.

Under the circumstances the only candidate who represents a real break with Blair and New Labour is Diane Abbott and she has the backing of the Labour Representation Committee.

The LRC has written to all candidates in the Labour leadership contest, asking them their views on key issues.

Diane Abbott responded, pointing out that she is the only candidate who was not in Blair’s Cabinet; she is the only candidate with 20 years of experience as an MP as well as experience of being a local councillor.

She is the only one who voted against the invasion of Iraq and who is now calling for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.

She is calling for total opposition to the coalition’s cuts policy. And she is the only candidate who doubled her support at the last general election.

She says she is the only one who can truly turn a new leaf for Labour.

The LRC pointed out there is a great problem with the Labour Party’s leadership election system that denied members the opportunity to vote for LRC leader John McDonnell MP — the most credible left candidate with the most grassroots support, and consistent champion of socialist policies in Parliament.

But, says the LRC: “The voting record of Diane Abbott and some of her policy positions makes her the only candidate with a left track-record in the Labour leadership election. Indeed all the other candidates were New Labour Cabinet Ministers who never dissented when in office from the policies that alienated Labour supporters.”