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Tony Blair. “It was so obvious he was a Tory.”

I was a member of the Labour Party for years, and for most of my adult life could not conceive of voting for anyone else. It was in my bloodstream. My family were Labour voters, as were my friends. I drank in a Labour Club. I had conversations about Labour politics over a beer in the evening. I was the election agent for a Labour Party candidate in a County Council election one year.

That changed, for me, when Blair became the leader of the Labour Party. It was so obvious he was a Tory. His first act was to involve himself in secret negotiations with Rupert Murdoch. His next was to remove Clause IV. I always thought that those two events were directly connected.

But what puzzled me was the reaction of my friends in the Labour Party to all of this. I would try to talk about my concerns but people would get irritated with me. I was told to shut up, I was being negative. Eighteen years in the political wilderness had made them desperate. They would do anything to get Labour back into power, even, it seemed, electing a Tory as their leader.

I mentioned this to one of the Labour stalwarts down at the Labour Club one day. Where were their principles, I asked?

“What’s the point of principles without power?” came his studied reply.

That says it all really. I suddenly saw the Labour Party for what it was: a machine for getting itself re-elected. It had no other purpose. Principles were merely decorative add-ons to it’s central aim, which was to get elected at any cost.

I suspect this applies to all of the mainstream parties.

When Blair swept to power in 1997 it was on the back of public disgust at Tory sleaze and the cash-for-questions scandal. Thirteen years later and all the parties are mired in sleaze. Blair has left office and amassed a fortune. His cabinet colleagues, Byers, Hoon and Hewitt – all disciples of the Blair doctrine – have been caught selling themselves to the highest bidder. The Tory Party’s association with Lord Ashcroft has shown that their attachment is still to wealth, regardless of the source.

Politics has never been at such a low ebb.

The current consensus seems to be that Nick Clegg offers us a route out of all of this, that he is something new. Excuse me if I don’t get over excited. I’ve seen this before. It’s the Blair effect all over again. Clegg is young and dynamic, better looking than Brown, less of a toff than Cameron, moderately telegenic, and his speech is studded with enough general vagary for it to sound like it might mean something; but it’s all superficial.

Look behind the spin at the policies and you will see where all of this is leading.

The Lib Dems are the most fervently pro-European of the parties, which means more centralised diktats from bureaucrats in Brussels of the sort that brought us “liberalisation” of our postal services, more undermining of our public services, more privatisation by stealth.

In other words: more of the same.

More Roy Mayall

More on the General Election 2010

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