It’s been a fortnight for former Prime Ministers making life difficult for their successors.
Last week John Major spoiled Cameron’s mood by intervening in the energy debate. This week it’s Tony Blair dropping Ed Miliband in it.
At a Question & Answer session at Queen Mary, University of London, he expressed his regret that Labour had not cut spending before the recession struck.
The Fundamental Spending Review, which Blair says “didn’t really go anywhere”, offered an opportunity to make savings. Instead, it was sunk out of anti-Blair spite by Gordon Brown – with Ed Milband and Ed Balls in his coterie.
The ex-Prime Minister tried to minimise the comments by adding that savings would have been “marginal compared with the overwhelming impact of the global financial crisis.” However, he has conceded two key things:
- The Brownites, who now run the Labour Party, blocked a real opportunity to save taxpayers’ money.
- There has been structural waste in the system for years – so austerity is possible and desirable, separately to the savings forced on us by the downturn.
Neither of these messages sit comfortably with the two Eds. They were part of the group that blocked these savings, weakening our position when the financial crisis struck. They knew savings were possible back in 2005 but have spent the last eight years claiming the opposite.
Having roundly undermined Labour’s fiscal position, Blair emphasised that he “supports Ed’s leadership”, then chucked a last grenade into Balls and Miliband’s fishpond:
“I advise any young person who wants to go into politics today: go and spend some time out of politics. Go and work for a community organisation, a business, start your own business — do anything that isn’t politics for at least several years.”