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Blair speaks in support of the Northern Ireland peace process in Armagh in September 1998

In British politics, Blairism is the political ideology of the former leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister Tony Blair and those that follow him. It entered the New Penguin English Dictionary in 2000.[1] Proponents of Blairism are referred to as Blairites.


President Bill Clinton (left) meets with Blair in November 1999, his close partner in their mutual Atlanticist views and emphasis on the special relationship

Politically, Blair has been identified with record investment into public services, an interventionist and Atlanticist foreign policy, support for stronger law enforcement powers, a large focus on surveillance as a means to address terrorism and a large focus on education as a means to encourage social mobility. In the early years (circa 1994–1997), Blairism was also associated with support for European integration and particularly British participation in the European single currency, though this waned after Labour took office.

The term is used in particular in contrast to Brownite, to identify those within the Labour Party who supported Gordon Brown rather than Blair. However, with Blair and Brown typically in agreement on most political issues[2] (from Iraq to public sector reform), some commentators have noted that "the difference between Brownites and Blairites [...] is more tribal than ideological".[3] This is believed to stem from a personal disagreement between Blair and Brown over who should run for the leadership following the death of John Smith in 1994. Though Brown was originally considered the senior of the two, he waited until after Smith's funeral to begin campaigning, by which point Blair had gathered too much momentum to be defeated.[4] However, in his book Whatever it Takes, Steve Richards offered an alternate view: that there were significant disagreements between the two about relative poverty, the level of public spending and the potential for choice in public services.[5]

There has been a great deal of discussion in British politics about the Blairite legacy. This intensified after September 2006, when Blair announced his intention to resign within one year and especially since May 2007 when he said he would resign as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007. Some have even speculated that if the Blairite coalition is to be seen as essentially one of pro-market anti-Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats could even be its ultimate inheritors.[6]

In a 1999 article, the news magazine The Economist stated:

Mr Blair will doubtless do his duty and lavish praise on Labour's glorious past. But, in truth, Mr Blair has always displayed a marked ambivalence towards Labour history. His greatest achievement in opposition was to get the party to ditch their historic commitment to nationalisation, and to water down its traditional links with the unions. At times he has even hinted that the very foundation of the Labour Party was a mistake, since it divided "progressive" politics and led to a century dominated by the Conservatives. Mr Blair knows that all this makes many of his party faithful deeply uneasy.[7]

Blair's tenure is known for an expansion of LGBT rights, such as the introduction of legal civil partnerships. Blair himself has told the LGBT organisation Stonewall that "what has happened is that the culture of the country has changed in a definable way" and that "it's a thing that doesn't just give me a lot of pride, but it has actually brought a lot of joy". Blair has also claimed to have got up off his seat and danced upon seeing the first civil partnership ceremonies on television.[8]

Relationship to prior administrations[edit]

The Daily Telegraph stated in April 2008 that Blair's programme, with its emphasis on "New Labour", accepted the free-market ideology of Thatcherism. The article cited deregulation, privatisation of key national industries, maintaining a flexible labour market, marginalising the role of trade unions and devolving government decision making to local authorities as evidence.[9]

In the BBC Four documentary film Tory! Tory! Tory!, Blair is described as personally admiring Margaret Thatcher deeply and making the decision that she would be the first outside person he formally invited to visit him in 10 Downing Street.[10]

Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, who Blair defeated in a landslide at the 1997 general election; was one of the original figures behind the Northern Ireland peace process that Blair continued and both of them campaigned together in support of the Good Friday Agreement.

Blair privately called Thatcher "unhinged", a description that later became public knowledge.[11] Blair criticised the Thatcher government's record on poverty and made that a key issue for Labour economic policy. He made the goal to eradicate child poverty in Britain within 20 years based on the fact that one-third of British children were in poverty post-Thatcher compared to the 9% rate in 1979 (although these statistics are disputed).[7]

Blair also abolished Section 28 and created more pro-European initiatives compared to Thatcher. Blair was criticised by various Thatcherites such as: John Redwood, Norman Tebbit and William Hague.

In his autobiography published in 2010, titled A Journey, Blair remarked:

In what caused much jarring and tutting within the party, I even decided to own up to supporting changes Margaret Thatcher had made. I knew the credibility of the whole New Labour project rested on accepting that much of what she wanted to do in the 1980s was inevitable, a consequence not of ideology but of social and economic change. The way she did it was often very ideological, sometimes unnecessarily so, but that didn't alter the basic fact: Britain needed the industrial and economic reforms of the Thatcher period.[12]

Relationship to later administrations[edit]

Gordon Brown succeeded Blair as Prime Minister after Brown's long tenure as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although viewed in the media as somewhat personally close, Blair later wrote in his autobiography A Journey that a "maddening" Brown effectively blackmailed him while he was in 10 Downing Street. Blair accused Brown of orchestrating the investigation into the cash-for-honours scandal and stated that the personal animosity was so strong that it led him to frequent drinking, a big change for Blair. Blair also has told journalist Andrew Marr that as their years working together went on, co-operation become "hard going on impossible".[13]

As stated before, both men had similar positions on actual issues and government policies. To the extent that they felt divided, it came mostly from differences in personality, background and managing style.[2]


Other than Blair himself, the following prominent Labour politicians are often considered Blairites, but may not identify themselves as such:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ezard, John (4 August 2000). "Blairism, noun: very difficult to define". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b How to bear Blair: become a Blairite Will Hutton, Guardian UnlimitedComment is free, 21 June 2006
  3. ^ Jack the Knife goes for the clearout kill Kirsty Milne, The Scotsman, 28 November 2001
  4. ^ Will he? Won't he? Suzie Mackenzie, The Guardian, 25 September 2004
  5. ^ [1] Nick Cohen, The Guardian, 03 October 2010
  6. ^ Kennedy can still exploit this perfect political storm Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 26 April 2005
  7. ^ a b "Tony Blair's war on poverty". The Economist. 23 September 1999. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  8. ^ "Blair proud of gay rights record". BBC News. 22 March 2007.
  9. ^ "Margaret Thatcher, inspiration to New Labour". The Daily Telegraph. 17 April 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  10. ^ BBC Four, Tory! Tory! Tory!
  11. ^ Iain Dale (19 August 2010). "In conversation with... Matthew Parris". Total Politics. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 4 November 2011. I think he was unhinged. That's the same word Tony Blair used of Margaret Thatcher. I think Tony Blair was a bit unhinged too. I think Margaret Thatcher had her unhinged moments.
  12. ^ Tony Blair (2010). A Journey. Random House. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-307-37578-0.
  13. ^ "Tony Blair: Gordon Brown tried to blackmail me". The Daily Telegraph. 1 September 2010. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  14. ^ Nisbet, Robert (30 October 2015). "Ex-Labour Peer Delighted To Head Tory Project". Sky News. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  15. ^ a b c d e Anthony Seldon (4 September 2008). Blair Unbound. Simon and Schuster. p. 334. ISBN 978-1-84739-499-6.
  16. ^ Morris, Nigel (12 May 2003). "Amos takes post as first black woman in Cabinet". The Independent. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  17. ^ Greer, Germaine (18 May 2003). "The Westminster pack has the scent of its favourite prey again". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  18. ^ a b c d "Where the Blairite loyalties lie". The Daily Telegraph. 14 May 2006. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  19. ^ Peter Dwyer; Sandra Shaw (15 March 2013). An Introduction to Social Policy. SAGE Publications. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-4462-8084-3.
  20. ^ a b c d Hennessy, Patrick; Kite, Melissa (6 June 2009). "Revealed: how Cabinet Blairites plotted to topple Brown". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  21. ^ a b Helm, Toby; Hinsliff, Gaby (3 May 2009). "Hazel Blears savages Gordon Brown over 'lamentable' failures". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  22. ^ a b "What happened to the Blairites?". BBC News Online. 30 March 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  23. ^ a b Coates, Sam (4 August 2008). "Blairites plot to hasten Gordon Brown's exit". The Times. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  24. ^ Sawer, Patrick (14 November 2009). "Stephen Byers: the ultra-Blairite who was a constant thorn in Gordon Brown's side". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  25. ^ a b c Porter, Andrew; Kirkup, James (3 September 2008). "Charles Clarke: Labour heading for 'utter destruction' under Gordon Brown". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  26. ^ a b Feeny, David (9 May 2015). "Labour must return to 'aspirational Blair years', say senior party figures". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  27. ^ "Ben Bradshaw: Glad to be 'more Wagner than Wenger'". The Independent. 27 June 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  28. ^ "Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw defies Labour whip on economy vote". Western Morning News. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  29. ^ Wilkinson, Michael (24 July 2015). "Andy Burnham aide 'dismissing women' in Labour leadership sexism row". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  30. ^ Steven Foster (2006). The Judiciary, Civil Liberties and Human Rights. Edinburgh University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7486-2262-7.
  31. ^ Thomson, Alice; Sylvester, Rachel (23 May 2009). "Caroline Flint defends Hazel Blears in expenses row". The Times. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  32. ^ Waugh, Paul; Cecil, Nicholas (4 June 2009). "Loyalists urge PM to sack Flint amid fears she will quit". The Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 9 May 2010. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  33. ^ "Tom Harris".
  34. ^ a b Mulholland, Hélène (6 January 2010). "Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt call for secret ballot to settle leadership debate". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  35. ^ "Blair's reshuffle could bring policy shifts". New Straits Times. 30 July 1998. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  36. ^ Curtis, Polly (10 June 2010). "Margaret Hodge named head of public accounts committee". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  37. ^ Young, Toby. "Well done Tristram Hunt. Chalk one up for the Hons!". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  38. ^ Wintour, Patrick (14 September 2011). "Labour party maps out a purple path to power". The Guardian. London.
  39. ^ a b Grice, Andrew (29 June 2007). "Andrew Grice: We are all Brownites now, say the Blairites with relief". The Independent. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  40. ^ Assinder, Nick (19 March 2007). "Blair and Brown look to future". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  41. ^ Andrew Rawnsley (30 September 2010). The End of the Party. Penguin Books Limited. p. 457. ISBN 978-0-14-196970-1.
  42. ^ Kennedy, Siobhan (25 September 2008). "Ruth Kelly: chequered career of the Blairite star who fell to earth". The Times. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  43. ^ Leftly, Mark (16 May 2015). "Sadiq Khan wins Blairite Baroness Oona King's support in race to be London mayor". The Independent. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  44. ^ Barkham, Patrick (13 September 2007). "How Oona got her groove back". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  45. ^ Steven Kettell (14 May 2006). Dirty Politics?: New Labour, British Democracy and the War in Iraq. Zed Books. p. 167. ISBN 978-1-84277-741-1.
  46. ^ Kristina Riegert (2007). Politicotainment: Television's Take on the Real. Peter Lang. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-8204-8114-2.
  47. ^ Oona King (18 February 2013). House Music: The Oona King Diaries. A&C Black. p. 238. ISBN 978-1-4088-3728-3.
  48. ^ a b Richards, Steve (18 October 1999). "The Blairites reign supreme". New Statesman. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  49. ^ a b Daley, Janet (11 January 2009). "Return of the Blairites spells trouble for David Cameron". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  50. ^ a b Routledge, Paul (13 November 2009). "Pompous Blairites like David Miliband and Peter Mandelson make me cringe". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  51. ^ "Estelle Morris: classroom to cabinet". BBC News. 8 June 2001.
  52. ^ Hencke, David (4 June 2009). "Which cabinet ministers are supporting Gordon Brown?". The Guardian. London.
  53. ^ Morris, Nigel (29 June 2007). "First woman at the Home Office: Jacqui Smith". The Independent. London. Retrieved 6 January 2010. A more fluid approach is needed.