John Harris

Journalist & Author

No wonder Miliband wants distance from ex-Blairites on the NHS | John Harris

Former ministers urging the break-up of public services while filling their boots from it embody the blighted New Labour legacy

Never mind that Ed Miliband and his senior colleagues all cut their political teeth during the New Labour years: just as kids eventually leave home and parents must leave them to it, so he and his allies claim to be in the midst of a new era. The Iraq war was a terrible mistake, inequality is a much bigger issue than the ancien régime ever understood, and look! Labour has rediscovered its belief in the glories of a public NHS. As Andy Burnham’s somewhat testing interview on last night’s Newsnight showed, this effort at political escapology is not the easiest of tricks, but still: to quote one of Tony Blair’s more ludicrous outbursts, new, new, everything is new (or, in the sense of Labour trying to rediscover its pre-1990s values, old – but you get the general idea).

Given the cynicism and anger about Labour’s record out there in the real world – some of it unfair, but there we are – this quest to distance the party from parts of its own record may not be the daftest of ideas. But Labour’s former big hitters refuse to bow out gracefully and leave Miliband to it. To add to his other skills, Blair has become a maestro at the passive-aggressive putdown: his latest observation on Miliband’s leadership, was the militantly pro-Ed observation: “I’m not sure he has a problem. That will be for the people to choose.” And now, just as Labour tries to big up its plans for the NHS and thereby regain the political advantage, along come two of Blair’s former allies, set on giving the impression that the party is still rattling out the internal battles of the 1990s, and handing the newspapers yet another set of anti-Miliband headlines.

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