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Blair should butt out

THE last thing that Ed Miliband needs from Tony Blair is a high profile in the general election.

Establishment commentators and the new Labour zealots who still inhabit too much opposition bench space in the House of Commons pretend that he is a major political force, but he isn't.

His fan club claim that "he" won three successive general elections.

No, despite the I, I, I, pretensions of some party leaders, who don't have a presidential system. Voters plump for a party candidate, so Labour won the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections. 

Blair was a plausible character actor who had mastered the role of a moderniser offering a radical alternative to the corruption and selfishness of the Thatcher and Major Tory governments.

He was also a lucky politician, taking over after John Smith's tragically early death in the run-up to 1997 when the Tories were in utter disarray - a situation that persisted until David Cameron took a leaf out of Blair's own book on shallow opportunism.

The 1997 landslide brought some notable social and economic advances, but Blair's reputation was marred early on by the scandal over the £1 million Bernie Ecclestone donation linked to Formula 1 tobacco advertising.

However, it was the Iraq war and the prime minister's lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction that holed the Blair flagship below the waterline.

Labour's share of the vote in all manner of elections slid inexorably, with only Wales bucking the trend, courtesy of Rhodri Morgan's evocation of "clear red water" distinguishing Welsh Labour policies from new Labour's.

Widespread judgement of Blair as an as yet unindicted war criminal contributes to the toxicity of his brand.

His congratulation of Miliband for ruling out an in-out referendum on EU membership confirms both his political inconsistency and his fundamental contempt for the electorate. 

He was in favour of a referendum 11 years ago when he believed that there was a majority for continued EU membership.

Indeed, had it been up to him, Britain would have been enmeshed in the eurozone, which has proved disastrous for economic development, working class living standards and global trade.

Yet Blair now passes off Labour's denial of the electorate's right to vote on belonging to an increasingly undemocratic, centralised and neoliberal cabal as "a brave decision" not to yield to pressure.

By adopting the "no referendum on EU membership" position, Miliband has put the ball in his own net.

Cameron is no less committed to EU membership than Blair and Miliband. How could he not be when this is the confirmed position of big business, especially the City of London, and it is these vested interests that the Tory leader represents?

Cameron's plan to mobilise anti-EU feeling by offering the phantom of negotiations to "reform" the EU followed by a referendum is a swindle.

Any reforms achieved would be illusory or would underpin already weak workplace rights prior to the Tories uniting to back a Yes vote to remaining in the EU.

The Tories and their corporate backers are relaxed about their referendum pledge, looking back to the previous vote in 1975 when a concerted campaign of misinformation funded by big business and backed by the mass media swung the decision in favour of staying in.

By presenting itself as the party of EU integration, Labour is needlessly antagonising the anti-EU majority and handing votes to the Tories and their Ukip allies.

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