England & Wales

Tony Blair and local democracy

Readers could be forgiven for thinking that “Tony Blair” and “local democracy” don’t have a great deal in common. His tenure ushered in a more presidential style of leadership in which MPs had less autonomy and local councils were subject to a new swathe of performance measures. But that ignores an important part of his political character. He showed this in his speech on Tuesday. In one important passage, he criticised the Conservatives for “going liberal” on crime when they should have “stuck” to a traditional Tory approach. As James Macintyre has pointed out, his position on law and order is why some accuse Blair of being “right-wing”. But accusations of right-wingery miss the point. His stance on crime in fact shows Blair as a politician who was prepared to back the views of the people he represented. “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” wasn’t dreamed up in a think tank. It came right from conversations on the doorstep with his Sedgefield constituents. It was these conversations that were behind his phenomenal electoral success – most famously winning the backing of The Sun. The pointy-headed intellectualism typically associated with New Labour, meanwhile, won him far fewer votes by comparison.