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Was Tony Blair Good for the Labour Party?

He won three elections. How can that be a bad thing? Well, not every issue is so black and white. Here's the numbers that demonstrate what Tony Blair did to the Labour party's support base.

[Skip the preamble, show me the numbers]

Why the Size of Support Base is Important

Every election is built on the success, or failure, of the last. The Green Party are not going to win the next election, and I can be confident in the assertion, because the Green Party don't have the support base that Labour do following the last election (except specifically in Brighton where they have a very large base). The size of a party's support base ebbs and flows across decades. Elections are not singular entities. Every one is connected to the previous, and the next, as the number of voters sympathetic to each parties platform ebbs and flows.

In 2015, under Milliband, there were still people refusing to vote for Labour because of what Blair did, as they no longer trusted the party as a whole. Milliband would have done a lot better, if he had been following Kinnock, and not Blair and Brown.

So Let's Get Down to the Numbers

Blair took the Labour party from an organisation that got 13.5 Million votes in 1997, to one that got just 9.5 Million in 2005. Gordon Brown carried on to ride that wave unto destruction dropping it to 8.6 Million votes in 2010. The extent to which Brown was responsible for this is open to debate. He's certainly tried to distance himself from Blair more recently. It wasn't until Labour moved fractionally left again under Milliband that the tide turned and the numbers started to increase once more.

The Full Figures are:

Year Leader Votes (in Millions)
1983 Foot 8.5
1987 Kinnock 10.0
1992 Kinnock 11.6
1997 Blair 13.5

And then it starts to tumble

Year Leader Votes (in Millions)
2001 Blair 10.7
2005 Blair 9.6
2010 Brown 8.6

Tony Blair (and Gordon Brown) took the Labour party from a party which got 13.5 Million votes, to one which got 8.6 million votes. That's a fall of nearly 4 million votes. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown lost Labour nearly a third of it's support.

But then Labour Shifted Left Again

Only with a slight move left under Milliband, does the tide start to turn, and Corbyn has pretty much brought Labour back to the point before Blair started to screw everything up, and Labour's support is currently rising.

Year Leader Votes (in Millions)
2015 Milliband 9.3
2017 Corbyn 12.9

When people attack Corbyn for not winning the 2017 election, you have to consider where he started from. Corbyn increased Labour's support by 3.5 million votes in just 19 months and removed the Tory's majority in one swoop. That was a remarkable political achievement.

Note: The first figure for Michael Foot was following the SDP split in 1981 in which 3.4 Million votes headed off to the SDP, keeping labour out of power for a very long time. I've examined how the votes split and how disastrous that was for labour previously.
Gordon Brown achieved the same numbers by simply riding the wave Blair presented him with.