'A new age is dawning, is it not?' These were the words of Tony Blair after his landslide election victory in 1997. They were meant to usher in a period of 'friendly' capitalism, unconstrained by the astronomical and punitive levels of personal taxation beloved of previous Labour governments, but ultimately altruistic and caring when it came to protecting society's most vulnerable. Bankers, traders and entrepreneurs of every hue would be free to let rip, get filthy rich and, in doing so, help finance public service reform.
In reality, though, not only did these words inaugurate a shameful period, characterised by stealth taxes as the government deceived the voters and refused to admit to the contradictory nature of its message; they were also and more importantly the starting gun for an aggressive, intolerant, insidious and mendaciously executed assault upon the very foundations of our national identity. Mass immigration was encouraged, multiculturalism promoted, and anyone who objected to the truly radical changes being forced upon their communities was denounced as a bigot, a racist and a xenophobe. Remember Gillian Duffy?
This latter point is of most concern here. Brexit was a rejection of Blair's internationalist vision in which borders and nations no longer exist. It has indeed uncovered a new political battleground, inadvertently crafted by the master of spin himself. The old left-right divide, based upon the size of the state and reflected by our political parties, still exists, of course, but its remaining, much reduced importance is mainly predicated upon habit and brand loyalty, which is diminishing by the day. In short, our existing political parties are anachronisms that no longer reflect voters' concerns. Due to Blair's disastrous assault upon Britishness, people are now and understandably exercised more by threats to the survival of our culture and national identity than the level of taxation. A new age has certainly dawned.
But anti-Corbyn Labourites (and, in particular, Blairites like Tristram Hunt, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central who resigned last week, exasperated by the current leader's open contempt for Blair's beloved centrism, and still kidding himself that elections are won on the centre ground) seem to think, rather astonishingly, that if only a Blairite could take the reins, everything would be okay, the nightmare would be over, Labour would be back in Downing Street quicker than an undergraduate can accuse a middle-aged white man of being a tory supporting, safe space desecrating, racist, misogynistic scumbag. And that's pretty quick. Tony Blair even wants to make a comeback, seemingly unaware of the Leave vote's message. It was a great big collective raspberry blown at the ex-Labour leader's vision and worldview.
He really is, along with his fellow travellers, deluding himself. Labour centrists are now as unelectable as Jeremy Corbyn. They just don't seem to get it.
As Brexit exposed, the public is now split between a minority of internationalists who believe in uncontrolled migration, multiculturalism, open borders and the death of the nation state, and the patriotic majority who still cling to notions of nationhood, loyalty and shared identity. Recently, after years of bullying by the former, the latter has struck back. They have finally spoken and been heard. The nation does still matter, they said.
Both the Corbynistas and the Blairites - once seduced and, in Corbyn's case, still possessed by Marxist utopian aspirations - have naively embraced and pushed the country towards a romantic and delusional vision of a post-nation-state world in which war is abolished and different peoples and cultures, all equally valid and valued, co-exist peacefully. This is a nonsense promulgated by dreamers.
It's also the reason why both factions are unelectable. The public has at last seen through the lies and pretensions and woken up to their real intentions.
So where does this leave the Tory party? Well, Theresa May has rightly promised to honour the referendum result and seems to understand and accept the new mood of the country. But her parliamentary colleagues remain a concern. Indeed, the majority of our parliamentarians, even Tory ones, either explicitly or tacitly support Blair's vision. This is a democratic problem that needs to be urgently addressed. Voters are currently unrepresented.
With its rich history, having been home to the likes of Thatcher and Churchill, the Conservative party is perhaps best placed to reinvent itself as the patriotic political representative of post-Brexit Britain. It needs to encourage integration, reject multiculturalism in practice as well as theory, and control immigration. But to do that, many of its 'heirs to Blair' have to go, especially the ones who still refuse to accept the public's vote last year. They don't belong in a modern, unapologetically patriotic, post-Brexit Conservative party.
If the party doesn't embrace change and re-invent itself, it, like Labour - both Old and New -, will face extinction. A re-alignment in British politics is now inevitable. Whether any of the established parties survive the upheaval is very much open to question.
'The kaleidoscope has been shaken, the pieces are in flux, soon they will settle again.' It wasn't Brexit that shook the kaleidoscope, but the venal utterer of these words - Tony Blair himself.