Letter to the LRB 18. May 2017
The articles What will be left? and Brexitism are pretty pessimistic, for many good reasons.
Asked by Alastair Campbell the other day whether he was the same man as the one first elected Prime Minister twenty years ago, Tony Blair answered that he still had the same values, he was still “basically” an optimist. Blair later persistently and cheerfully resisted Campbell’s urging of him to slag off Trump, Theresa May, Corbyn and the rest. He wouldn’t: he disagrees with them; he thinks history will show his analysis to be the right one… he even thinks history will show Iraq was the right thing to do. Whatever: the point is that the task and the temperament of the left, “basically”, is to see the seeds of a better future in the social changes and technological developments of the day, and to think about how to see them come to fruition.
In different ways Brexit and Corbyn point backwards – to the perennial 50s, to the time before Blair. But the Brexit vote also expresses a wish for a new sense of society, a wish which can be addressed optimistically, cheerfully and with confidence in our approach.