THE Independent has been running a series of articles arguing that Blair’s New Labour was actually a form of gritty working-class politics right out of a kitchen-sink drama. This claim, running counter to all Labour’s assertions at the time, makes for fascinating reading, because it shows how the executive class of British centrism are reinventing themselves as anti-establishment outsiders.

Out of power, deprived of influence, the centrists are adopting tactics reminiscent of the Marxist left they claim to despise so much. Nobody epitomises this more than Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell, running around organising demonstrations and flogging propagandist newspapers. Centrists used to cite their government experience and business connections as evidence of their right to rule. Now they play at being oppressed and marginalised, in a transparent bid to win political space.

Revisionism for the Blair era has been a cottage industry for years, but this gritty rebranding reverses its early argument. Before the 2017 elections, liberals tended to claim that only a business- friendly Blairite could attract the middle-class support needed to win elections. This proved false, dramatically so, when Labour achieved one of its highest ever middle-class votes last year.

So now the game has changed. Leftism, from Tony Benn onwards, is presented by centrists of all parties as middle-class and self-deludingly “woke”. “It reflects on Labour’s increasingly middle-class membership that Tony Blair is seen so poorly,” claims one article. “For all the talk about white privilege and male privilege, there’s also middle-class privilege in regarding Tony Blair as inseparable from the Tories”. Blair, claims another, listened to the authoritarian instincts of people alienated by pacifist, hoody-hugging urbanites. “Working-class families,” it argues, “wanted something done about crime, they wanted to keep the Bomb and they wanted better jobs for their children than the old jobs in the pits”.

What, then, do Blairites think the new, namby-pamby left has failed to understand? As I read the argument, they’re saying two things. First, that we’ve failed to appreciate that the working class rather likes tough borders and authoritarian policing. Second, we ignore the fact that New Labour’s time in office did a lot of good for working-class families and the genuine differences between Tory and Labour governments.

Actually, very few leftists doubt that a proportion of working-class people have authoritarian and even racist views. I would add, however, that this is also true of millions of privileged middle-class and upper-class people.

What I will dispute is the effectiveness of Blair’s “triangulation” tactics. By promoting tabloid ideas and language about immigrants, Muslims and hoodies, New Labour simply gave them legitimacy.

The chief outcome of all this pandering was not a permanent liberal-centrist Labour government, but, somewhat ironically, Brexit. I say ironically because, for New Labour centrists, Brexit is literally the worst thing that ever happened, so much so that Alastair Campbell is now wandering around London somewhere with a pasting table and a pallet of newspapers.

Certainly, authoritarians were about long before New Labour, but when Blair abandoned all critical defences to global markets while simultaneously racialising crime and borders, the only beneficiary could be Nigel Farage, who cleaned up in former Labour heartlands. 2016 didn’t happen overnight.

The scare stories of right-wing populists from Theresa to Trump were invented by centrists, Blair chief among them. The now-widespread notion of Islamism as a unified, organised and demonic force, battering at the walls of Europe, was manufactured to build support for the seemingly endless series of wars that took place under Labour governments.

That’s why it’s difficult to separate Iraq from Blair’s other social policies. Policing, borders and benefits were manipulated to fit New Labour’s discourse of a civilised West bullied by an onslaught of extremist foreigners.

Blair, I should add, hasn’t learned from his failures. Still today he is trying to win the argument against Brexit by distinguishing between “good”, white, Christian immigrants and “bad”, non-European, black and brown interlopers. Obviously, it won’t work. Only the Tories will benefit. The proof is everywhere around us.

Could Labour have stopped this drift by ramping up its British nationalism even higher? I doubt it. New Labour’s Terrorism Act led to a 300 per cent increase in stop and search directed at Asian people. Hazel Blears, the minister responsible, responded that “there was no getting away from it” because the terrorist threat was “falsely hiding behind Islam”. Beyond literally herding people into camps, what more could the government do to appear tough?

The other thing we don’t understand, centrists claim, is that New Labour improved the lot of hard-working families. By contrast, life under the Tories has been one long damaging series of cuts to anti-poverty reforms made under Blair and Brown.

New Labour, I add merely as a side note, also imposed many “reforms” that actively attacked working-class living standards and threw away taxpayers’ money. But I’m not going to dwell on private finance initiatives or the origins of privatisation in the NHS because there’s a more serious failing in the argument.

The true problem is that New Labour misunderstood the economic conditions that brought them to power. Gordon Brown famously suggested that their model of light-touch regulation had taken Britain “beyond boom and bust”. If the argument for New Labour is that it spent some money on poor people during an economic boom, then I can’t fault it. But that was always premised on a belief that capitalism had solved all its problems and would grow vigorously forever. That was a fantasy.

The following wave of Tory cuts – which Blair fully supported – were built on New Labour’s failure to mend the roof when the sun was shining. This, indeed, is the oldest problem of social democracy: that progress under economic booms is invariably reversed during recessions. In a sense, you can’t fault Blair for that general trouble.

But Labour’s uncritical optimism about free-market growth strategies, which led us here, was based on his fundamental misreading of history. He thought he’d solved the riddle of history; actually he was its victim.

Blair’s formula for a permanent Labour majority was flawed at every level. Appealing to the electorate’s nastier instincts only emboldened the tabloid-friendly likes of Nigel Farage. New Labour’s modestly progressive social reforms were built on an unsustainable debt bubble. And Iraq? That was criminality, pure and simple. As Owen Jones rightly remarked, that invasion turned a merely disappointing period of Labour history into an apocalypse. Times are tough, but nostalgia for a government built on self-delusion and outright lies is not the answer.