Paradoxical as it might sound, Jeremy Corbyn is in one sense the Blairite candidate for the Labour leadership.
What I mean is that Corbyn is offering what Blair offered in the 90s - newness, change and hope. As Simon Kuper says in a different context, positivity and optimism sell. "Yes we can" won Barack Obama an election from nowhere. But few people vote for cowards, Quislings and nay-sayers.
In this sense, those who claim to be Blairites now are in fact the anti-Blairites. As Owen says, they're offering only negativity and sneers. And whereas Blair was a modernizer, today's Blairites seem to be the exact opposite; they refuse to see that the economy has changed since the 90s, and that this requires new politics.
This poses the question. What would a modern, optimistic Blairism look like? Here are some ideas:
1. "Britain can do better". UK productivity is 22% below that of France. This matters simply because low productivity means low wages. Policies to raise productivity are thus essential. Blairites should therefore be able to distinguish themselves from the Tories - who seem to think wages can be raised by legislative fiat - and from the Corbynites whose emphasis on anti-austerity under-estimates the UK's supply-side problems.
2. "Putting you in control". We've learned since the 90s that top-down management has its limits. This suggests a case for increasing the power of workers generally and consumers of public services. In fairness, Liz Kendall has seen this:
we need to go back to our roots as a party and ensure people have the power to shape their lives, the services they use, and the communities in which they live...We must ensure power lies with people in their workplaces, public services, schools and streets, not just the town hall.
The challenge is to ensure real empowerment, not mere tokenism.
3. "Strong enough to care." In its healthy phase, Blairism was open to globalization and immigration. This should be revived. Blairites should oppose the dehumanization of migrants, and point out that Britain isn't so desperate that it needs to deprive asylum-seekers of £37 per week. We're better than that.
4. "Investing in the future." As Simon points out, a policy of targetting a zero current balance would allow Blairites to pander to deficit fetishism whilst at the same time promising to invest in infrastructure. They could easily argue, against Corbyn, that QE is unnecessary to this; with real yields still negative, bond markets are happy to finance investment.
5. "Making work pay." Taxes should be shifted from incomes onto land and inheritances.
There is, therefore, some kind of positive Blairite agenda. And yet, apart from Kendall's talk of empowerment and Burnham's of a national care service, we aren't hearing much of it. Why not?
One possibility is that such an agenda would fail. Maybe "moderate" policies just cannot shift economic growth by much, or perhaps secular stagnation is so entrenched that only a Corbynite socialization of investment can combat it. This, though, doesn't explain why the Blairites seem to have given up so easily. Perhaps they have become too stupefied by Westminster Bubblethink.