New Labour 20 years on: Where are the Scots who shaped Blair project now?

Share this article
0
Have your say

The New Labour victory is 20 years old today.

It was the project that was supposed to be about neglecting the heartland and winning over middle England - but that had at its heart a number of Scots.

Tony Blair’s Rose emblem and sheen of professionalism might have looked like the preserve of the hip young gunslingers of Islington and Labour’s central office, but at the core where some of the biggest, and most established, names in Scottish politics.

READ MORE: Tony Blair finds it hard to be hated

Twenty years to the day of that momentous win, here are just some of those Scots who were at the heart of the New Labour project.

While Blair himself could claim he was Scottish, we look at those from Scottish constituencies who served in his first cabinet, and whether their careers justified some of the hype around them as they ushered in a new generation in 1997.

Gordon Brown

The former Chancellor looms as large over recent Labour history as he did while serving under Mr Blair during the latter’s decade-long reign as Prime Minister.

A complex figure, still despised by many who consider themselves Blairites, Mr Brown was the most powerful occupant of Number 11 Downing Street in political history.

READ MORE: Alistair Darling says only Labour has delivered for Scotland

He was, at least, co-architect of a number of Mr Blair’s transformative policies, yet never seemed to get over losing out on the Labour leadership to his rival in 1994.

Mr Brown finally dislodged Tony Blair in 2007, and went on to become one of the least popular Prime Ministers in history, failing to achieve what he wanted to after coveting the role for so long.

His legacy would have never been in doubt even had he never ascended to the highest office in British politics, though many consider it tarnished by his personality and desire to accumulate power.

Alistair Darling

So understated was the former Edinburgh MP during the Blair years, it raised some eyebrows when it was noted that, alongside Gordon Brown and Jack Straw, Mr Darling was the only other survivor of Tony Blair’s original cabinet when the former Prime Minister left office in 2007.

Always considered a Brownite, he was promoted by his friend Gordon Brown after holding a number of posts under Mr Blair.

Chancellor for some of the darkest days in British economic history, Darling soon came to be regarded as potent a doom-monger as the man who had promoted him.

He later clashed with Mr Brown over their economic policy, and whether they would have to implement cuts to Britain’s budget following the financial crash.

Mr Darling went on to successfully lead the ‘No’ campaign against Scottish independence in 2014, for which he was given a peerage.

Robin Cook

The Livingston M.P is thought to have been the first person to have ever been greeted with applause for a contribution in parliament.

His resignation speech over the Iraq War is still regarded as one of the finest pieces of oratory of recent times.

Mr Cook had ambitious plans as Foreign Secretary in Tony Blair’s first cabinet, but he was soon sidelined and later demoted before his fateful resignation in 2003 over the looming invasion of Iraq.

He sadly died three years later at the age of just 59.

Donald Dewar

Another Labour stalwart who died fairly young, Donald Dewar passed away aged 63 in the year 2000, but not before steering through the landmark legislation that led to the new Scottish Parliament being opened in 1999.

As the inaugural First Minister, Mr Dewar left the cabinet after a relatively short space of time, but arguably changed Scotland as much as any of his New Labour colleagues.

A statue of Mr Dewar features prominently in Buchanan Street, one of the country’s busiest thoroughfares.

George Robertson

So senior a figure that some Scottish newspapers gave him equal weight to Tony Blair as the scale of their landslide became apparent, Robertson also left the cabinet after a relatively short space of time.

His move was a promotion, as he was made the Secretary-General of NATO, a prestigious global position that saw him become an important figure on the world stage.

Mr Robertson’s most famous quote, often gleefully recounted by the SNP, is his remark that Scottish devolution “would kill Nationalism stone dead”.

Mr Robertson was later enobled, and made a number of poorly received interventions in the 2014 debate on Scottish independence.

Gavin Strang

Gavin Strang was a well-regarded and long serving MP from Edinburgh when New Labour swept to power in 1997.

He was a junior Minister in the previous Labour Government of Harold Wilson which ended to usher in 18 years of Tory rule.

Sadly for Mr Strang, it appears he may have been elevated to Cabinet purely to create that moment of trivia, as he was sacked as Transport Secretary after just over a year, returning to the backbenches to see out his political career.

(Lord) Derry Irvine

A former Barrister who counted among his trainee charges a young Tony Blair, Derry Irvine was already reckoned something of an enigmatic figure when he was appointed Lord Chancellor in his former apprentice’s cabinet.

Already a peer, Lord Irvine became mired in controversy almost as soon as he took on the post, which is ceremonial as well as being an important legal one.

He helped steer a number of Labour achievements through in Tony Blair’s early years, but left the role after six years.

Lord Irvine became something of a figure of ridicule after developing a reputation as an out-of-touch big spender, who spent over £600,000 renovating his official residence and loftily regarded himself among the great and the good of British political advisers throughout history.