Martin maintains that "New Labour was always as much an intellectual concept as it was an electoral strategy". I agree in the sense that the change under Tony Blair was ideological as well as presentational, and this was crucial to Labour's becoming a party of government. But I'm profoundly sceptical of the notion of a Third Way, whose origins Martin expounds.
Its significance for Labour was as a vehicle for the belated acceptance of certain essentials of good government: inflation targeting as the goal of monetary policy; the limits of discretionary fiscal policy; the need for trade union power to be subject to the rule of law; the acceptance of our obligations as a member state of Nato and the European Union. But there never was a distinctively left-wing way of doing these things, an esoteric wisdom unknown to the Tories and deriving from Labour's traditions. To the extent that the Third Way encouraged Labour to take these tasks seriously, it helped in the party's evolution. But the Third Way also implied that Labour's aims were always compatible - that in pursuing, say, both economic efficiency and equity, there was no need for trade-offs. That was damaging.
On my reading of his administration, Tony Blair changed his position and tacitly discarded the Third Way. Gordon Brown is ostentatiously not of a Blairite disposition; that was his claim for leadership. I do not consider that Labour will recover under its current leadership, or that any useful purpose will be served by the intellectual quest that Martin calls for. My scepticism about Labour's prospects and disrespect for the PM would hold regardless. But it's worth repeating what a discreditable campaign the party ran in Crewe.
Tony Blair made occasional hair-raisingly partisan assertions. (His "forces of conservatism" speech at the 1999 Labour conference was a shocker. It included the line: "The forces of conservatism allied to racism are why one of the heroes of the 20th Century, Martin Luther King, is dead.") But these tended to be for party consumption, on the part of a leader who was clearly and fortunately not attuned to Labour's more atavistic traditions. The Crewe "Tory toffs" campaign, for which the PM must be held responsible, was stupidly mean-spirited. So, incidentally, was the candidate, who seems to me to have had an unreasonably generous press. When you lose an election on a 17% swing, it's unwise to tell the voters how perverse is their decision - or as Tamsin Dunwoody put it, "I think my mother is turning in her grave."