Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Labour: A Sober Assessment

With Speaker Martin about to resign, it is a good time to list some of the achievements of New Labour since 1997.
1)They destroyed trust in politics by creating a culture of spin, bullying and manipulation culminating in the Damian McBride affair.
2)They failed to reform the National Health Service or, indeed, any public service.
3)They betrayed their own primary promise by increasing inequality.
4)They embarked on an ill-judged military partnership with an incompetent American administration.
5)They humiliated and under-funded the military.
6)They mismanaged the public finances, leaving us with massive borrowings in the face of the worst economic crisis in 80 years.
7)They permitted a coup, on the basis of bullying and threats, which installed the worst Prime Minister of my lifetime.
8)And now, with the resignation of Brown's puppet Speaker, they have precipitated a constitutional crisis of historic proportions.
Have I missed anything?


  1. Nope, that about sums it up.

    However you could also add that they buggered up our constitution with half-baked reforms such as Scottish devolution and changes to the House of Lords that make you think that unelected hereditary legislators who owe nothing to anybody are the way forward.

    Oh, and the slow destruction of ancient liberties that only tyrants like Henry VIII dared challenge in the last 850 years.

    And more, and more........

  2. Perfectly put.

    Yet there's one good thing: they clearly revealed the shambolic, talentless amateurism of the modern professional political class. Brown's ministers! We suspected it beneath all the polish but now we know it.

  3. How about the blatant politicising of the Civil Service?

  4. You forgot:

    9) Gave Ed Balls a job.

  5. ...on the plus side, Labour has been living out an example to the rest of the world as to how to not run a developed country. Deja vu the Wilson/Callaghan years ?

  6. Learned it here first, having just poured my heart out on web and wiki. That's quite strange. The increase in inequality and related lack of social mobility is the real death knell for corporatist socialism - or should be.

  7. Some of that is so clearly nonsense that it cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged.

    In particular: "they destroyed trust in politics" since 1997.

    Really? Was trust in politics obviously higher before New Labour was elected?

    A little less rhetoric, a little more analysis please.

  8. Quoting from the last entry of the BBC's Runners and riders:

    NORMAN BAKER Lib Dem transport spokesman. Known as one of Westminster's most dogged inquisitors and a longstanding campaigner to clean-up the expenses system. Led calls for Speaker Martin to quit but may have ruffled too many feathers of colleagues in other parties to stand a serious chance of replacing him.

    That kinda summarizes the problem, that last sentence. Without necessarily saying Mr Baker is the right man for the job.

    This is a real opportunity. I liked Michael White's advocacy of Vince Cable last Wednesday, who also emerges whiter than white from the expenses fracas. I don't know who will do the job best but clearly MPs must vote for profound change. The big name options (and radical thinkers) like Frank Field must be considered.

  9. A big one: they failed the underclass.

    Agree with your negatives, especially points 1,2, 3 and 7.

    4 is unfair and 6 is so easy to say with hindsight.

    On the plus side:

    1) they helped remove a genocidal dictator, so they came down on the morally right side of that one, even if the execution was bodged by the US.

    2) they built a lot of schools and hospitals

    3) the minumum wage didn't turn out to be a disaster after all

    4) They saw off Hague, Duncan Smith and Howard

    5) they booted out Galloway

    It doesn't much matter what a Government does, after a decade everything about them looks rotten. It's the British way. Bring in the Tories, it's your turn again, just remember you've only got a decade before we massacre you again.

  10. plus you forgot 'created a massivly bloated civil service, adding over 100,000 civil service jobs' most of which are totally pointless, yet come with a final salary pension funded by the taxpayer, thus further hobbling any future this country might have.

  11. There is a real measure of how far we have slipped down the slippery slope. Tam Dalywell. He's a decent chap, isn't he? So how could he somehow think it appropriate, just a few weeks before retiring, to buy £18,000 worth of bookcases for his mansion on the hill and think that we should pay for them. This demonstrates the lack of self-awareness, the inappropriate sense of entitlement, the venal self-interest, the cloying, ghastly, two-faced, thieving cancer that grows in the heart of modern politics. And Tam is said to be a decent man!

    Damn them all. A House of Whores

  12. Matthew and Brit are right that it's unbalanced as it stands. What's also unhelpful about mindless Brown-bashing is neglecting how unprecedented the removal of a Speaker is. Though naturally a conservative who values the wisdom passed on through tradition I fully support this break with it, for the sake of the credibility of our institutions. That is all impacted by new technology, not just the Net but the minuturisation and new economics of cameras, video editing and phone voting that has made things like Big Brother and Britain's Got Talent possible and given people a new idea of what being a voter can and perhaps should be like. This techno-social transformation isn't necessarily all good, to put it mildly, but it needs to be factored in by whoever is made Speaker and supervises that part of the reform of the Houses of Westminster. Not an easy job, not for any of us, young or old. Prayer is another ancient idea that does, as ever, spring to mind as an alternative to putting the boot in to the Scot under seige today.

  13. I'm with Nige about politicising the Civil Service.

    I would add the creation of Surveillance Britain and the curtailment of civil liberties, as Recusant has suggested.

    They've made an unhappy country. Britain is a lot more divided against itself and a lot poorer than when Labour took office, if one considers the public debt that will take a generation to pay off.

    Worst of all is the unhappiness. I think it comes from the "PC" culture and killing off the can-do spirit, replacing it with the client state and the spirit of resentment and complaint. We could not with a lot more attention to Gross National Happiness, imho.

    Pretty hard to remain sober when contemplating this lot.

  14. They substituted a service culture in the public sector with a target culture. That's the one that will have the deepest impact and will take decades to recover.

  15. Definitely agree with Mark on surveillance and civil liberties.

    But not sure about this: They've made an unhappy country. Britain is a lot more divided against itself.

    First, blaming the Government for some of these intangibles is absurd. Second, the country is pretty unanimous at least about hating the Government.

    Third, it's the old short-term memory problem. Blair was a Hope Candidate and you don't need Hope Candidates if everyone is happy with things. Remember staying up for Portillo? How we hooted. We'll hoot again when Labour gets the treatment... same old same old.

  16. Politicising the police as part of the general erosion of civil liberties? Exorbitantly costly PFI/PPP initiatives - to say nothing of inept, unworkable and similarly expensive computerisation projects (eg NHS)?
    Otherwise agree with the lot - and wish I didn't or couldn't ...
    Excellent blog, thank you.

  17. Can we look forward to 'New Labour: A Wildly Drunken Assessment' soon? It would be good to let off a little steam.

  18. Oh, Bryan, let's give credit where credit is due. Brown has proven to the world that you can be a wanker and still achieve the highest office in the land. Wankers of the united kingdom take heart, there's hope for you yet. That includes you Nick Robinson.

  19. Mustn't make it a habit but strongly agree with Brit that it's absurd to blame the government for intangibles like unhappiness. It's exactly that kind of foolishness, often indulged in by the broadcast stars of the BBC, for example, that gets us into bigger and bigger government taking bigger and bigger initiatives - or at least making bigger and bigger gestures (and always more expensive ones) to try to satisfy what is obviously insatiable.

    Look at Brown just now proposing contracting out the regulation of parliament to a bunch of people we won't be able to vote for and thus remove when we no longer like them. Cameron hit the nail on the head. We want to vote, we want to throw the rascals out. Then we have to hope (and pray) that improved transparency, a higher quality Speaker and an administration genuinely committed to smaller government restores the standing of what is still a precious system.

  20. I don't think it is absurd at all, Brit. Call it the Dadaist approach to politics. When it's time to croak, are you likely to say "You know, what I really regret is failing to meet more government targets"? Just because a man in a white coat can't measure some things doesn't mean they don't matter. The essence of so much of New Labour has been to create a client state and keep people cowed by fostering intangible things like fear, suspicion, envy and resentment. Now the remaining few desperadoes in the bunker are being eaten up by those very things. Haha.

  21. New Labour started off pretty well, and it genuinely was Gordon Brown's initially prudent management of the economy which enabled the UK to avoid the effects of the early 2000s recession.

    Subsequently, however, Brown was tempted into a tax and spend policy, substantially increasing council tax and National Insurance contributions to pay for extra investment in the National Health Service et al.

    In retrospect, it seems that Brown's motivation for this sudden loss of prudence was a desire to gain support amongst both the Labour party membership and the Parliamentary Labour Party, and to thereby build the foundations for an ultimate leadership bid. In other words, he was willing to sacrifice prudent management of the economy for personal ambition.

    The extra investment generated by these policies has, of course, been ineffectively spent, because effective institutions need to grow organically, and good people make good organisations, not top-down processes, structures and targets.

    Good people are produced by a good underlying culture, and by a good all-round education, not by government targets and a narrowly specialised education with gradually falling standards. The economistic nature of modern culture, in which it is believed that the generation of money is the means to solve social and political problems, is the very antithesis of a good culture.

  22. I'm sort of quietly impressed that we have an MP with a moat.

  23. Well, at least they kept us out of the Euro. Did they fail the underclass? We got ASBOs, which I quite liked. Had they been truly radical on welfare reform, many in the underclass would not have thanked them - though it would have got things moving.

    My hope is that we have seen the end of the polytechnic-inspired Howard Kirks in politics. Time for the punk rock generation to take over. Oh dear, be careful what you wish for!

  24. So can we assume you will be voting Conservative?

  25. You forgot the erosion of privacy through insidious legislation, such as the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act.

    They also did bugger-all to reform our archaic and totally unfair voting system that leaves parties like the Liberal Democrats vastly under-represented.

  26. I would call this article 'New Labour; a biased assessmant'

  27. I was just waiting for that.

  28. Pointing out other commenters' typos is the lowest form of bloggery.

    (That said, I'd have thought a colon was better than a semi-colon. This finally gives us:

    New Labour: a biased assessment)

  29. It's also not really an 'article': it's a blog post. So perhaps:

    "I would call this blog post 'New Labour: a biased assessment'."

    - though really 'Nu Labour' is a bit more hip and with-it, a bit more Tony.

  30. In for a penny, in for a pound, I suppose. If we're parodying the original title, we ought to stick with the initial caps.

    Can we therefore agree on:

    "I would call this blog post 'Nu Labour: A Biased Assessment'."


  31. No Brit, let's call it a reasonable assessment of the current administration, unless someone can sensibly highlight where the stated facts are incorrect.

    There ain't none so blind as them that don't want to see.

  32. God! I only arrived here because I looked up 'solipsistic'in the dictionary and saw that it did not have enough info, just as a noun and a teeny adjective at the bottom!
    But you guys/girls sure can think keenly, and you all spell correctly, unlike the Mail Online commentators! I've never seen a blog before, and to have fallen across such an articulate & intelligent one, what a treat! I have bookmarked it! March on! I long to read more .. spread it around please: Granny Margie speaks

  33. Hullo, you are such a wonderful,thoughtful,and articulate lot! Quite by chance, when I googled the word 'solpistic', which is barely in my normal 2 kilo dictionary, I fell across your blogsite! It is just marvellous - you are all so clever, and spell so well too - unlike the 'comments' in the Daily Mail Online. I have bookmarked you, and urge you to spread your wise, well-presented, political considerations as widely as possible. We need you - in the current media jungle ....
    Your humble fan - Margie
    (BA Kingston - a while back)

  34. Oops! as a total beginner, I didn't understand that my first one had gone - many apologies for TMI from me! Margie

  35. Something about the onward advance of political correctness, the nanny state and dumbing down perhaps?

    ...and defeatism in the face of the onward withdrawal of real ale from public houses, which themselves ever decline in numbers?

  36. Do you find that, Jonathan? Seems to me to be a boom time for real ale. Wetherspoons have got loads, for a start.

  37. civil liberties should be essential...