Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This is where we are

In 1997 the British people elected a Labour government, because it wanted a Labour government.

A government to invest in a shattered infrastructure and a fragmented society.

A government prepared to counter the buffets of the economic cycle by an intelligent growth-oriented investment strategy coupled with a commitment to improving public services.

That government, that New Labour government no less, was so committed to change and progress and well ...REFORM

So committed was it, that it spent its time in government attacking poor public services, changing delivery, contracting out services - you know reforming.

Targets were set to deal with poor performance and when things improved new ones were set.

Every morning on the Today programme we heard about their battle.

Every day was difficult, every service needed improving (not to say reforming).

Through ten long years of economic growth all we heard was bad news - and we weren't listening to Radio Africa...

New Labour also triangulated, it took on the Tory's on their own ground - you know, it met them halfway, it used their language, it went round the back ...and then it blew a raspberry; with increasingly little success as the years dragged on.

That nice red raspberry got bluer.

By 2010 the New Labour Party had spent thirteen long years explaining to the British public why they were wrong to want a Labour government.

It took a long time but eventually they agreed.

Though they weren't sure they wanted a Tory government either. Indecision eh, its a killer, luckily the British public were helped out by some people who did want a Tory government.

Those people were called Liberal Democrats, but actually they were rather similar to the other ex-merchant bankers and global corporate economists that they looked very similar to on the Tory benches.

Today as we look at George Osborne's delight lets remember Vince Cable's prescription back in April just before the election: 'five miserable years' promised Vince. Lets hope he was right. More than five will be a killer, even more of a killer than the five coming up.

Thanks Tony, thanks Alistair Darling [have you noticed yet that as you briefed against the rest of your party just before the election by saying that their economic forecasts were over-optimistic that they were actually under-optimistic - and you were wrong?], thanks Gordon for your inarticulacy, your tiredness, your lack of ideas and above all your inability to positively motivate anyone other than Paul Dacre - whom you had far too many dinners and theatre trips with. Thanks David 'immigration is a problem' Blunkett.

You've got a tough job Ed but at least you havn't got a tough act to follow.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Brown will pay the price for Iraq; but he deserves to.

As we prepare for Blair's mesopotamiam swansong before Chilcot later today we reflect and and ponder the many negative impacts of Blair's decision to back Bush's fantasy of preemption.

In the here and now it is Brown who will pay the electoral price for Iraq, while Blair's reputation is already too tarnished for his Chilcot appearance to make any difference; but back then what was Brown's position?

Steve Richards with his usual razor-sharp analysis, explains why and how the Iraq nightmare began with what he terms, "the origins of New Labour, a frail, insecure and defensive project from the beginning".

There is much in this and he is right to skewer Brown's support for it too, he also hints at why, "Acutely aware of Labour's vote-losing past when it was regarded as soft on defence and anti-American, Blair was always going to stick with the US over Iraq and seek as broad an international coalition of support as was possible.

In terms of domestic politics, Brown made similar calculations.Working on the wrong assumption that he would be prime minister by 2004 he did not want to inherit a government that had opposed the war, sided with mediocre European leaders against the US..."

Yet there was more to it than that, Blair believed; and as a SPAD of the period put it recently: 'he understood the importance of backing America, whatever our concerns about Iraq.'

Apparently he elucidated this in one of his regular weekly briefings to his SPADs at the time. Now there is a document I'd like to see the contents of in full; perhaps Chilcot could ak for that.

For a broader view and a sharper cutting edge we should look to John Kampfner, whose article sat adjacent to Richards' in the print edition today, spread across the centre of the paper. Kampfner says, "One man bears supreme responsibility for this most ignominious chapter in British foreign policy and political life. But many others played their part too, with their sins of omission and commission. Not one, not a single person, has been held to account, least of all Blair. He got away with it a long time ago. He always knew he would."

Brown and New Labour however won't get away with it, nor will the rest of us, paying as we are a number of very real prices for Blair's historic miscalculation that Britain's future lay not in Europe but in the Lone Star state and a middle eastern bonfire of his vanity:
John Kampfner: And still no one has been held to account for Iraq

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Standing in the way of control

As Massachusetts' voters prepare to derail healthcare reform in the US, Britain's electorate are preparing to vote themselves back into recession by opting for hardcore class war Toryism 1980s-style.

What allows this apparently illogical set of outcomes?

Despite the gaping gap between reality and Cameron and Osborne's economic analysis, British voters are preparing to choose the two Old Etonians as the individuals they will trust to deliver this economic enema.

Meanwile over at New Labour Johnson and Brown were tying themseles in knots over class. Brown is middle class this week while Johnson is too, yet Johnson is nonetheless in touch with his dissolute workerist past and backing the proles right to drink themselves to death at least until the middle class take the pledge. Thus the Home Secretary rejected calls for a minimum unit price for alcohol on the basis that while this was an effective solution to alcohol-fuelled health problems it might enforce its benefits on the poor while as he put it 'allowing the rest of us to carry on as before'...

The real revelation here is New Labour's view of the poor: take away their booze and they'll vote Tory? Watch out Alan, they may do so anyhow...

The takeaway is that voters in 'big decision' elections don't welcome diffidence and won't vote for parties which triangulate their own position toward their opponents rather than robustly defending it. In big votes voters opt for clarity and the situation is exaggerated by those who are typically non-voters opting to vote in large numbers [which may be an issue in Massachusetts] and voting against encumbent parties of power.