Some thoughts on the Labour Party
I haven’t blogged for a month, and US politics isn’t really worth covering atm (in short, Obama will take the democratic nomination, but it’ll be painful for a few weeks yet, and polling numbers vs McCain aren’t worth analysing for a while yet). So I return to my home ground of British politics.
A short while back a friend of mine felt that the early years of the Blair government (his first term basically) were the best for the British people during his lifetime. This is a sentiment shared by media analysts, people who believed in Blair, his brand of 3rd way politics. (A brand is not a paradigm, perhaps I am too cynical) In my considered opinion this is not the case.
In my opinion for a government to be considered of note or above average they must achieve a victory on a major issue over their political foes. A victory can only be claimed when their opponents are forced to concede the point politically.
An example of this is the formation of the National Health Service by the Attlee government. It was opposed at the time by the conservatives, but it has never been dismembered. One can argue over side issues – like differences in service in different parts of the country or internal market reforms for example, but the principle that it is the obligation of the government to provide for the health of the nation is not under political threat.
Another example is the change in economic policy during the thatchers years: principly privatisation of government services and emphasis of the importance of monetary, rather than fiscal policy. Keeping to these policies has become a fundamental part of the set of policies that the labour party have been elected on over the last few years, even though they have begun to overspend somewhat.
Which leaves the open question: What have the New Labour Government done to justify the praise. As far as I can see there are several key issues, none of which are ‘victories’.
Foreign policy – pre-emptive military aggression, backed by Bush and Clinton. This hasn’t proved to be popular with voters, or been a key issue battle with the Conservative Party.
Constitional Reform – with the growing nationalism in both Scotland and Wales this could be seen as a successful labour policy. Unfortunately its not exactly unilaterally accepted, a lot of English voters are wondering why their taxes are subsidising Scottish and Welsh extravagense, the NHS is no longer national, and I suspect that Britain won’t maintain its integrity throughout my lifetime. Upper house reform has also failed to achieve anything of significance – instead of two democratic houses we have gone down an appointments route.
Fox Hunting – passed through massive majority of labour voters in the house, this issue has been heavily protested by the people it actually affects, nearly no one else thinks its in any way important and the key arguments for and against haven’t been challenged. It also isn’t fully enforced.
Minimum Wage – another possible example of a major victory by Blair, the fact that it was set at the same level as most entry level jobs were paying rendered it null and void. Portillo may have caused a stir by accepting it, but ultimately it was more reflective of the internal divisions the conservatives faced at the time, than a like/dislike of the policy.
Independance of the BoE – this is a Thatcherite policy, and since its passing Hague has commented that he felt he was in opposition, and was obliged to disagree with the government on policy, not that he was fundamentally opposed to its passing.
Now I have reached the end of my post, I remember why I’ve been so much more interested in American politics than British politics. (In a Walter Sobchak-esque voice) Say what you want about the tennents of George Bush, but at least he had an ethos.