Monday, January 09, 2006
Outlook transformed for British politics
Firstly, we have not the restoration of 'real choice' as the Guardian's editorial put it on 2nd January, but the further reduction of choice. We now have three parties clamouring to control the centre ground. All three favour high spending on public services and tight control of inflation. All three favour being tough on terrorism though there are some variations as to how illiberal they are prepared to be. All three, if Oliver Letwin is to be believed, favour some redistribution of wealth to the advantage of the poor. On foreign policy the Lib Dems oppose Iraq and are very cool on being too close to Bush but the other two seem to favour sticking with the occupation and with the 'hug them close' policy towards USA.
Secondly I accept that we do have choice in as much that the Conservatives now have credibility, maybe, as the polls suggest, one which equals that of Blair's New Labour.
Thirdly what Tony Blair said yesterday is basically correct. The Conservative Party has finally come round to accepting that Thatcherism is history and that Blair's 'settlement' of Thatcherite economics married to social justice in the form of well funded public services, is now the new reality of British politics. Just as Thatcher changed Labour, so has Labour changed Conservatism in a huge, spectacular volte face the like of which I have never seen before in British politics.
As Blair pointed out, he took eight years to change Labour from Old to New but Cameron has had only a few weeks to work his transformation. The Tories are so starved of power they seem prepared to eat their grits but I am sure it won't go down that well all of the time. Cameron will ahve to show fighting zeal as well as smiley charm- just as Blair had to. But the whole political spectrum is now changed totally from one year ago, with only the Lib Dems in temporary limbo while sorting out a new leader. It promises to be a fascinating and eventful year which will keep political junkies like me as happy as any Chelsea fan.