Tuesday, May 16, 2006


New Labour's Fatal Flaws

Two articles in The Guardian today, one by Max Hastings and the other by Polly Toynbee, seem to epitomize the emerging-and generally negative- consensus regarding New Labour. As a Labour supporter it pains me deeply to have to admit it but both articles reinforce what I have long concluded to be the case.

Hastings focuses on Blair's 'sofa government', as he sees it, the deliberate eschewing of traditional civil service systematic gradualism for a loose, somewhat casual approach. Rather as Cameron has (slightly ominously from this viewpoint) displayed, it is an open- necked approach to making decisions which the traditionalist and tie wearing Max thinks should be smartened up. Certainly Lord Butler, former Cabinet Secretary, who coined the pejorative 'sofa' term, thinks it has been a 'disaster', eroding discipline and fostering incompetence. Moreover, says Hastings, Blair has sought to circumvent the civil service, which he thinks opposed to change, by using hugely expensive consultants; and by employing special advisers who know nothing about government and can only advise on how to manipulate the media and brief against fellow ministers.

Hastings concludes New Labour's politics have been 'supremely professional' but 'amateur' in execution of policy. I'm not sure even this faint compliment is earned. When Blair reacted to the foreign criminals revelations by declaring that in future such people would be 'automatically' deported, I thought he had sunk to his lowest nadir yet. According to this knee-jerk reaction foreigners guilty of minor shoplifting would be packed off to their home countries, possibly to be met by the torturing regimes from which they had fled.

Polly T. focuses more on Blair's political style with a problem, his tendency to attack a topic with fervour, promising unrealistic objectives which win temporary silence from a critical media before the failure to meet the 'unreasonable expectations' his rhetoric has aroused, earns him an even worse press than he faced in the first place. This combination of self defeating media manipulation plus an inability to drive the government machine has proved fatal in initiating the haemorrhaging of Labour support and it is still continuing.

Can we truly say that these special advisers "know nothing about government"? I do however recognise Max Hastings's accusation of New Labour policy as "amateur": it is all too often "knee-jerk" and dangerously plentiful (eg, the plethora of anti-social behaviour legislation). It is my major gripe with Blair, who, in terms of style, I respect greatly. It is in this sense that Toynbee is, I believe, inaccurate. Toynbee says that his style "works for a bit" - aherm - nine years?

One question, Skip: how do I check how many site views I've had on my (new) blog? I've been looking all over, but cannot find the feature, though I'm sure I've seen it before somewhere.
Thanks for your comment. I admire Balir too for his skills but feel he has misused them and lacked clear objectives.
You can monitor visitors via blogflux.com and sitemeter both of which should be acessible via Google. Email me from my blog if you have problems. I'm not too good at IT but I know people who are- it is baffling at first.
I am a labour supporter and party member, but I am now starting to think that they have 'blown it'. I don't think that the party's latest problems over asylum and immigration can be passed off with a glib remark about foreign shoplifters. The prospect of another tory government does not bare thinking of, but it IS going to happen unless these very real issues, of paramount importance to the integrity of the country, are sorted out immediately. The party has to realise that the security and welfare of its own citizens comes first, before that of immigrants and asylum seekers, and they are as sure as hell going to sink if they don't. I definitely think both the party's traditional support base and those who trusted them before and since 1997 feel betrayed and are angry and fearful about the way the policies regarding, not just these issues, but crime and order have unfolded.
I fear you may be right Dreadnought, but the implications of your line implies a shift to the right on immigration as well as law and order(which Blair has forced as far to the right as any Conservative PM might have).
I don't think a shift to the right is accurate or of any relevance. I am stating reality. This is a crisis both for the party and the country. Everyday brings new revelations of incompetence and neglect, and everyday brings news items from ALL news media showing that the country is perceived as 'any easy pushover'. The party maybe finished for a generation unless it reconnects with ordinary hard working people. I support the values and traditons of the party and I simply cannot believe that the past Greats of the labour movement would support or recognise the society that is being created.
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