Tuesday, August 01, 2006
'Cross-dressing' rules says Blair
Mike Ion covered this item yesterday based on Patrick Wintour's Guardian piece. He told Rupe and his mates out there in Pebble Beach that the old divisions of left and right were no longer relevant. Whilst values regarding 'social objectives... still divide among familiar party lines' on policy, 'cross-dressing is rampant and a feature of modern politics that will stay.' Is he right?
Generally, I think he is. Since the early eighties, when the political spectrum ran dizzyingly from Benn and beyond on the left to Thatcher and beyond on the right, parties have manoeuvered for the middle ground on which elections are won and lost. Gradually their programmes have converged so that, we are told, voters have become indifferent to who is in power so don't bother to vote at all. If we look at policies at the current time we don't find much dividing the major parties.
1.On the economy, both parties favour: an independent Bank of England to set interest rates and keep inflation low; steering clear of the euro with its inflexible straight-jacket of fiscal controls; redistributing a fair amount of taxation to benefit the poor; and maintaining funding of public services at a high level. The Tories favour lower taxes but only when the economy merits it.
2.On public services both parties favour involving the public sector to increase efficiency with Conservatives insisting they would move more vigorously forward with such a policy than half-hearted Labour.
3. On law and order both parties have competed since the early nineties as to which can be tougher and more indifferent to the human rights of the accused, especially where terrorist offences are concerned.
4. Even on foreign policy both parties support the US action in Iraq and UK military support thereof.
It follows that both parties have long since departed from any strict ideological framework when formulating policy. What 'seems to be most likely to work' is now the main criterion- hence the tendency to steal each other's clothes should this seem expedient. To be fair to the Tories, Blair- a long-time student of Clinton's pernicious 'triangulation' approach- has always stolen opponents' clothes, as Major jibed in the Commons immediately after his 1997 defeat. At the last election moreover we saw a good example of the art.
The Conservatives claimed they would slash civil service numbers in accordance with the anticipated Gershon Report. Once back in power Brown soon announced cuts similar to those proposed by Conservatives to help his income and expenditure sums add up. Cameron has subsequently come roaring in, grabbing any pieces of Labour's social justice portfolio which it thinks will help win him the next election. Yes, cross dressing is here to stay, but in reality it's been with us ever since the early nineties and the most politically transgendered person of the lot is none other thn Blair himself.
But it could prove to be one of the lasting triumphs of Tony Blair and the new Labour project if the Tories, when they're back in power, are unable to neglect the social agenda. Will any of them dare say things like 'high unemployment is a price worth paying' or that people should be responsible for the cost of their own healthcare?
But they may be fooling us; although DC and some of his shadow cabinet may have got on-side with the 21st century agenda, many backbenchers and party members still come out with the most appallingly reactionary drivel about the nanny state, political correctness gone mad, social security scroungers and the like. I fear they may be the same old Tories beneath the surface.
"I fear they may be the same old Tories beneath the surface."
This should be "are the same old tories."
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