Friday, May 25, 2007


Not True that Blair a Thatcherite

Usually I find Martin Jacques an interesting and helpful columnist, but today's offering disappoints. I kind of agreed that Blair has been a 'celebrity Prime Minister' and that this is not a good thing, but the next bit I thought was wrong:

Blair - except at the edges - was a Thatcherite. Brown, in contrast, regarded Thatcherism as something that had to be taken on board while at the same time seeking to retain as much as possible of the Labour legacy, or Labour values as he would put it. This never troubled Blair because he was never of the party, regarding it as an alien object, at best a neutral vehicle for his own ambitions. Blair was never a social democrat; Brown is.

Certainly Blair bought the economic tenets of Thatcherism- interest rate controlled (and hence low) inflation, limited borrowing and 'flexible' employment- as did Brown, but as for the rest I don't think he can be described as 'Thatcherite'. Consider these questions: would Thatcher have supported these signal policies of New Labour:

* The Minimum wage

* Vastly increased spending on public services

* Devolution

* Much closer relations with Europe?

It is self-evident that Thatcher would have tossed her coiffured head in contempt at the very suggestion of any in the above list. Despite what Jacques asserts, Blair's record-Iraq excluded- falls within the mainstream of social democratic endeavour. To make matters even more confusing the article is headed that, To succeed, Brown must show he is like Thatcher. It would be a pity if, as he takes his leave of us, Thatcherite becomes the accepted label to pin on Tony Blair. There has been much more to him than that.

Not sure that Iraq can be separated from the social-democratic tradition quite so easily. The majority of the PLP did vote for the invasion. And the invasion was presented as a "third way" (new social-democratic) humanitarian intervention - and while this justifiation was admittedly subverted to the nuclear weapons claims (etc), national defence isn't exactly at odds with social democracy.
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