Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Pie in Sky Ideas Will be Ignored by Gordon

Reading Neal Lawson today makes me realise why I've never been more than merely left of centre rather than on Labour's leftwing. Lawson's pared down address to his Compass members suggests we are at a turning point:

Britain has become a hideously unequal society. The poor are not treading water but sinking beneath the rising tide of the rich. But the middle classes are struggling, too. Insecurity and anxiety abound. Working harder to keep up on the treadmill of the learn-to-earn consumer society is deepening our social recession. We are at a tipping point.

He goes on to suggest that Cameron has failed to gauge the times correctly and is losing the plot. And whilst 1997 was a 'false dawn', now that Blair has gone, Brown may be the colour of our future. 'It's time to be the midwife of history' he portentously declares.

But is Brown up for it? He will work night and day to address the symptoms of inequality but will he dare address the free market causes? Social democracy in one country is impossible. So will he embrace Europe? Will he recognise the essential conflict between labour and capital and the enduring importance of class? Will he ease up on the work ethic and embrace a politics of care and well-being? Will the planet be put before profits? Can he make the cultural leap into a politics of pluralism? Can he be both new enough and Labour enough? The truth is we don't yet know, but only if the left helps create the conditions that make it possible.

The left has always been prone to believing that the time for the big shift is Now! I remember a Peking Daily headline in the seventies: 'Western economies about to collapse: situation promising'. It happens to be the case that 'tipping points' are rare indeed and often usually only clearly perceived in retrospect: 1945, 1979, 19997. Do we really believe 2007 is another?

It's one thing analysing society in front of one's keyboard but where are the visible signs that people are desperate for the sort of change- much of which I am in sympathy with I should add- Lawson describes? And just how can the left 'create the conditions' for such a transformation? Truth is Neal's clarion call to his Compass members is, like any such statement, long on utopian rhetoric and desperately short on practical politics. If such ideas were presented to Gordon, I suspect he'd instantly frown furiously and ball up that 'clunking great fist'.

Absolutely. It’s right to be impatient for social justice, but true that people are benefiting from a strong stable economy and much has been done to alleviate poverty. There is still much to do and we always be challenged, but this is another exhibit of political Munchausen syndrome; almost wishing for illness to justify a new radical, but undefined, agenda.
Maybe a bit unfair of me to have a go at his chairman's address sort of thing but it should make sense even then I thought. Munchausen a good metaphor Stephen.
I can see 1945 and 1979 as "tipping points". But 1997?
Maybe not in terms of political ideology but in terms of who voters wanted in government, it surely was?
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