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There is no way back for Labour

Janet Daley writes what I think is a wrong-headed article on how, if the Labour government gets rid of Gordon Brown and elects some younger, more “Blairite” leader claiming to support reform of public services, that this will put pressure on the Tories and may even convince enough gullible UK voters to stick with Labour.

I am sorry, but the problem with this thesis, which alas reflects how even an astute observer like Janet Daley has become a solid member of the Westminster Village, has little connection to reality. The UK public has had 11 years of New Labour. It remembers how, in the late 1990s, we were told that Labour could reform the Welfare state in the same way that only Richard Nixon could fix relations with the Chinese in the 1970s. Since then, the Welfare State has mushroomed, with its vast increase in the number of officials, a hideously complex system of tax and welfare credits; the education system becomes ever more bureacratic and despite a few improvements, falls way short of what one would expect, given the increase in spending. The NHS remains a mess: I have met quite a few NHS users who have, for instance, suffered from the MRSA bacterium. The public knows this. They just do not trust the Labour Party any more.

Of course, they are scarcely more trusting of David Cameron and the Tories. The problem for them is that their leading political figures are – with a few exceptions like William Hague – inexperienced in the world of business or life outside politics generally. Cameron gives me grave cause for concern; he is cast from the same, suffocating centrist mould as Blair. But there is just the remotest chance that some of the statist juggernaut might be arrested if the Tories were to win with a sufficiently large majority. It is a slim hope, but I do not see much else on the table.

17 comments to There is no way back for Labour

  • The only question is whether they’re going to screwed-over by their defeat and go through their “long dark tea-time of the soul act” like the ’80s. Or split down New/Old Labour lines.

    There is of course a “third way” but I can’t see them maintaining cohesion around some new consensus.

  • Ian B

    As I said in the Telegraph comments thread, a year ago La Daley was cooing over the exciting new man of the moment Gordon Brown, and one wonders how many exclusive breakfasts were involved in that. What an easily flattered, delusional old trout she appears to have turned into. Journalism for hire, for a cup of tea and a croissant. I can’t think of a better example of the utter uselessness of MSM “political journalism”.

  • Ham

    The really interesting thing about the next election will be the turnout. Labour got fewer votes in 1997 than the Tories did in 1992, suggesting that the rot set in people’s enthusiasm for this sort of corporatism long ago. Despite what a lot of the conservative press says, I don’t think Brown is hated by the public; instead, I think he merely fails to inspire people enough to travel to the polls.

  • MDC

    For that matter, who is this dashing young Blairite who will rescue them from disaster? As bad as Brown has turned out to be, I can’t imagine any of the others going anywhere but down. The same is true for the Tories if they got rid of Cameron, really. Political figures have been suffering attrition at an alarming rate. Where are the Michael Portillos or Ken Clarkes?

  • RAB

    Where are the Michael Portillos or Ken Clarkes?

    In a coffin in the basement where they belong, I hope.

    I’m a Hague man myself.
    I’m rather hoping that Cameroon will be caught in a compromising situation with Max Mosely, then we can have him back as leader.

  • What RAB, next to the one occupied by Michael “Something of the Night” Howard. You know he’s of Romanian extraction don’t ya. And tended by the unquiet shade of Ian “Quiet Man” Duncan Smith doomed to roam the crypts of Tory Central Office for all time. You know IDS managed to lose money as an arms-dealer. Jeez even Maggie’s idiot son didn’t manage that feat.

    God knows what’s in the basement of Labour HQ. Frank Field in a gimp mask thinking the unthinkable perhaps? While Blunkett buggers Charles “bugger lugs” Clarke.

  • Laird

    For what it’s worth, I have absolutely no clue what Nick M’s post was about. Perhaps that’s just as well.

  • RAB

    There is a word for what Nick M does

    But I cant remember it.

    So in the spirit of Shakespeare
    I shall invent a new one!

    Nickomancy!

    See I can recognise his posts within half a line now.
    I dont even have to scroll down!

    Something to do with Vampires and crypts Laird.
    He was riffing on me
    riffing on someone else.
    We do this now and again.

    But you are an American.
    We will be gentle with you
    Take our hands ;-)

  • Andrew

    This is possibly the worst position Labour’s ever been in. Historically they could always rely on a bedrock of traditional support, if the Blair years have destroyed that support for ever (which the Glasgow result appears to suggest) things could get very ‘interesting’ make that uncertain and potentially scary. We could be witnessing the collapse of one of the major political parties. If Cameron wins and governs as a continuation of Blair (which there are plenty of hints of) the disappointment would be pretty swift. Then we could see a real explosion of people voting for nasty fringe parties, nearly all of whom would be extremely bad news for small statist conservatives and libertarians.

  • Any govt that halts the descent into third world hell…even if for just a decade will get my vote.We need a breather from the headlong plunge into social engineering we have been subjected to under the nulabour criminals and traitors.

  • Interesting Andrew. I was thinking similar things but it could go either way of course.

  • Andrew

    Who are these ‘small statists’ ? Short Commies ?

  • Ian B

    Tiny Trots?

  • guy herbert

    The general thesis is quite right, the Government has run out of rope and no cosmetic adjustments can save it. However,

    It remembers how, in the late 1990s, we were told that Labour could reform the Welfare state in the same way that only Richard Nixon could fix relations with the Chinese in the 1970s.

    I sincerely doubt it. A politically aware media elite might remember that as part of the Blairite sell to them. I doubt the typical member of the public either has such memories or is motivated by what memories of the 90s it does have. And the public in the mass has no memory: crowds only feel, they don’t think.

    What the public does have is a feeling that it is much less comfortable and secure, having got used to things getting steadily better durinig the long boom. Bullying government and high taxes start to rankle when other things are equal. The public doesn’t notice them while bread and circuses continue. It feels things are getting better, because at the margin, in material terms, they are. You might count the weight of government against the gross, but the average voter just sees the net.

    Cosmetic adjustments will fail because the tide of sentiment is running against the Government, and it has undercut its own position by all the damage it has done in the past 11 years: the substantive effects that are now starting to show are what hurt it at the ballot box. not the bad principles of the decisions. It is not the debt that gets you; it is inability to meet the repayments.

  • Andrew

    Tough room! I meant limited state conservatives/small government conservatives, but I like ‘Short Commies’ or ‘tiny trots’ a lot (and if the Tories govern as blue Labour they might both be quite fitting!)

  • Johnathan Pearce

    A politically aware media elite might remember that as part of the Blairite sell to them. I doubt the typical member of the public either has such memories or is motivated by what memories of the 90s it does have. And the public in the mass has no memory: crowds only feel, they don’t think.

    I think you are being a bit too harsh, although I also sometimes wonder whether the UK public can remember far back beyond yesterday. But I think there is a critical mass of the electorate – the relatively intelligent bit that sits in the middle ground – that does remember the bright, shiny promies of Neu Arbeit, the cheesy-grin rhetoric of Tone, the “no return to boom and bust” rhetoric of Gloomy Gordon, the promise to reform the NHS and cut crime, and the causes of crime. I don’t think this has been forgotten, any more than the public forgot the promise to govern cleanly, to root out corruption, etc. The public has enough of a sense that NuLab turned out to be an expensive lie; that it inherited a relatively sound economy from the Tories, rode the stock boom, benefited from globally cheap credit, and has slowly, and remorsely, fucked it all up.

  • Lee Moore

    I agree with Guy Herbert. I don’t think most people pay much attention to politics. But everybody can spot when things aren’t going so well, and then they all jump on the bandwagon of blaming the government for everything. I have no time for New Labour at all, but down the pub these days I find myself saying “don’t be daft, scum they may be, but you can’t balme them for that !” But the worm has turned as is blaming them for anything and everything. Poetic justice I suppose.

    Anyway, Labour’s hail mary pass is to dump Gordon, get a shiny new Milliband in there, and surrender to PR. Labour would still get 180-220 seats, and have an excellent chance of staying in government with the LibDems. Electoral suicide of course for the LibDems next time round, but they are far too full of themselves to realise that.