I would not want to get on the wrong side of this scribe when words don’t fail him:
But this? This hole in the air encased in a suit of clunking verbal armour? This truck-load of clichéd grandiloquence in hopeless pursuit of anything that might count as the faintest apology for an idea? Words fail me.
Thus does Matthew Parris muse upon the oratical inadequacies of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. If Brown is now the main object of your rage and loathing, then read the whole thing. You will surely enjoy it greatly.
But what matters to me is not whether Brown is now a doomed and hopeless failure, for clearly he is. But how much more of my country will he quadruple-mortgage? How much more of my country’s earth will he scorch? And, later, how much of the Labour Party as a whole will he take with him into the history books and nowhere else? Not that much more, not that much more, and the more the better, is what I am now hoping (against hope) for.
Now is as good a time as any to confess that I was one of those people who used once to accuse Samizdata sage Paul Marks of not “getting” New Labour.
My problem was that I did really believe (and do still believe) that when Blair said that he was not in favour of wrecking my country’s finances, he did truly mean it. Time and again, Blair outfaced his party with that very proclamation. I don’t believe in ruining Britain, he would shout at his massed ranks of idiot followers. So fire me, he kept saying. And the massed ranks of idiots, despite being enraged by this exasperatingly sensible talk, kept not firing him.
My problem was not that I was wrong to notice these protestations of fiscal virtue, or wrong to consider them significant. Where I went wrong was in understanding their actual impact.
I didn’t think that Blair was ushering in any sort of libertarian nirvana, no way. Nor was I relaxed about the damage being done by Blair to the legal system and to the criminal law and to the regulatory regime. Europe was, as it remains, a continuing disaster. But at least, I thought, this time around Labour will not smash up everything economically. But actually, the whole Blair “political achievement” made it possible for Labour to break Britain with a ferocity and completeness that has no parallel in recent British history. The more we trusters trusted Labour not to scorch Britain’s earth, the more earth they were able actually to scorch, and this scorching, of course, continues.
Old-style socialists were not trusted, and as soon as the danger signs appeared, as they inevitably did as soon as each successive attempt at a socialist-inclined government had got its flamethrowers working and scorching, voters and investors reacted accordingly. This time around, too many (me included) thought that it would be different, until such time as even we could not doubt the unique scale of this particular disaster. To the precise degree to which we thought things would be better this time, they were actually worse, and it was cause and effect.
Did Blair do this on purpose? As the catastrophe started to unfold, did he realise what he had done, sticking his killer grin on the front of the latest and greatest Labour assault on Britain’s economic viability? Did he care? Does he care? Frankly, I don’t care. I now, still, regard Blair more as a destructive force of nature rather than as a deliberately evil man, but in practice, what does it matter? What matters, as we have become used to hearing as other pettier disasters have unfolded in recent years, is to make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again.
The point is not just that Brown has been and is still a catastrophe. That’s a given. The point to ram home, now and for as long as his name is ever remembered, is that Tony Blair was also a catastrophe, and arguably a much bigger one. For without Blair, there could have been no Brown. Burying the Labour Party for ever, as it deserves, does not merely mean keeping the horrid memory of Brown and his cloth-eared blunderings alive. It means remembering how Tony Blair made those blunderings possible.
So, let us learn the big political lesson of this catastrophe, to ensure that, indeed, the catastrophe can never happen again. And it is this. When the Labour Party sounds bad, it is bad. When it sounds good, it is even worse. Only the idiots in the Labour Party now can be blamed for Brown, and not even they really voted for him. But they did allow him to clamber unopposed into the driver’s seat of the wrecking and burning machine, and for that they all deserve their particular places in hell. But many more Brits voted for Blair, because they thought that even if things were not automatically going to get any better (as the idiots were singing – remember that?) then at least, fiscally speaking, they wouldn’t get that much worse.
Clearly Britain will never “vote Brown” in the future, any more than it did this time around for Brown himself. But Britain did “vote Blair”, and this it must never do again.