1 March 2016

The End of Politics in Britain

It is always interesting to look back into the past and see how one predicted the future wrongly. This short comment was published in March 2008. In it I rightly sketched the meaninglessness for working people of the then New Labour administration, though I underestimated the extent to which Cameron in government from 2010, with the Liberal Democrats in tow (2010-2015), would further slash the remains of the welfare state in the midst of the 2008-1013 recession, the longest in the post-war period. And I utterly failed to foresee the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.

Social inequality is sharpening, while political parties are converging.

This week has seen the opinion polls giving the Conservatives a sufficient lead over Labour for an overall majority in the 2010 general election. Across ‘Middle England’ - for whose supposed benefit New Labour was designed - Cameron’s freshness, rather than any great policy issue, seems to be the driving force behind the Tory surge. Little now divides Britain’s two leading parties: both want to commercialise everything, both are middle-class oriented and led, both are devoutly Atlantist. Over the next couple of years the cautious Brown, who for ever will be Blair’s grey deputy, will try to emulate Cameron, flog the New Labour agenda to death, and will probably fail in everything.

The last termination of a Labour administration was in 1979. That defeat gave rise to two voices. One was fundamentalist: "let’s make a socialist Labour Party worth fighting for;" the other was to urge ‘moderation and unity’ in the hope that the Tories would trip up and the pendulum would swing. But nobody would have said then that a change of government hardly mattered. What might follow Brown’s 2010 poll defeat?

The Labour left, of course, no longer exists. Labour’s formulaic denunciation of the new Tory government’s further assault on the less well-off will ring hollow after a decade and half of New Labourism. Unless new political lifeblood flows from somewhere, (e.g. Scottish independence and a new politics there?) then in Britain we are looking to a new political age characterised by a collapse of party politics in full-blown American style.

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