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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Beyond Blair? « Previous | |Next »
September 29, 2006

Sunder Katwala in an article in Prospect states that Blair's New Labour claimed the centre-ground by pushing rhetorically into Tory territory, and the Tories consistently fell into the trap seeking “clear blue water” out to the right. Three defeats later, they have worked it out. Just as Labour had to show it had a response to crime, Cameron seeks attention by addressing issues which Tories used not to talk about—the environment, social justice and global poverty. Labour must now test the Tory language on what are essentially social democratic themes: the key debate will be over what government should do in addressing them, exploring the tension between Cameron’s new concerns and the right’s core “smaller state” agenda, which he seeks to maintain in gentler language.

Since a socialist Jerusalem was not on the agenda New Labour has difficulty with the traditional Labour left. Katwala observes that:

Iraq now dominates all discussion of Blair’s legacy. There have been other failures--Britain’s European anxiety remains unresolved, there has been a retreat to headline-grabbing on crime and asylum. Still, for progressives, this has been by some distance the best British government for 50 years. (That there is so little historical competition is part of the point.) It has not only been more economically and electorally successful than its predecessors: it compares favourably on redistribution with Wilson and Callaghan too. But it is also a government which has visibly run out of steam, and which will likely be 12 years old when it asks the voters for another term.

He then asks: 'So how must Labour’s political narrative, its electoral strategy and its policy agenda evolve?' He answers by saying that 'a "progressive consensus" depends on Labour shifting the argument again, fusing the economic and social agenda with environmental sustainability and narrowing inequality.' How would social democracy fuse the economic and social agenda after Blair? What does that mean for health reform?

Katwala says that:

Labour is set to place education, rather than health, at the centre of its agenda for the next comprehensive spending review. Yet an incoherent education white paper and schools bill has made this the domestic issue over which the party is most divided. The dispute is over whether the current reform agenda will exacerbate inequalities or reduce them. What is needed is a reform agenda which addresses inequality explicitly: a policy approach to schools funding, inspection and targets which pays as much attention to narrowing the gaps in performance as to increasing average attainment—dealing with the long tail.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:11 PM | | Comments (0)