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

the Blair era draws to a close « Previous | |Next »
September 6, 2006

I see that Tony Blair is limbering up for the last great battle of his political life---regaining the initiative to delay his forced departure from being Prime Minister of the UK as much as he can. He is damaged goods---he has lost credibility from supporting the Bush administration in the Middle East. The Lebanon crisis highlighted the way Blair's nailing the UK to the mast of George Bush's foreign policy has sapped his moral authority beyond recall.


As the Blair era draws to a close Blair is fighting to protect his legacy. Blair is unpopular and the New Labour PR spin machine is not very effective, due to the constant sniping between the Brown and Blair "camps" continues to divide the party. The enduring tussle betwen Tony Blair and Gordon Brown has become the central conflict in British politics. Hence Blair's need for an Exit strategy. Even though Blair has won three general elections in a row he does not have the power to choose the timing of his departure.

The demands from within his own Labour Party ranks are that he name the day now. Plans for a lengthy and ambitious farewell parade now sound absurd. The play-acting and posturing are over as the knives are poised for real blood.

The talk is about Labour’s renewal of people and policies so that Labor can pull off the difficult feat of securing a fourth term against the challenge of a resurgent Conservative party. The conflict within Labour is over whether the Blairite drive for an “enabling state” of the "social entrepreneurs" -- one that hands the public more power over government-funded services --will be abandoned, and that a Brown-led Labour will revert to the bad habits of the “controlling” social democratic state of the "traditional Fabians"

A large policy gulf separates the two men around the role of the market in the public sphere. Brown hopes to set clear limits in health and education; Blair wants to push back the boundaries.The conflict is most intense around health care reform. Patrick Wintour, writing in The Guardian, uses Robert Peston claims in his biography of Gordon Brown to describes the conflict:

In a passage that presages possible disputes over the Labour manifesto, Mr Peston claims "Mr Brown wants to limit the private sector to simply fill gaps in the capacity of the NHS. When there is a severe constraint on the ability of an NHS hospital to provide a certain kind of operation, then Brown is happy for the private sector to step into the breach."But what he opposes on principle, is Blair's plan that the private sector should be a provider of core services to the NHS in competition with public sector providers."

Peston claims Gordon Brown fears that a two-tier health system will be created by Tony Blair's plan, with those on lower incomes having access only to a very basic service.That is one of the battle lines of contemporary British politics.

Yet we need to remember that Blair and Brown are the joint architects of Labour's extraordinary success and are responsible for all manner of "New" Labour policies that seemed necessary at the time. They are joined at the political hip in spite of their policy differences.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:44 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)

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» political seduction from
When its time to go in politics there is often little choice available --you go. Hanging around can be very painful as Margaret Thatcher discovered, and as Tony Blair is currently experiencing. And the media love a good political bustup. So we have sim... [Read More]