Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 03:43:23 AM EST
With the end of August, Gordon Brown has attempted to re-launch his beleaugured Premiership of the UK. Yet, events are running faster than he can announce initiatives and he's being blown off course at every turn. Tuesday, he and Alistair Darling announce a package of support for housing. Almost before it can be digested by the media, a better story comes along to remove him from the front page. So it was that yesterday, FatBoy Clarke wrote an article for the UK soft-left political weekly, The New Statesman. Now all we can do is talk about that.
New Statesman - FatBoy Clarke - Time to end "Just William" Politics.
The article is more a defence of the Blairite politics of opportunism, dressed up in a sort of babbling apparatchik-speak that suggest all are to blame for the current woes, except the author. however, the bit that the UK media have seized upon is the closing paragraph.
Blairism as a concept offers little by way of rescue. It is certainly not a guide to action. Equally, however, it is inaccurate and misleading to dismiss as some kind of Blairite rump those who fear that Labour's current course will lead to utter destruction at the next general election.
Similarly, there is no Blairite plot, despite rumours and persistent newspaper reports. There is, however, a deep and widely shared concern - which does not derive from ideology - that Labour is destined to disaster if we go on as we are, combined with a determination that we will not permit that to happen.
Promoted by In Wales
As this is somewhat divorced from the thrust of the article, I presume it's just a clever way to get a little publicity for what is, in all other senses, a lightweight self-justification from a pompous and largely discredited politician. He is, after all, known to have hated Gordon Brown from almost the dawn of time. So it is only natural that he seeks to suggest Brown has laid waste to all the good work Blair (and he) did.
However, there is a response in the Guardian today from Neal Lawson, who heads up Compass, which is slightly more left wing grouping of MPs who are trying for a more liberal left social democratic politics than we're currently getting.
Guardian - Neal Lawson - To change direction, Labour must first decide where it's going
At least Charles has the benefit of having always been sceptical about the leadership qualities of Gordon Brown and he is right to state that we are heading for disaster. But that is as good as it gets from Charles because he goes on to say we need to change but offers few policy clues about what that change means.
Worse than that he seems to disown ideology as the basis of change. And so we end up with a debate basically about personalities while the underlying politics of the party remain as they were - essentially Blairite. We need to remember that Tony Blair was removed from office because his politics were failing. Brown flourished briefly in the summer of 2007 when he first took over precisely because he looked like a change of direction from Blairism. When he started to adopt some of the worse policies and tactics of New Labour he plummeted in the polls. If we are to change direction we need to know where to, why and how. That requires a clear set of values and an organising framework to enact them - an ideology, if you like.
Sadly the article doesn't really discuss much beyond that observation, valuable though that is in itself. He admits there isn't a credible candidate worth supporting to replace Brown, but believes that only a more radical change in policy direction than Clarke could support will be needed to avert the disaster all now expect.
Fortunately Seamus Milne stepped into the policy ideology breach;-
Guardian - Seamus Milne - Half measures and tinkering don't make a recovery plan
...one year on from the first impact of the US-incubated credit crunch the direction is pretty clearly all one way, as consumer and business confidence continues to plummet, unemployment heads relentlessly upwards, living standards fall, manufacturing output drops and the housing market has as good as ground to a halt. And far from New Labour putting an end to boom and bust, the OECD club of rich countries has now forecast that Britain will be the only major world economy to tip into full-scale recession this year
It's perfectly true that the main factors behind Britain's current economic woes, as elsewhere, are global: the credit squeeze and the escalation in oil and other commodity prices have all been external shocks. But New Labour's single-minded promotion of a highly deregulated, short-termist and lightly taxed financial sector at the expense of the rest of the economy - manufacturing has taken the greatest strain - on the back of a consumer borrowing binge has left Britain especially vulnerable both to the global downturn and to the credit contagion in particular. It is almost as though the economy had been set up for a crash - and we're now living with the consequences.
If the government is to escape from its current political black hole, and the country from the worst of a recession, it's going to have to turn its back on the structural mismanagement of the past decade and be prepared to take much more far-reaching measures than the sort of tinkering on offer this week.
With at best a stagnant economy, pressure will grow to make sure the costs of the downturn are borne by those most able to afford them. And if the mistakes that led us to this impasse are not simply to be repeated, there will also have to be a shift towards tougher regulation of corporate Britain and the capital markets, as well as a programme of publicly driven investment in manufacturing and research and development. In a changing economic climate, with the Tories unable to break with a failing model, that should be good politics as well as economics. But as things stand, the prime minister shows little sign of even beginning to make the necessary change.
All of which means that Labour is doomed when it goes to the polls and the wilderness years could be long and bloody while the party re-discovers what it exists to achieve.