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Factionalism in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 6: Workers Revolutionary Party Predicted UK Police State (1980, from onwards)

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WRP predicted Tory Coup back in the 1980s! (@M.Ezra Archives).

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There has been much talk of ‘Nostradamus’ Dominic Cummings and his ability to predict the future of pandemics.

But the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) has a better, and proven, track record of clairvoyance.

In the early 1980s the industrial dispute in Britain’s coal fields saw the WRP work out the implications of the threat a military dictatorship posed for the working class and labour movement,

The beginning of the miners’ strike coincided with the Thatcher government’s banning of unions at GCHQ. This, and the massive police operation directed at picketing miners, was taken by the WRP as evidence that ‘the traditional system of capitalist rule through parliamentary democracy is a thing of the past. In its place is Bonapartism – a regime of crisis relying on the armed national police force, directly confronting the organised working class on the streets’.16

The WRP insisted that the miners’ strike could not be won outside the struggle for power, and that if the miners were defeated Thatcher would impose a police-military dictatorship. ‘If we don’t take the power we will have fascism’, Healy declared in February 1985, on the eve of the strike’s collapse. ‘Make no mistake, if we don’t do it, there will be fascism.

The Rise and Fall of Gerry Healy. Bob Pitt. Chapter 10.

This menace has not gone away.

In 2014 the WRP again saw a UK Police State in the making:

May Launches Tory Police State (1st October 2014)

TORY Home Secretary May’s plans to ban democratic rights, that she proposed to the Tory party conference yesterday, was condemned as ‘worthy of a caliphate’ by civil rights group.
2019 saw renewed concerns,

Anti-Brexit coup under way – ‘Country before Party’ means bringing in military police state!

This foresight has now shown its value.

The Coronavirus Pandemic has proved, WRP stalwarts assert, the worth of their farsighted analysis.
There is a clear answer:

The unions must immediately organise a general strike to bring them down and go forward to a workers government that will nationalise the banks and major industries under workers management and bring in a socialist planned economy.

Socialist revolution is the only way forward today.

The ‘Affaire Cummings’ becomes an organic crisis of government.

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“I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to their loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who did not visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government. I cannot in good faith tell them that they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”

The December Conservative Victory was followed, on the left, by many people thinking about the reasons how and why a section of the Labour vote, and a larger group of working class ballots fell in behind Boris Johnson’s Get Brexit Done campaign. Some, of the pro-Brexit and would-be populist left took the Tory triumph as proof that there position was right, and followed it with the not unexpected claim that pro-Second Referendum campaigners betrayed the masses by not taking up the anti-EU ideas which they had helped to legitimise.

There is a serious debate on how, in Gramsci’s terms,”At a certain point in their historical lives, social classes become detached from their traditional parties..” (1) Comparisons between the former Red Wall and the former bastions of socialism and Communism in Northern France would be made by referring to Didier Erbion’s autobiographical and sociological and literary masterpiece, Retour à Reims (2009. new edition 2018). You can read the introduction to the English translation, 2018, and some of the text here.

Much of Erbion’s book is about growing up gay. The broader political message deals with the way national populism, (the Front National, now the Rassemblement National) has garnered support in areas that were formerly left wing. In the UK, a brief surge in the Brexit Party support in last year’s European elections, perhaps bolstered by its own’red-brown’ wing, was followed by the Tories, aided by the ‘strategist’ Dominic Cummings, successfully gathering up the national populist constituency for itself, and restoring traditional Conservative rule.

One message of  Retour à Reims captured is not that the left needs to articulate, give voice to, the prejudices of the electorate. That is, to give a British context, re-casting anti-immigration demands as a a slogan, “workers’ control of migrant labour” (as, say the Socialist Party or the Morning Star have put it in various forms). Nor that the left needs to organise protests that will make the right melt away – indeed they spectacularly did not disappear, but were present and influential in the Gilets Jaunes movement. It is that we need to change the conversation to areas in which the populists, nationalists, and far-right, are unable to offer answers.

Some of this seems shunted to the side by the Coronavirus pandemic. This has deeply affected everybody, across Europe, across the world. Faced with the gravity of the issue few wished to play political games.

But now we can see the  development of another ‘Gramscian crisis”, a major crisis of authority with the Johnson cabinet’s failure in a “major political undertaking”.  National populist slogans, hostility to the EU, alignment with the gibbering Trump,  have been shown as empty.

Above all Johnson’s cabinet is visibly unable to deal with what has become the Affaire Cummings.

It is tricking down, from the Cabinet’s loss of authority, to the uncertainly and confusion  about state governance of health and loosening the lockdown.

At the heart of the matter is the figure of Dominic Cummings.

The New Statesman Martin Fletcher wrote on the 24th of May an acid summary of the way the newly elected Prime Minister had dealt with the issues raised

He stated,

Under no other prime minister in living memory would Cummings be allowed to stay in his post, but this scandal has ripped the mask off this government’s face. It has exposed its true nature – its shamelessness, its arrogance, its deceitfulness, its contempt for “the people” that it claims to champion, the utter cravenness of its ministers.

Cummings himself has displayed not a jot of contrition, though he has built his career on bashing the sort of metropolitan elitism of which his behaviour is a prime example. He seems happy to pose as the “champion of the people” so long as he does not have to live like them. Using pliant journalists on rival papers he has sought to dismiss the revelations in the Guardian and Daily Mirror as “fake news”, though they were manifestly true. He has mocked suggestions he might resign in a manner that suggests the Prime Minister has no say in the matter.

Things have got a lot worse since that time.

Here are some of the countless tweets that followed the Cummings Press conference yesterday – for which the Special Adviser was 30 minutes late.

 

This stands out:

The way the remaining Ministers are carrying on will only add fuel to the flames,

Coronavirus: Dominic Cummings was ‘wise’ to test his eyesight with trip to Barnard Castle – Gove

Mr Gove said Mr Cummings was “wise” to make the trip with his wife and child from Durham to Barnard Castle as he wanted to “make sure he was comfortable behind the wheel” before driving back to London.

In these conditions we do not need rhetoric, Counterfire style, about the ” worst peacetime disaster in modern British history.” or the People’s Assembly’s grand claim to create, a ‘People’s HQ’ on Covid-19.” aligned around pro-Brexit forces who helped the Tories into power.

Something a lot more serious should be on the cards.

It looks as if this crisis is not going away, it is deep rooted, and needs a Labour Party not just to protest (as the People’s Assembly asserts)  but to develop its own internationalist projects for the ‘major undertaking’ of facing up to the pandemic and its aftermath. 

 

*****

(1) Page 210. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Antonio Gramsci. Lawrence & Wishart. 1973.

 

Update:

 

 

Shock as Spiked- Brendan O’Neill – Defends Dominic Cummings against “embittered cultural elites”.

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Who would have guessed that Spiked would say this?

 

While ordinary people tweet, write, and speak out about Dominic Cummings callous arrogance – and even this,   First senior Tory breaks ranks over top aide’s ‘lockdown breaches‘ – there’s a brave voice ready to be put the alternative view.

Dominic Cummings broke the lockdown? Good

The hysteria over his trip to his parents’ home is driven by nothing more than Remainer revenge.

Dominic Cummings broke the lockdown? Good. Welcome to the sensible minority, Dom. According to a survey published a week ago, 29 per cent of Brits have busted out of the lockdown straitjacket and done things they shouldn’t have done. I salute these people. Sensibly and carefully bending the rules to visit one’s parents, read a novel on a beach or, in Neil Ferguson’s case, to shag one’s polyamorous lover are wonderful buds of human rebellion in this dystopia we find ourselves in. It isn’t Cummings who should be ashamed – it’s the shutdown Stalinists who are calling for his head because he dared to visit his folks.

In full fettle of a flow the great man continues,

Listening to the Cummingsphobic Remoaners in the chattering classes, you could be forgiven for thinking they did this in order to cough their germs all over every motorway and lane in the land.

For those who can be arsed there’s plenty more to read,

It’s the embittered cultural elites seeking a Brexit scalp. It is a political vendetta disguised as concern about the pandemic.

More on those ‘elites’:

In the Telegraph another figure, David Goodhart, of the red-brown Full Brexit, writes, Jim posts, on tis:

Our society asks a lot of political leaders and their advisers. We should try to cut them some slack

David “The Road To Somewhere” comes up with a fascinating new definition of what is – and isn’t – elitism, in today’s Sunday Telegraph, while defending Dominic Cummings: “There is an anti-elitist piety, often expressed by the academic or medical branch of the same broad elite, that refuses to accept the specialness of leaders [in case it’s not clear, Goodhart thinks that’s *bad*] … So it’s important that Mr Cummings stays. Even if his actions were technically outside the letter of the law -which is far from clear – there is surely, an extreme circumstances loophole, and more broadly we need to cut our rulers (and their top advisers) some slack.

 

We expect the Red Brown Front to castigate this whingeing liberal:

Here

Dominic Cummings: How long will he cling on as PM’s Senior Adviser?

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Scuttling Away.

 

The Previous Story….

There is a clear message at work.

And this was well:

 

Comrade Mason points out the implications for the media.

 

Not to mention this…

The Telegraph sums up the latest state of play:

Dominic Cummings is a hypocrite whose position is “untenable”, the Government’s opponents have said, after it emerged that Boris Johnson’s top adviser breached lockdown rules.

Mr Cummings was investigated by police after he drove from London to Durham with his wife and son to stay with his elderly parents after developing symptoms of coronavirus.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “If accurate, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser appears to have breached the lockdown rules. The Government’s guidance was very clear: stay at home and no non-essential travel.

“The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings. Number 10 needs to provide a very swift explanation for his actions.”

 

It’s worth remembering some of the political interventions Cummings made over Brexit.

This was late last year.

On the referendum #34: BATSIGNAL!! DON’T LET CORBYN-STURGEON CHEAT A SECOND REFERENDUM WITH MILLIONS OF FOREIGN VOTES

November 2019.

Summary: Tell your family and friends face-to-face: if Boris doesn’t get a majority, then Corbyn and Sturgeon will control the government, their official policy is to give the vote to millions of foreign citizens to cheat their second referendum, we’ll all get screwed on taxes, Parliament will drag the whole country into crisis, and immigration will return to being a central issue in politics instead of being marginalised by Brexit…

Dominic Cummings’s Blog

This was his programme of work after the Tories’ victory.

January 2020

‘Two hands are a lot’ — we’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos…

A few examples of papers that you will be considering:

Complex Contagions : A Decade in Review, 2017. This looks at a large number of studies on ‘what goes viral and why?’. A lot of studies in this field are dodgy (bad maths, don’t replicate etc), an important question is which ones are worth examining.

Extract from this paper:

“2.1. Applications to Health
For the past few decades, the study of public health has concerned not
only biological contagions, but also social contagions concerning
health behaviors: e.g. medication, vaccines, exercise, and the ideologies related to each (Christakis and Fowler 2012). It has been found
that simple contagions do not adequately capture the network dynamics that govern the diffusion of health behaviours (Centola and Macy
2007; Centola et al. 2007; Centola 2010, 2011). Social health behaviours often require reinforcement from peers, and they are strongly influenced by cultural practices and group norms.

Dominic Cummings: If Leave had lost Brexit vote, I’d have queried result as invalid.

December 2019.

Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings would have challenged the EU referendum result as “invalid” had Vote Leave lost the Brexit campaign.

According to documents seen by the Observer, the prime minister’s chief aide told the UK’s data watchdog that he would have contested the result because UK elections are “wide open to abuse.”

In an email sent in 2017 to the information commissioner’s office, Cummings, the former head of the Vote Leave campaign and architect of Johnson’s stunning election victory, said: “If we had lost by a small margin I would have sought to challenge the result as invalid.”

The UK voted to leave the EU by the slim majority of 52% to 48% in the 2016 referendum, with many Brexiters subsequently attacking the losers as “Remoaners” who refused to respect democracy. On Friday, Cummings openly criticised “educated Remainer campaigner types” for failing to understand the country and “driving everyone mad”.

And there was notably this,

In March 2020, it was reported in The Sunday Times that during a private engagement the previous month, Cummings had claimed that the government’s strategy towards the coronavirus was “herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad”. The spokesman for 10 Downing Street decried the article as “a highly defamatory fabrication” which “includes a series of apparent quotes from meetings which are invented”.[49] On 30 March, Cummings displayed symptoms of COVID-19 during the COVID-19 pandemic and is reported to be self isolating. This was three days after Johnson was tested positive for the virus.[50] On 27 April, it emerged that Cummings sat in on meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) which advises the cabinet on coronavirus response.[51] Cummings urged a faster lockdown and encouraged the scientists to support the closure of pubs and restaurants.

Wikipedia.

On the latter,

Johnson’s Top Aide Pushed Scientists to Back U.K. Lockdown. (Bloomberg).

April the 28th.

Boris Johnson’s most powerful political aide pressed the U.K.’s independent scientific advisers to recommend lockdown measures in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, according to people familiar with the matter.

…….

Speaking on condition of anonymity because the meetings are private, the people said Cummings asked why a lockdown was not being imposed sooner, swayed the discussion toward faster action, and made clear he thought pubs and restaurants should be closed within two days.

Here

Written by Andrew Coates

May 23, 2020 at 9:04 am

Soon-to-be-father of his 6th Child George Galloway’s Workers’ Party in New Campaign.

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Soon-to-be-new Father Galloway Appeals to Those Disillusioned with Labour.

Who’s not sick of ” clean air cycle lanes lesbians gays transexuals genders..” ?

The Workers Party is unequivocally committed to class politics. Though the fashion of the times is to divide working people along identity lines, we seek to unite them, based on their shared class interest. It is not ‘homophobic’ or ‘racist’ for socialists to focus their attention on those contradictions that concern the whole working class in its struggle for socialism. While being totally opposed to discrimination on grounds of race, sex or sexual proclivity, we declare that obsession with identity politics, including sexual politics, divides the working class.

Introducing the Workers Party LEADER: George Galloway :: Deputy leader: Joti Brar

What progressive patriot cannot agree that the British people should be rid of a “unemployed feckless rump living off cheap imported food and the plastic-electronic consumables of global capitalist anarchy”?

Disillusioned supporters of Rebecca  Long-Bailey are said to be flocking to the Galloway-led Workers’ Party of Britain,

Now comes this happy news….

Firebrand politician George Galloway to be dad again at 65.

The Daily Record reports.

The Scots former MP is expecting a baby with his fourth wife, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi, who is 30 years his junior.

The baby is due in the summer and will be the couple’s third child together and Galloway’s sixth in total.

Galloway posted a photograph on social media of his wife sporting her pregnancy bump after she attended a 20 week scan.

Galloway has not let his joy stop him from campaigning…

Galloway’s Workers’ Party of Britain is on the rise:

You can see why!

The Party has appealed to the “mob” to attend:

Coronavirus looms.

But, help is at hand:

Background:

Birth of the Workers party

The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) welcomed the announcement made by George Galloway in the days following the general election.

This formation of the Workers Party of Britain (WPB) represents a genuine effort to break a section of workers away from the stranglehold of the Labour party, which has once again shown itself incapable of leading the British working class to socialism.

The Corbyn period of leadership was the period which should once and for all kill off the myth that with a ‘socialist’ at its head the Labour party can deliver for working people.

Though communists may recognise the truth of the above statement, as yet thousands of well-intentioned workers do not. These sections of the working class are unable to take the necessary steps alone; they need to be guided, as any student must, in drawing out the necessary conclusions from their own practical experience.

The Workers party has the potential to assist in this process, which is of historical importance for the British working class.

Lalkar extends its congratulations to the CPGB-ML and to Joti Brar, one of CPGB-ML’s vice-chairs, who was elected the deputy leader of the Workers Party of Britain at its founding congress. This meeting also elected a large 40-person members council with strong working-class representation.

….

More than ever, the political analysis of Marxist-Leninists is needed by workers in Britain. Our job is to defend principles whilst wedding Marxism to the workers.

We hope that all those whose left-social-democratic illusions now lie in tatters will join the Workers Party as a positive step towards their total political redemption; there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance

More to follow:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 11, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Morning Star, “recycled fragments of the ultra left now line up with the main vehicles of the Labour right wing and much of the liberal and neoliberal media.”

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Image result for ultra leftism in britain Betty reid

Be Alert: Keep a Copy of this Handbook Close at all Times!

The leadership contest has revealed new contours in Labour’s ideological topography. Nick Wright.

 

(5 Retweets).

The former Straight left stalwart writes in the Morning Star, independent of the Communist Party of Britain and owned by the Co-op.

This article may be seen as a response to the Guardian column, The Labour leadership contest has exposed new factions in the party ( ).

Sharper than a serpent’s tooth was this section,

 The orthodox left still basically wants to implement the Communist party’s 1951 plan, The British Road to Socialism, with its vision of socialism being implemented in one country by a strong, centralised national government. They lean heavily towards a pro-Brexit position, while tending to interpret support for Brexit among working-class voters as incipient class consciousness rather than tabloid-inspired xenophobia.

Followed by,

The radical left is still a very new, fragile and inexperienced tendency that has a long way to go before emerging as a mature political formation. It brings together the more libertarian strands of the hard left, the more radical strands of the soft left, and a new generation of activists from outside the traditions of the Labour party.

Wright makes a clarion call for the whole of the left to support Long-Bailey, and follow the doughty progressive patriot for better reasons than the (official) left who back her, “mainly out of sheer loyalty to her mentor, John McDonnell, that most of the radical left have supported her.”

He aims to dampen down this deviation:  “Privately, many on the radical left agree with former MP Alan Simpson that the dogmatic and authoritarian tendencies of the orthodox left smothered the creative and democratic potential of Corbynism, contributing to its eventual downfall.

The Communist Party of Britain sage writes of Labour’s General Election Campaign.

The disparate elements that Corbyn’s election united has ended and the wide legitimacy that Labour’s radical programme commanded is now challenged by people who attribute the election defeat to “socialist policies” which must be abandoned.

With the help of ace-reporters Wright discovers that Labour was, at one point, on the brink of victory,

…. a wave of popular participation, an effective social media operation, skilled targeting of swing seats and a bold manifesto (along with the divisions in the Tory ranks and a weakened Liberal Democrat Party) produced a surge in support that eroded a 20-point Tory lead and took Corbyn within a few thousand votes of No 10.

We may not have noticed that, but he did!

The fault lay in a failure to respect the decision to respect the Brexit vote, something which Wight and his comrades tirelessly campaigned for.

Instead of becoming a springboard for a further assault on a divided ruling class — this itself apparent in a highly conflicted Tory Party in government — this hopeful prospect was dissipated as Labour’s activists and mass base were sidelined by a parliamentary party intent on subverting the clear decision to respect the referendum result.

Worse was to come,

Labour (was)  corralled into an increasingly Get Brexit Undone policy, the way was open for Labour’s manifesto to be driven to the margins of public discussion.

The People’s Vote campaign, a middle class mass movement, had sown confusion in Labour ranks.

The success of the Remain camp in conflating “internationalism” with a kind of shared European privilege to travel, study and work freely threatens to undermine the deeper internationalism that found an expression in the mass movement against neoliberal trade deals, in the Stop the War movement, the anti-racist and solidarity action with refugees and migrant workers and the Palestine solidarity movement.

The kind of internationalism that has stood by while Assad, Russia and Iran,  attack Idid in Syria, in short.

Remain, unlike Boris Johnson and the ERG, had a “neoliberal project.”

Worse the pro-EU side has  echoes of fascism, foretold in  ” manifesto of Oswald Mosley’s postwar racist revival”.

He cites Gilbert (above), without mentioning (surely an oversight),  the passage of the British Road to Socialism,

It is to Jeremy Gilbert, professor of cultural and political theory at the University of East London, that we owe the insight that the leadership contest has revealed new contours in Labour’s ideological topography and that the only way for Labour to win is to ditch “Labourism.”

Writing about Labour’s so-called “soft left,” he writes: “Despite the failures of both Kinnock and Miliband, their default assumption remains that progressive government can be achieved by selling moderate social democracy to the electorate, led by a guy in a smart suit.”

Worse is to come….

It is to this inspiring standard that the recycled fragments of the ultra left now line up with the main vehicles of the Labour right wing and much of the liberal and neoliberal media.

The Morning Star writer has a warning to them:

While it might suit some to reduce much of politics to the clash of cultures, no-one should underestimate the political potency of questions of nationhood, patriotism and identity.

As in progressive patriotism.

Cde Wright ends with a stirring call for unity behind the banner of the “Orthodox Left”-  including these “recycled fragments”, supporters of a neoliberal project, who admire something with the odour of Oswald Mosley “?

A dog-eared copy of Betty Reid’s, ‘Ultra Leftism in Britain’, (1969. CPGB) would surely show the dangers of the “ultra left” in their true light.

The Blair Government Reconsidered. Jon Davis, John Rentoul. Review: Blairism Rehabilitated?

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Image result for The Blair Government Reconsidered. Heroes or Villains?

 

The Blair Government Reconsidered. Heroes or Villains? Jon Davis, John Rentoul  Oxford 2019.

“Will New Labour in retrospect be judged to have failed for the same reasons that Very Old Labour failed in 1929 – 31, namely a refusal to break with current economic orthodoxy?”

Eric Hobsbawm. Marxism Today. November/December 1998. (‘The Death of Neoliberalism’).

In a special one-off, titled Wrong, the Editor of Marxism Today, whose End had been announced in 1991, wrote, “New Labour did not usher in a new era but more properly belongs to the previous one.” Martin Jacques was followed by other heavyweights. Stuart Hall stated that, “Labour has been quietly seduced by the neo-liberal view that, as far as possible, the economy must be treated as a machine; obeying economic ‘laws’ without human intervention”. In words that resonate today about those now asserting the need to attract pro-Brexit voters, and the “Somewhere” people he asserted that Blair’s “key constituency in the run up to the election was ‘Middle England’ – a profoundly traditionalist and backward looking cultural investment.”

In reply Geoff Mulgan defended the “open” debate about the Third Way, synthesising centre-left traditions, and Labour commitment to practical radical reform. Citing Walter Benjamin, the Demos director complained about intellectual “peaceful negativity” – endless carping from the outside. History had moved on, and Blair’s “permanent revisionism” was the future.

Accusations of resurrecting New Labour, of “Blairism” have been anything but part of a serene critique in Labour’s present day leadership contest. Voices outside Labour, relayed within, predict a defeat for the left in the wake of a Keir Starmer Armageddon. Party democracy, in the view of the Socialist Party and the SWP and some claiming to be on the Labour left, has been thwarted; the ‘Blairites’ have not been purged. A historic defeat looms. The time has come again to mobilise outside the Party….

New Labour in Power.

In these conditions is there space for an in-depth account of New Labour in power? Discussion of what ‘Blairism’ actually was, and what remains of it could hardly avoid this. Davis and Rentoul, who teach on “the Blair Years” at King’s College, begin The Blair Government stating, that Tony Blair was “the political colossus in Britain for thirteen years after he became leader of the Labour Party in 1994. He was prime minister for ten years, second only in length of service to Margaret Thatcher (11 and a half).” Yet, as they note in the conclusion, “Much of the difference between Blair and Thatcher is explained by how much they are regarded by supporters of their own party, Where Blair is reviled by many Labour voters, Thatcher is revered by Conservatives.” (Page 300) By contrast, “The purpose of this book is to assess criticisms of him and his government in a dispassionate way…”(Page 2)

The first thing that strikes the considered reader is that The Blair Government is, far too much for the politically committed reader, focused on “government works” and “how Blair run his administration”. The charge that the Prime Minister accepted the ‘Thatcher consensus’ that privatised nationalised industries, utilities and transport, introduced anti-trade union laws, and the modelling of public services after private business practice. There is little on the role of the Labour Party itself. There is nothing on the international difficulties and evolution of social democracy, which some began to compare with New Labour at tis zenith The book focuses on the “conduct of government”, issues such as Prime Ministerial versus Cabinet government, “sofa government”, the Civil Service faced with an increased role of Special Advisers (‘Spads’), that occupy this account of the nuts and bolts of Blair’s time in office. (1)

The relationship between Blair and Gordon Brown is of interest to any biographer. The independence of the Bank of England and its relationship with the Treasury gets in-depth treatment, as does Brown’s partnership with Ed Balls. . The critics’ charge of economic orthodoxy rang and rings true. In this field, PPS, Public private Partnerships, rightly attacked for critics on cost grounds and as a “hallway house to privatisation” is considered in terms of “mobilising private funds for public purposes”. (Page 224). Brown’s project, Davis and Rentoul note, was in line “redistributive market liberalism. A significant role of government is to remedy market failure in areas such as healthcare, not to intervene in the foundations of the economy (Page 227).

 

The Third Way.

The Blair Government does not discuss the Third Way, the social-ism, adapted to the “new capitalism” that Tony Blair, or at least his supporters, spun during his years up to government and in power. There was the emphasis on “community” sometimes drawn from communitarian political philosophy, more often from homely speeches about balancing rights and obligations, “mutual responsibility”. One responsibility dominated. People needed to be equipped with skills to compete on the global market; there should be “equality of opportunity” for the aspirational to succeed. The welfare-to-work New Deal, outsourced to private providers, fell short of offering quality training and opportunities to the majority of its clients. If the minimum wage and tax credits helped the low-paid, this – undeniably important help – went with the idea of improving individuals’ market capacity within an “open economy”. (2)

The difficulty was not only that this strategy was bound to skirt around forces pushing rising inequality, a world wide trend left-wing writers link to finance driven ‘neo-liberal’ globalisation. Public services had been kept going, even expanded in some areas, although its higher reaches became subject to stiff fees. When the “dynamism of the economy” faltered, and “boom and bust” reappeared in the 2008-banking crisis, the period of Gordon Brown’s Premiership that followed this study’s focus, these measures teetered on the brink. Eric Hobsbawm’s warning proved right as orthodoxy, with the aid of a bit of bank saving, prevailed, austerity began. The bulk of policy initiatives, or tinkering, proved not to be structural, lasting, reforms. Whatever trace of equality they had sustained vanished quickly with the return of the Conservatives to power. Schemes for sanction-ruled and pared down welfare amidst the expansion of precarious employment have erased their memory. Brexit has set in train a new form of free-market rule, national neoliberalism, backed by Boris Johnson’s national populism. 

Davis and Rentoul are more forthcoming on the Iraq War. Regardless of the merits of the decision to play a full part in the invasion of Iraq, Blair acted out of “deep conviction”. He gave public support to President Bush. The issue of ‘humanitarian intervention’, one that preoccupied many people on the left at the time, is ignored. What counted is that it could be seen as poor policy, “on planning for the aftermath, he failed to consider how badly it could turn and…If a fraction of the intelligence effort devoted to weapons of mass destruction had been devoted to war-gaming the results of toppling Saddam, a better decision might have been reached.” (Page 280) Or it might not…..

The Blair Government Reconsidered  is a fluent, accessible study. That said, if there’s anything that all the candidates for the Labour leadership have noted is this, the Blair years claim that “What matters is what works”. New Labour’s package of policies, though not without electoral victories that should make us pause, did not, as a whole, work.

 

***********

(1) The Retreat of Social Democracy. John Callaghan. Manchester University Press.  2001

(2) Alex Callinicos. Against the Third Way. Polity 2001.