The Irony of Labour/New Labour


by Shariq
23rd May, 2008 at 8:36 pm    

At a time when ‘Populist’ and progressive politics should have a real chance of succeeding, its ironic that a conservative shadow government led by David Cameron and George Osborne are the faces of change and seen as sticking up for the common man. One only has to look at the potentially huge gains the Democrats could make in November to see the scale of the opportunity.

Supposedly Gordon Brown was the one to make a clean break from New Labour and go back to traditional ‘Labour’ values. Unfortunately this was a lot of spin. The 10% tax fiasco is a perfect illustration of how the Prime Minister tried to further undermine the Labour base and woo middle England by reducing the middle rate from from 22% to 20%.

According to some rough calculations I did, the changes in the tax rates were going to benefit those who made at least £17,000. The fact that there has been such a negative reaction to this is an indication of a number of things.

1) The rise in commodity prices means that those even in the middle income range aren’t as well off as they otherwise would have been.

2) Supposed gains for the people at the bottom of the income scale have been overstated, and the tv show by Peter Snow and his son on the extent of income inequality in the UK are largely accurate.

3) The often derided ‘middle classes’ still have a sense of fairness and were also unhappy at the way in which the 10% tax changes affected those who were least well off in society.

I’m not sure what the solution for Labour is. Getting rid of Gordon Brown right now won’t have any long term benefits. Neither will trying to rush through reforms in health, education or crime as too much meddling has probably made increased investment less efficient (this is the opposite of the blair line that you couldn’t have investment without reform – its counter-intuitive but i think it holds up).

Ultimately, the only way forward is to try and make sure that the Conservative majority in the next parliament is as small as possible and to be thankful that Cameron beat out David Davis in the last leadership election.


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  1. The Irony of Labour/New Labour | Politics in America

    [...] Politics Progressive online radio shows and Florida internet talk radio by Florida Progressive Radio… wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptAt a time when ‘Populist’ and progressive politics should have a real chance of succeeding, its ironic that a conservative shadow government led [...]




  1. Gege — on 23rd May, 2008 at 9:01 pm  

    In my opinion, the problem is Gordon.

    He does not have the gravitas required of a prime minister. Most times, perception is more important than reality. If people dont feel that they have a leader with a vision, they will dump him regardless of the effectiveness of his policies.

  2. Zak — on 23rd May, 2008 at 10:59 pm  

    To quote Paul Merton, “It’s the fundamental tragedy of a man who’s wanted a job for so many years and has got it and found out he can’t do it”

    To be fair, Gordon in another time and age would have been a middling but effective PM, instead he is left with TB’s poisonous legacy, which by his inaction he suddenly is responsible for.

  3. Juggy — on 23rd May, 2008 at 11:29 pm  

    “Ultimately, the only way forward is to try and make sure that the Conservative majority in the next parliament is as small as possible and to be thankful that Cameron beat out David Davis in the last leadership election.”

    The last part of that comment, i completley disagree with. The obvious case of Brown, lacking the appeal, personality, charisma to be a party leader, is exactly the failing that would have landed on David Davies, who is the same mould of Cameron.

    That thinly veiled attack on Cameron is poposterous. This is a man, who was looking at another defeat, just 12 months ago, according to the polls, yet it was HIS initiative and ways that led to Brown making his first mistake, and losing all credibility; namely the election that never was. His speach at the conservative conference last year was nothing short of breathtaking, challenging the leader to take him on. And brown ducked the challenge.

    Obviously, the big talk of Cameron, is he doesn’t have many concrete policies, or talk of them. But as a leader you can’t disagree with his approach. Labour are killing themselves, all the conservatives need is a leader who can keep them together, without anything majorly controversial happening, and they have power. Yet he is critised for this approach? Give me a break.

  4. Juggy — on 23rd May, 2008 at 11:33 pm  

    Tony Blair, despite his problems, the Iraq war, still took Labour to 64 seat election win, STILL a great win.

    Yet Brown, is going to take them to defeat. Not just a defeat, but a massive crushing blow. He has single handedly ruined the Labour party. Obviously, i can’t wait for the excuses to follow, that it was all Tony Blairs fault.

  5. Shuggy — on 24th May, 2008 at 3:32 am  

    Getting rid of Gordon Brown right now won’t have any long term benefits.

    This is the wrong way around: Labour MPs, members and supporters should ask themselves the question as to whether keeping Gordon Brown has any long-term benefits. I think the answer is unequivocally that there are none whatsoever.

  6. Leon — on 24th May, 2008 at 3:33 am  

    George Galloway said it best; Blair and Brown are two cheeks of the same arse.

  7. Piggy — on 24th May, 2008 at 11:08 am  

    “[Brown] has single handedly ruined the Labour party”

    Woah there.

    Prior to Brown taking over, Labour had been behind in the polls since April 2006. In the last few months under Blair we’d flatlined at around 30-31%, under Brown we’ve only dipped below this line twice, in March and May. In fact, in April Guardian/ICM had us only 5 points behind, under Blair we hadn’t been that close since September 2006.

    I’m not saying that Brown hasn’t screwed up and I’m not sure if he’s got it in him to get us out of this mess but to say that Labour’s decline is entirely down to him is pretty daft.

  8. MaidMarian — on 24th May, 2008 at 2:06 pm  

    Shariq –

    It is an interesting article, but I am not altogether sure I agree with parts of it. Three thoughts – all purely personal.

    1) ‘Gordon Brown was the one to make a clean break from New Labour and go back to traditional ‘Labour’ values.’ The only place I ever got that impression from was the media. Granted, lots on the left probably WANTED to believe it and had their disappointment compounded, but I am not convinced that was ever much more than media hype.

    2) You seem to be making assumptions here that Cameron would have handled issues differently. I honestly could not see a Conservative government handling Northern Rock much differently for example. $135 oil is a problem and a big one for anyone confronting it. I believe (though I may well be wrong) that Cameron ducked questions about 10p tax rates in Crewe.

    3) You talk about wooing the middle class. Head over to Daily Telegraph land and you will find their talkboard chatterati blathering on about Brown and New Labour as Marxists taking money and handing it to an underclass. Maybe the middle classes votes are now elsewhere?

    To my mind the whole episode about the abortive 2007 GE was wildly overblown – but that’s a different story.

    I may well be wrong, but to me the Cameron vote looks to me rather like votes for Blairism without Blair and the baggage that inevitaly accrues after 10 years of government. I certainly struggle to see much appetite for ‘traditional labour values’ on the part of the electorate.

  9. harpymarx — on 25th May, 2008 at 6:48 pm  

    The major problem with the LP is that democracy has ceased functioning. If Brown is got rid of then it will be an inevitable coronation of some favoured NL apparatchik. No debate, no real challenge, no contest. I think Brown should go and that there has to be a proper debate in the LP. There should have been a proper leadership contest last yr but the spineless PLP capitulated to Brown.

    If Brown stays in office then Labour can kiss the next election goodbye. The NL project has failed and run out of steam yet they will continue to pursue the dead end politics of this failed ideology where Brown was main architect (“triangulate, triangulate, triangulate”).

  10. Golam Murtaza — on 25th May, 2008 at 7:01 pm  

    Not STRICTY on topic, but related. I think. Good piece in the finance section of the Yorkshire Post on Saturday. (May 24)
    Research by YouGov has revealed that four in every 10 of the UK’s working population could not survive beyond ONE MONTH on their savings alone.

    The figures also state that 53 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds would not be able to surive for more than a month on their savings.

    Also, apparently 19 per cent of the UK population does not save at all.
    Disturbing….

  11. Golam Murtaza — on 25th May, 2008 at 9:09 pm  

    Bloody hell, SURVIVE, not ‘surive’.

  12. shariq — on 26th May, 2008 at 2:40 pm  

    Juggy – How was I attacking Cameron? Also he only got the majority because the economy was doing better and Brown went out and campaigned with him.

    Maid Marian – I doubt Cameron would have handled things differently. I just think that it is natural for people to become disillusioned with a political party after so many years in power.

    The example I like to go back to is Canada where even though the economy was doing well, the Liberal government was bought down by scandals.

    Perhaps the 10% tax rate has become an issue because of the way in which the government has dithered?

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