Posted by Jake on Saturday, July 25, 2015 with 4 comments | Labels: Article, Big Society, elections, Labour, MP, politicians, the government
The state is the most powerful player in a democracy. Why? Because the state makes the rules. The question is not whether the state is the most powerful, but whether it has the will to exercise its power. And that depends on who controls it.
Britain can be seen as comprising two main constituencies:
a) the minority who control the nation's wealth and revenue
b) the majority, who depend on the minority to deliver their fair share
Traditionally the first is represented by the Tory party, and the second by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. Traditions break, and party names change, but the two main constituencies have endured for centuries across the World.
When in control of the State the Tories tend to restrain it, leaving the private minority with more freedom. Labour tends to strengthen it. People vote depending on whether they trust the Tories and the benevolence of the powerful few or whether they need the power of the state wielded by Labour to get their fair share.
Although in this blog we take pot-shots at politicians, we understand that they are no more appalling than anyone else. A child in a peddle car is just as foolish as a child steering a motor car. The difference is not in the child's foolishness but in the consequences. Far more damage results from a crash in a cortina than a gong in a go-cart. Politicians are no more foolish than any other group, but the consequences of their foolishness tend to be greater. When one government party's foolishness is fully exposed, usually after two or three terms, the other party can return to power and bring back some balance. Until the other party's own foolishness becomes apparent, and they in their turn are booted out in an election. The inevitable arrogance of power, whether from left or right, needs a check and a balance.
Tony Blair, undoubtedly a successful politician measured by his personal attainments, removed that check and balance by converting Labour to New Labour. Blair should have been a Tory politician. But being an exquisite strategician in pursuit of his own interests he knew he would be just one of the herd in the Tory party. There would be no easy route to ultimate power for himself, scrabbling with his political siblings. However in the Labour party he could differentiate himself, just as a fox can differentiate itself in a hen house. Blair stole the Tory clothes by dressing New Labour in them. New Labour allowed the private sector to do as well, civil liberties as badly, the rich to get as filthy rich, and the financial services to plunder as rapaciously as under a Tory administration.
Was this a good thing? Electorally for senior individuals in the Labour Party it was, bringing them many years of power with all the ministries and patronage that come with it. But for national politics, the country was left with a "Tory" Labour government with a "Tory" Tory opposition. The Tories had moved to the right leaving space for Blair to move Labour away from the left. Leaving nothing of substance on the left other than a few individuals crying in the political wilderness.
Blair was a very effective CEO. Had he been a Tory PM he would have been a great asset to the country. As a Labour PM, he left the country without an effective opposition.
Tribal antipathy required the Tories to "oppose" Labour through the Blair/Brown years. But the Tories were bewildered, throwing punches at policies they wished they had thought of. If the Tories had been deeper thinkers, they could have undermined New Labour far more effectively by praising them instead of trying to bury them. Had the Tories voted with New Labour in 1997-2010 for what were de-facto Tory policies they would have shattered New Labour as effectively as the Liberal Democrats were broken by voting with the Tories in the 2010-15 coalition.
There are those who say Labour won't win power unless it moves to the centre. Britons seem to prefer to trust benevolent rich people over an obstinate state. So Labour's chances of power, ministries, patronage and perquisites would be greater if they were Tories.
But even if Labour may be less likely to win power from the left, Labour will certainly not win power if it becomes Tory. By becoming Tory, the Labour Party would extinguish itself in all but name.
Britain needs a Tory Party and a Labour Party. The Tories should promote private enterprise, and Labour should protect the welfare state.
The rich will tend to be benevolent so long as that is the best way for them to stay rich. Labour achieves its purpose not only by being in power, but by the threat of being voted into power. When the rich forget their benevolence, Labour is the stick the voters can pick up to remind them.
Career politicians want to be in government, which is a good thing. But when their careers become their primary objective, they will become whatever they need to to improve their personal prospects.
Tory (no typo here) Blair showed how well this worked by becoming the Labour leader. One can't blame people for pursuing their careers. But their careers don't mean anything to the rest of us. Did anyone, apart from their mums and their business connections, vote for Andrew This or Angela That so they could have a ministry?
In this respect credit is perhaps due to poor Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. Intentionally or not, Miliband sacrificed his career by not being Tory enough, while Clegg sacrificed his career by being too Tory.
Cameron may see himself as Wellington triumphing against the odds at Waterloo. Which is more true than you might think. Wellington's victory depended on other parties who have been brushed out of the British version of that battle. Cameron's victory owed much to:
a) the Scots voting against the English (who happened to be Labour)
b) the Liberal Democrats having entered coalition to provide political stability after the banking crash proving Oscar Wilde's proverb "No good deed goes unpunished".
Of the candidates on offer in the 2015 Labour leadership race Jeremy Corbyn seems the best choice. Not because he improves Labour's chance of being elected. But because he is more likely to keep Labour as a counterbalance to the Tories, which is good for Britain.