In a brief note: For a minute I thought I was going to lose it… too be drifted back to the traditionalist side of the Labour party, which places an overwhelming focus onto the lower paid and away from the other portions of the nation. This is not a note to disparage members with alternative views completely – after all they are still decent and totally principled people whose contributions are utterly valuable to the party as a whole. However the merciless poll ratings, slaughters on the death of New Labour and revivals from Cruddas and others characters harking back to Hardie and Attlee seemed to convince me that New Labour was, well and truly, dead.
I have thankfully performed a u-turn thanks to Mandelson’s excellent speech on how New Labour has to fight back briskly and unashamedly against the reactionary forces of Conservatism, led with vigour by Cameron, Osborne and Gove. He reaffirmed New Labour’s commitment to balancing choice and diversity with a wise and flexible state – the most ideal way of performing politics.
Take it for granted, it was certainly a typical Tory-bashing speech in many ways, but it was packed with the energy, evidence and vigour that made New Labour so exciting in the first place. What made Mandelson’s speech even more impressive was his successful demonstration of one of New Labour’s core values – reshaping the state to contemporary needs – in the fiscal stimulus which has saved this country and the world from diving nose-first down under the deep sea of depression. The fiscal stimulus, which has been effectively emulated by Obama across the Atlantic, was pivotal in rescuing a system so interwoven into our socio-economic fabric that without it, there would have been a crash of business and employment unseen since the 1930s. The most recent memory of a similar contemporary crisis occurring in Britain was the recessions in 1980/81 and 1990-93. In the first wave, the experiment in monetarism was taken to the level of sado-monetarism by the Thatcher government; a decade later, Thatcherite Chancellor, Norman Lamont declared that high unemployment was a “price worth paying” for enduring a recession as deep as that one.
The enduring sign that the Tories have not shifted their skin and ideas is how they still pay tribute to the Thatcher years almost unapologetically, whilst Labour was bold enough to take a break from our history – appreciating what the previous governments of Attlee, Wilson and Callaghan had done, yet we managed to break the old mould of thinking to provide one new and fresh. What’s more – the presence of Daniel Hannan, a vituperative, NHS-hating neo-liberal MEP, as a favourite amongst the grassroots of the Tory party demonstrate how unreconstructed and outmoded socially, culturally, politically and economically they are. Even recent surveys in publications like the Economist of many Conservative Parliamentary candidates’ views predict many are more right-wing and reactionary than the 1992-2005 intakes.
Mandelson’s words are of valuable progression, especially in the face of such reactionary forces.