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Narcissism writ large

Not another personal memoir, surely.  Apart from the obvious motive of trying to retain a drop of fast-fading publicity, this latest wallowing in an orgy of self-importance in Mandelson’s diaries is yet another painful reminder of the personality-obsessed, policy-vacuous utter lack of ideology, direction and vision of the New Labour years.  It’s almost as though the waste of more than a decade was merely a paver for a largely trite, always self-centred, stream of personal reminiscences.  O Crossman and Crosland, where art thou today?   Why have we descended so far?

It seems inexplicable that the vast movement in the the culture of globalised capitalism, ushered in by Thatcher-Reagan and consolidated in the dominant model of the Washington Consensus, passes almost unmentioned.   There’s not even a post-mortem even though the 2008-10 financial crash and recession marked its very clear demise.   The memoirs are all about how we handled the breakdown and how brilliant we were, but nothing serious about its deep-rooted causes, its meaning, and its replacement by an alternative economic model.

In the turbulent 1970s there were passionate debates about the soul of the Labour Movement, now there is the silence of the graveyard pierced only by these tedious backward-looking self-promotions.     It is extraordinary that today the political landscape is so devoid of ideas, yet the need for a thorough re-thinking of both the democratic and economic fundamentals can scarcely ever have been greater.   We have three main political parties with a largely unanimous narrative, one that is both inadequate and shallow, yet around half the electorate in effect unrepresented by parties clinging to a defunct fundamentalist market agenda with no apparent thoughts on ideological renewal.

What is needed more than anything else today is a clear positive systematic statement of what should replace neoliberalism.   The 1980s counter-revolution against the State has itself been derailed by the excesses of the market in the 2000s.   What is now required is a rebalancing of the role between markets and the State, a reweighting between finance and manufacturing within the UK economy, a recalibration between ‘light-touch’ deregulation/privatisation and excessive intervention within markets, a robust strategy for advancing the new green digital economy, a crackdown on indefensible inequality, and a restoration of the values and ethos of social justice, public service and genuine accountability.

Watch this space for my new book on ‘Power Change: the Road from Neoliberal Capitalism’ at the end of the year.

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