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Opposing New Labour orthodoxy may well be a winner

cardboard cut-out of Margaret Thatcher with speech bubble saying "there is no alternative"What is so striking about the reaction to Ed Miliband’s speech on the Tory/New Labour Right is their sheer disbelief that any alternative to globalised markets and the corporate ascendancy is feasible, such is their belief in the inevitability of unfettered market capitalism. The arrogance of this view takes some beating. The current neoliberal system has produced the biggest financial crash for nearly a century, quite likely the longest economic stagnation since the 1930s (and this time without a war to escape from it), a class inequality unrivalled since the Edwardian age, and an unsustainable industrial decline (last year’s trade deficit was £100bn). The system producing such consequences is financially, industrially, socially bankrupt. The real reason they like to believe in its inevitability is that it’s the source of their own power – and that power is now breaking up.

The second canard they throw at the alternative Miliband vision is that people won’t vote for it. Again the arrogance comes through. Why should ordinary people be so keen to stick with the present system when unemployment is already over 2.5 million and heading towards 3 million or more, the sense of insecurity is rife, wages are flatlining for at least a decade (2005-15) and for many actually falling in real terms, and neoliberalism over the last 3 decades has shifted the share of wages in GDP from 65% to just 52% – a staggering reduction in wage income of £195bn a year. The reason why the Tory leaders, press moguls and New Labour glitterati can’t bring themselves to believe anyone might want to change the system is simply that they have done stupendously well out of it themselves, with the wealth of the richest 1,000 persons having more than trebled since 1997 from £99bn to £337bn (according to the Sunday Times Rich List), even if everyone else has got stuffed.

The electoral evidence speaks volumes. In the decade 2001-2010 Labour voters deserted in droves – a loss of 4 million votes by 2005 and a further million by 2010. Obviously the Iraq war played some part in this steep decline, but people’s biggest reason for abandoning New Labour was the almost universal view that it was no different from the Tories and didn’t represent them. Replacing New Labours unabashed light-touch free market capitalism with an alternative that does represent Labour voters (particularly DE voters where the collapse in Labour support has been the most dramatic) may or may not be a sufficient condition for a Labour victory in 2015, but it is certainly a necessary one.


  1. Syzygy says:

    I think Churchill was similarly in disbelief in 1945. Politicisation by confrontation!

    The pity is that all of this was so predictable in 1979 when Thatcher’s policies started to roll out… the sale of council housing whilst preventing building replacements, the frittering away of North sea oil; the privatisation of the nationalised infrastructure and so on. Every current issue directly tracks back to the election of Margaret Thatcher and her heirs .. Major, Blair, Brown and Osborne. Paradoxically, the Tories condemn red tape but neoliberalism needs vast amount of legislation to maintain the ‘freedom’ of the markets. Real Labour must not be hide-bound by the rules of the IMF and WTO.

  2. Gray says:

    Perhaps the greatest achievement of Ed Miliband so far as Labour leader was his handling of phone hacking affair. The public recognised strong leadership and values as Ed confronted the Murdoch Empire. His actions where distinctive and showed a rejection on New Labour values. I think the new bargain Ed is talking about is vital for economic prosperity. Hopefully once he has fleshed out this concept with actually policy, the critics who simplify it by summing up with ‘good business or bad business’ will be silenced.

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