Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Blair years

The swearing in of Gordon Brown as British Prime Minister is seen by both the Labour left and the Tories as being positive.
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The Labour left, feeling burnt by 10 years of Blair (forgetting they experienced 18 years of opposition in a row prior to Blair) is champing at the bit to have more government and more spending of other people's money, and backing off from the relationship with the USA, but happily going along with the growth of Brussels.
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The Tories see Brown as less charismatic and less fleet in his speaking abilities compared with Blair, and easier to contrast with David Cameron. Unsurprisingly the Tories are calling for a general election, you know, like they never had when John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher.
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Both, I believe, are wrong. However, before reflecting on what the Brown premiership might look like, it is worth considering the pluses and minuses of the Blair years:
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POSITIVES
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1. Amended Clause IV of the Labour Party constitution which once called for nationalisation of "the means of production, distribution, and exchange" to a far softer statement of belief in solidarity, and having power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many not the few. In effect, he cauterised the Marxist wing of the Labour party.
2. Took a strong line against the warmongering Milosevic regime in Bosnia and Kosovo.
3. Stood side by side the USA in fighting Islamism and supporting the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein and Taliban dictatorships.
4. Granted independence to the Bank of England (albeit a Gordon Brown initiative).
5. Facilitated peace in Northern Ireland (not half helped by the withdrawal of much US private funding for the IRA though, and mitigated by the early release of out and out criminals).
6. Liberalisation of laws allowing civil partnerships, and other measures removing state barriers to treating gay/lesbian/transgender people on an equal basis.
7. Supporting more private provision of healthcare and education, including trust schools having far greater autonomy. A small step towards proving that state provisions doesn't satisfy everyone.
8. Introduction of tertiary tuition fees, at last rescuing most UK tertiary institutions from funding impoverishment and ongoing demand from those who are less than enthused about their studies.
9. Personal commitment, in general, to liberal democracy and the values of Enlightenment society, over Islamism.
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NEGATIVES
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1. Instituting a culture of spin, surrounding himself with advisors that end of providing filtered advice. Preferring style over substance.
2. Establishing the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies and Executives, helping to cement socialist government in both "countries", and the higher levels of state funding per capita for Wales and Scotland, relative to England- and the ongoing relative impoverishment of both as their economies rely more and more on the state.
3. Establishing the Greater London Authority and Mayoralty of London - another expensive layer of government in London, with an authoritarian Mayoral role. The result is that London has a lunatic leftwing Mayor hellbent on doing deals with dictators and penalising road transport more out of ideology less than economics.
4. Millenium Dome. Classic example of a big government project, too expensive and a white elephant for far too long.
5. Cash for honours, disgrace pure and simple. The word begins with "C".
6. Supporting the evangelical rise of environmental puritanism in the UK, with councils fining people for throwing away envelopes in rubbish bins as they walk out the front door or for NOT recycling material that may not even be recyclable in the first place. The biggest ethical crimes in the UK today could include flying, driving, not recycling newspapers and not buying fairtrade organic locally produced whatever!
7. ASBOs instead of genuine law and order. Allowing the Police to avoid protecting the public and prosecuting people effectively, and avoiding building enough prisons, instead giving people orders to not do things because they are anti-social. A distraction from core government responsibility, and as a result prisons are overcrowded because of inadequate provision, and also due to ....
8. Inexorable growth in nanny state laws that prohibit more and more personal behaviour, and allow more and more state monitoring of individuals with little accountability, culminating in...
9. Support for national ID cards - the tool of the authoritarian state, to make the state's business of taxing, subsidising, regulating and compelling people more efficient. Britain has more CCTV cameras per head of population than any other country.
10. Signing off the new EU Treaty which grows the Commission and role of the EU over the UK. Selling out some sovereignty for no good reason, without a mandate to do so.
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I probably could never have voted for a Blair government, had I been allowed to vote here. However, by and large, the Blair government's record is briefly summarised as being:
- Status quo on economic management (following Major);
- Pro-Western civilisation on international policy;
- Mildly submissive to the EU bureaucratic/ Franco-Italian-German agenda of big government;
- Mildly more market in social policy;
- More authoritarian in terms of civil liberties, individual freedoms and approach to law and order (except where it counts).
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I could say he has failed miserably to confront a wide range of problems in Britain, but would John Major have done much better? Unlikely. Will Gordon Brown? Highly unlikely. Would David Cameron? Well, except for perhaps more market in social policy, taking a tougher stance on the EU and opposing ID cards, there isn't much to choose from.

3 comments:

Uroskin said...

You downplay the economic and fiscal policies resulting in Murdoch still paying no tax on his UK income, and private equity fund owners paying less tax than the cleaning ladies of their offices, according to The Economist.
But perhaps you find the protection, preservation and promotion of Londongrad and Londonistan big positives instead.

Anonymous said...

Scott - if you're a citizen of a Commonwealth country, and resident in the UK, you *can* vote.

libertyscott said...

Anonymous, my point was I wasn't resident here during the 2005 UK election, I'm on the UK electoral roll now.

Uroskin, I wont defend the loophole ridden tax system, which would be more effective if rebates and other discounts were removed, and it was simpler and lower. The best thing I can say about Blair is that, at the most fundamental level, he could defend Western civilisation on principle against Islamists. For that he is light years ahead of most of his colleagues.