1990s >> 1995 >> no-1091-july-1995

Editorial: Another Stretch of Hard Labour?

Fifty years ago this month saw the election of the first majority Labour government in this country. Many myths surround the record of this government. In reality, it was a pretty grim experience for workers.

Rationing continued. Strikes were illegal (and strikers were prosecuted). Housing conditions remained appallingly bad (one of the government’s spectacular failures). The nationalisation measures were an irrelevancy for workers that merely changed their bosses and transformed the former shareholders into government bondholders still drawing an unearned income.

Certainly, the National Health Service was a laudable attempt to take buying and selling out of health care, but it was clear that, capitalism having other priorities, it wasn’t going to last. It was in fact the Labour government itself that first breached the principle of a free health service—to find money to pay for rearmament, including a British atom bomb.

As an attempt to humanise capitalism and make it work in the interests of the majority the post-war Labour government was bound to fail. And it did. We shall be chronicling this failure month-by-month in our “Fifty Years Ago” column.

It will make instructive reading, especially as it looks as if there’s going to be another Labour government in a couple of years. Not that this will make any significant difference to people’s lives. Nor that those who will vote it into office will be expecting this anyway. They will be, as they have often been urged, “voting Labour without illusions” Just to get the despicable and corrupt Tories out.

It is clear that a Blair Labour government has nothing, literally nothing to offer workers, except a reshuffle of government personnel. Labour bums on ministerial seats instead of Tory ones.

Lady Thatcher—the other member of the Blair-Thatcher mutual admiration society—says she believes Blair will do what he says. So do we. He will enforce “the rigour of competition” Which is just what those with jobs have been experiencing under the Tories, in terms of increased workloads, speed-ups and redundancies. He will support the “enterprise of the market”. Which in recent years has brought mass unemployment, begging in the streets and homelessness.

At least previous Labour governments waited till they were in power before doing these things. Blair has advanced Labour practice on this matter. He has got his betrayal in first, before getting elected. Who’s for not supporting Labour, with or without illusions?