2000s >> 2007 >> no-1239-november-2007

Editorial: Brown’s No Different

One of Gordon Brown’s first actions as Labour Prime Minister was to appoint as trade minister Digby Jones (former head of the CBI and trade unionists’ bête noir). He followed that up with appointments for Alan Sugar (of TV’s The Apprentice) and private equity chief Damon Buffini – who presumably doesn’t need the cash – to something called a Business Leaders Council.

On policy he has promised a raft of meaningless populist measures, including new powers to stop shops selling alcohol to kids (yeah, that’ll work), and more power to hospital matrons to get wards cleaned. Ten thousand laptops have been promised to help police cut down on increasing paperwork (presumably related to all the shops being prosecuted for selling alcohol to kids).

He also cornered the UKIP/BNP vote, making a speech about creating “British jobs for British workers” (which might explain the Digby Jones appointment ?), and still found time in his busy schedule to spend two hours in Downing Street with a previous resident, one Mrs Thatcher. He has of course been even more charitable to the current Tory leader, David Cameron, recently giving home to most of his policies.

So is there anyone left who really thinks that the Labour Party is different from the Tory Party ?

The Labour Party was not invented by the capitalist class. But it might as well have been. It offered a superficially attractive gentle path to social change, but has in reality acted for 100 years as a sop to the discontent of its core support in the majority (working) class.

When in opposition it used the language of democracy and freedom, fairness and equality. But its actions when in government throughout the 20th century speak far far louder. Anti-war campaigners gave it their support then watched aggrieved as Labour purchased expensive missile systems, or frog-marched millions into countless wars around the globe. Trade unionists financed it, then stood by as Labour introduced or extended anti-trade union legislation.

More recently, Labour hasn’t really needed to say much at all. No grandiose claims as to how they would nationalise the “commanding heights” of the economy or solve the housing crisis. No taxing the rich “until the pips squeak” For the last 25 years it has been considered enough to simply not be Thatcher, Major, Howard, Cameron… They didn’t put it on their manifestos and election posters but the inspiring message to voters has been “Well we might be bad, but the other lot are worse”.

The convenient explanation is to blame it all on “that bloody man” (Tony Blair) for supposedly hijacking the party. The reality however is that the Labour Party, its means and ends, have long since become discredited. Only the rhetoric has changed in the last 20 years. The Labour Party simply never were socialist: the difference now is that they don’t have to pretend.

Blair came to power on the basis of not being a Tory; he was allowed to cling onto power for ten years by a Party desperate for an orderly succession to let the next great hope take charge.

And so we come to Gordon Brown, minister’s son, radical student and Red Clydeside historian. Will he be any different? Of course he won’t. Do you want to bet?

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