Friday, 2 February 2007

The Farewell tour for Blair

A defiant Tony Blair has said he will not give in to pressure to quit over the cash-for-honours affair. The Prime Minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he hoped the police inquiry would be over "shortly". But he said he intended to "get on with the job," adding: "You will have to put up with me for a bit longer."

I must admit I was listening to this morning, mainly because Blair rarely gives interviews to the heavyweight political interviewers in this country, Humphries, Paxman, Bolton or Snow. Most of the interview was dedicated to domestic affairs (there will be a foreign affairs one in the next few weeks apparently), and it got me thinking about where it went wrong over the past decade for this government, bearing in mind Blair will be in office for 10 years at the start of May.

At the end of the Second World War, British politics had a period of consensus, where for the following 40 odd years the main parties would fight and win elections with manifestos which were left of centre by today’s criteria. Heath tried to break the consensus after winning in 1970, only to be brought down by the miners in early 1974. Thatcher was more successful, bringing in monetarist economic policies. Where Blair comes into the story is that rather than being what Labour leaders had stood for and argued for before, he was pragmatic and tailored the labour message to a still thatcherite electorate, thus creating the current right wing consensus.

However, I feel that you cannot promise low waiting lists for hospitals, new schools & hospitals or a drop in crime without serious investment. Sure the Treasury has put up lots of money (in stealth taxes, heaven forbid that the top rate of tax goes up over the 40% it has bee at since 1988), so why does it feel like crime is still high and that our hospitals and schools are not how they should be. It will be because New Labour has tried to marry old labour ambitions with Thatcherite economics, using PFI and PPP to finance the re-building of local amenities. These have not and will not be value for money in the future.

Like I said earlier, it will be 10 years in May since New Labour came to power, so I suppose this is the first in a few blogs looking back at the Blair years as they come to an end. It will also be 15 years in April since Labour’s last election defeat, the one that influenced Blair, Brown and others that the party had to change radically if it was to win.

Things will only get better. Aye right.

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