There are two lefty writers on the net who seem to possess both a genuine wit and a sense of perspective, the estimable Dan Hodges, and the uniquely named Hopi Sen. The latter has written a long piece for Renewal, which makes pretty devastating reading both for Gordon Brown, and for Labour in general. It’s worth reading carefully. A few quotes:
Brown failed as Prime Minister because he, in common with the rest of the Labour movement, had not developed a political or governing strategy that could function in the medium term without the ability to offer extra state funding… Since an inability to promise incremental funding is the political situation we likely find ourselves in for the next decade, the essential political task for the Labour movement is now to develop a social democratic strategy which does not rely on the essential power source of the New Labour period.
…but the critics of Gordon Brown who use Blair’s tenure as their benchmark need to acknowledge that Tony Blair’s instincts may have been against spending in general, but he was often in favour of spending in particular.
Brown faced a re-surfacing of a political problem that has tormented leaders of the Labour Party for nearly fifty years? The problem, simply put, is this. What is a progressive social democratic party actually for, if it is not able to spend more money than in the past? This reading is uncomfortable, because it means we can no longer blame Gordon Brown for the failure of the Labour Party to develop a policy platform that successfully appeals to the British people in an environment unreceptive to an increase in the share of GDP devoted to public expenditure.
New Labour as a project was kept afloat by a tide of cash. Now the flow is the other way, and we seem to want to talk about anything but that. What doomed the premiership of Gordon Brown was that without the ability to use economic growth to fund both low taxes and increased spending, his political choices became increasingly circumscribed. This remains the case for his successor. Until we confront the fact that the New Labour fiscal settlement is dead, we will not be able to build a political position to replace it.
And there’s a lot more. I’m not claiming that the article is a bag of laughs, it isn’t. It is however the most realistic exposition that I’ve seen of the disaster of the Blair/Brown government, viewed by one of their own.
Sen’s basic thesis is shameless: Labour is all about spending (your) money. Redistribution is all it has ever done, and right now it’s not offering an alternative, even though there’s no money left.
He also makes the entirely correct point that Blair is as guilty as Brown of wrecking the UK economy, a point emphasised elsewhere by the prescient Jeff Randall. Blair spent like mad all the funny money of the early noughties, and while he may claim he spotted economic trouble ahead (he genuinely does claim this), he did sod all about it. He entirely lacked the balls to sack Brown when he was out of control.It confirms the Knife view that for this reason alone, never mind Iraq, Blair wins the worst prime minister of the past 200 years award fairly effortlessly.
The article isn’t perfect, with the usual specious rubbish about Brown’s “heroic” bank rescue where he poured away billions by refusing to let capitalism take its course, but it’s really pretty insightful.
Ed Miliband should read and digest it very carefully. I hope he doesn’t.