Thursday, May 13, 2010

The fall of New Labour unmourned, unsung

When Tony Blair reformed the creaky Labour Party which had been kept in political wilderness by Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative Party, it seemed that he was heralding not just New Labour but also new politics and that it marked a generational change. He was the first post-World War II-born politician, who has grown up in the counter-culture dominated 1960s and 1970s to assume power. His approach and his language appeared informal, and his style hip. The first major change he brought about was to cut off the umbilical cord between Labour and the trades union. It set the party free to pursue its new politics. Of course, Blair's politics reflected significant changes in the social, and not just the political, landscape. The post-war boom has made the old working class -- proud and feisty -- into a comfort-loving and politically passive if culturally radical middle class. They were ready for the New Labour.
But Blair's new politics soon turned out to be one of style over substance, and then to substance of questionable kind which took shelter behind the cloak of hypocritical style. A major example was Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq and the web of lies he and his advisers spun to justify their impolitic and unethical act. But that was the most obvious one. The seeds of Blair's political dishonesty was there in the very first year after he came to power in 1997 when it was revealed that Formula 1 sponsor Ecclestone had been given exemption from the ban on tobacco advertisements. That was just the beginning of many of Blair's moral slip-ups.
One of the worst contributions of Blair and New Labour to politics was that of spin-doctors. They were the smart-alecky Blair aides who performed the roles of Public Relations agents for their leader. Basically, it was an exercise for rationalising political decisions, for spreading stories against colleagues and rivals and opponents.
And Blair himself went into action with his soundbites, the famous one being his description of Princess Diana immediately after her tragic death as 'People's Princess'. But from there the descent into vulgarity and villainy was precipitous.

New Labour could have survived the electoral defeat but it cannot because it had practiced intellectual deceit as never before and Blair is the chief architect of this evil. Gordon Brown played along with Blair but he did not have his rival's penchant for talking virtue and practicing vice.

Sense of the mandate

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