April 12, 2008


How did we get here?: After ten years of new Labour in power, the academics and commentators have been taking stock. David Marquand argues that it is the unintended and still unpredictable consequences of its constitutional changes that will be seen as its most damaging legacy (David Marquand, 10 April 2008, New Statesman)

[T]he new Labour regime has been quintessentially conservative with a small 'c'. As Beech puts it, new Labour's overriding aim has been to practise the "politics of dominance" as successfully as Thatcher did. But Blairite dominance differed fundamentally from its Thatcherite predecessor. Thatcher sought to extirpate the legacy bequeathed to her by Callaghan, Wilson, Heath and Macmillan. Blair sought to make Thatcher's legacy a permanent part of the landscape. Both were populists, but Thatcher's populism was the servant of her crystalline vision of reborn market disciplines at home and reborn greatness abroad. Blair's populism was an end in itself. He wanted to dominate in order to go on dominating; he craved popularity in order to be popular.

Of course, the Blair government did not leave Thatcher's legacy entirely untouched. But, except to the eye of love, the economic and social changes it carried through were distinctly small beer. All the great hallmarks of the Thatcher counter-revolution - privatisation, marketisation, centralisation, consumerism, a shrunken public domain and a growing gap between the super-rich and the rest - are still in place. There is nothing surprising, or even particularly shocking, about their survival. They are the hallmarks of renascent capitalism everywhere, from Mos cow to Manhattan. The notion that Blair and Brown could have embraced a vastly different socio-economic model if only they had been braver or more far-sighted belongs to Neverland. (So, of course, does the notion that David Cameron will be able to do so.)

...we arrive at the possibility that Margaret Thatcher, who popularized the Third Way after its test drives in New Zealand and Chile, was more important historically than Ronald Reagan, who died a New Dealer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 12, 2008 6:09 AM
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