January 22, 2012


Thatcher shaped Labour's left as much as its right (Emma Burnell, 22 January 2012, New Statesman)

New Labour was not the unbroken continuation of Thatcherism that some (even some key New Labour figures) like to argue. Their record levels of investment in the public sector would have been anathema to Thatcher, and they redistributed income in ways she wouldn't have dreamed of. But they did nothing to change the economic paradigm they inherited, instead working around it or using it to their advantage to fund their priorities.

As a result, they also pursued measures that were as fiercely opposed by the left, both in Labour and more widely, as any of those brought in by Thatcher. 

So some on the Labour left have been opposing the Government for over 30 years. That has changed the left and the way we view ourselves and our role in democracy. The question is, is that change irrevocable?

While the left have a long and proud tradition of protest, the modern language of the left has become almost exclusively the language of opposition. Defend, stop, protect. The image of the left has become an image of protest. We march, we chant, we demand.

Since Thatcher, the left have fought to conserve or restore what came before, while the right have imposed far-reaching culture-changing policies. David Cameron's Government have taken up this "everything must change" mantra with alarming force. Within one term of office they will have changed so much of what we expect from government and the state.

If we expect nothing more of a Labour government than to restore damage done by the Tories, we will have allowed Thatcher to steal and pervert the mantle of the progressive. No wonder David Cameron is so comfortable with that crown.

If the left of Labour exists simply to oppose the measures we don't like, we will never convince a democratic majority that a radical, workable alternative to Thatcherism exists. We become the new conservatives - speaking only of protecting and reinstating past glories. 

Not surprisingly, the Right has as much trouble accepting this reality as the Left. The voters throughout the Anglosphere have none.
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Posted by at January 22, 2012 7:09 AM

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