New Labour Report Card (1997-2010)

Let us reorder this world around us.
- Tony Blair, 2001

A regime review. When attaching responsibility for a social situation to an administration, the question is: how do we distinguish policy effects from bland luck? One can't really place the recession (2007-9) against New Labour; why should they claim credit for. Ecclestone thorny crown. Furthermore, economies are such wildly complex things that one should resist giving anyone much credit for good times - which is not to say that crashes and mismanagement are not the fault of their core financialization.


1. Credible drive towards cultural equality
  • Acknowledgement of institutional racism post-Stephen Lawrence inquiry (1999)
  • Age of homosexual consent equalized (2000) & introduced one for lesbians.
  • LGBT adoption (2005; Scotland 2009)
  • Civil partnerships (2005)
  • Equality Bill (2009); public breastfeeding, magistrates to take up pay discrimination cases
  • Various maligned positive discrimination processes.

2. The first mandatory Minimum wage. (1999, & increasing)
Exactly what Labour has been moving toward for a century. Sticks in my throat a little to, but I have to ambiguate a bit: economists are totally divided over it; the theory dictates that minimum wage is a price floor that creates systemic unemployment. Well, see 3. It absolutely empowers the many, spreads cost of welfare, and we didn't seen any empirical unemployment effects:

3. Unemployment down across the board (As of now)

4. Free, freely available contraception. Statedoms! (2001?)

5. Freedom of Information Act (2000)

6. Bank of England made independent (1997)
"WHAAT?" I hear you say - but doesn't that mean it's an undemocratic institution now? Good.

7. And the other ones quasi-nationalised (2009)

8. Working parent stuff -
Paternity leave,
Child Tax Credit,
Child Trust,
right to flexible hours,
4 weeks paid holiday mandatory...

9. Pensioner stuff
State pension doubled in real terms,
Winter Fuel Allowance,
Targeted social help etc.

10. University admission 40% of young folk, up from 10%?

11. Foxhunting ban (2004)

It polarized urbans and rurals, and the legal distinctions boiled down to pettiness, but. Even a token, ineffectual sanctioning of a bloodsport would have been difficult to see negatively, from this ethical highhorse.

12. Made it illegal to detonate a nuke. (2005)

Yeahhhhh. That kind of casually vandalising, ASBO-nuclear-physicist is now under a real deterrent not to try nuffink.


1. The "Third Way" posturing itself

Centrism can be seen as the only pragmatic way out of a pluralist stalemate. And I'd probably argue this. So: appeal to Trots and reactionaries. Be all things to all folk. See how that goes.

[Epistemic note from 2014: this following bit is rather far from my current view. It is also greeen.

2. Devolution.

Best of this is taking sting out of the argument for full independence, a movement I can't get behind, because it would lead to cultural dilution (via expanded tourism, which would become the centre of the economy once the oil runs dry), an even more right-wing Britain, and international marginalisation (as a simple consequence of being a toty, irrelevant wee thing.)

Scotland just isn't very different from England, and it's hard to imagine we can ever salvage some "genuine" identity out of the commercialized Scotch mist that is left to us.
  • Best argument: Westminster sucks. The Rightful Self-Determination Of A People.

  • Second best argument: Independence would be a decentralization of power that wouldn't get pushed through without something primal like Blood Ties to drive it.

3. The missing Lisbon treaty referendum. (2007)

Whatever you reckon about Europe linking/chaining its arms (Großeuropa ueber alles!), the 2005 Labour manifesto pledged a referendum on the new EU constitution.

4. Smoking ban... (2007)

I don't smoke and dislike being around it, but don't let anyone pretend this is flatly progressive or "draconian".

5. NHS

Well, it's still there.

6. 10p Tax. (2008)

Not a big deal. Hardly nice, but undeserving of the shitstorm it got.


1. The deaths-by-negligence, if not murders, of

~70,000 Iraqi armed-human-beings (the Baath Iraqi Army + "insurgents"),
~40,000 Afghani armed-human-beings (Taliban + "rebels"),
~130,000 - ~230,000 Iraqi and Afghani Unarmed-human-beings ("civilians"),
~5,500 Coalition-approved Afghani armed-human-beings (ASF),
~12,000 Coalition-approved Iraqi armed-human-beings (ISF),
a disgustingly unknown masse of Kurds,
and 450 British armed human beings.
This is one set of tolls where we cannot ever expect the uncertainty to fall below three sigma. No, really, you could halve or multiply-by-five any of the non-British ones. "We don't count the enemy death count." Nor the "collaterol" one.

BLATANT PRO-BIAS: http://www.icasualties.org/
BLATANT ANTI-BIAS: http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

What do you count here? That the "domestic" violent murder rate multiplied by 11 post-invasion? That around a million people exist only within a margin of uncertainty? (We may have got them killed. Dunno.)

And, in fact, how many of these killings can I actually apportion to Blair et al (and Our Democratic People by transitive responsibility)? Given that the US were probably a preemptive cause (would have invaded even if Britain had not been Willing), the number tempers somewhat.

Taking the US Operation Enduring Freedom and the UK Operation Herrick together, the British force was roughly a fifth of the total "Coalition" effort in Afghanistan over the last seven years. And, at the peak of the invasion of Iraq, UK soldiers made up about one sixth of the Crusade aggregate (46,000).

But anyway number of troops deployed is absolutely =/= proportion of killings.

How does one judge a war to have been a success? If some of one's dudes are still alive? (Pyrrhus) If one hears the lamentations of their women? (Conan) If one's values are mostly instilled?

2. Unilateralism, and, worse; shoddy and incompetent unilateralism (2003- )
I am lumping Afghanistan and Iraq in together a bit, though I'm assured that there's a difference between crusades #1 and #2.

Iraq in particular: Blair's 45-minute claim, a laughably padded dossier, the token second UN resolution. A million demonstrators in one location - no matter how led-on, how adenoidal! - utterly ignored. For the relived illusion of Britain's contemporary global relevance.

3. The metapolicy: Tory-Socialism.

The most reprehensible part of the "Third Way" approach is summed up in a Martin Amis quip:
It often seemed to him, moving in the circles he moved in and reading what he read, that everyone in the land was Labour, except the Government.

The "New" in "New Labour" was coined to mark something shaken off: the reduction of economic inequality (a founding tenet of this former worker's movement) as a priority. 'New Labour' is still pretending to be just the 'Labour Party', which explains membership in the (eternally inconsequential) Socialist Internationale.

I dislike the word "neoliberal"; much like the word "bourgeois" when used as an adjective, it's a highly corrupt and lazy way to describe anything. And yet:

- Tax levels fallen from Major government levels
- Regulation of financial sector token
- Private Finance Initiatives and PPP failure led to massive public debt.
- Final Salary Pensions. High Court found the Government responsible for 125,000 defaults.
- "We are intensely relaxed about the filthy rich" - Lord Peter Mandelson, 1998

I'm not (excessively) naive about these things. Political expediency means that no country, no matter how rich or well-equipped in imperial legacies, can defy the IEO orthodoxy without penalty. And, more particularly, no ally so close to America, "leftist" as the administration purportedly is for now, could defy the Washington Consensus.

Well, you might say, why should they defy it?

The flipside of economics making me wring my hands about minimum wages is that I've seen the numbers about free markets, in particular market failure, and don't buy in.

Well, you might say, surely all those cleverer men at the Fed and the Chicago School see the same numbers and come up with cleverer ideas.


4. The disc-sanding of civil liberties

The ECHR was set up in the aftermath of totalitarian horror, with the proper understanding experiences of these regimes grants; the opposing of "Freedom" and "Security" is a false one. This is not a genuine trade-off; logically, civil liberties bolster security, by enabling a populace to match and organise and hold to account their government.

It is not the "misuse of legislation" cases - where lawful climate protestors or disabled kids or Walter Wolfgang or grannies out walking in a wood are arrested under the Terrorism laws - that are really the awful issue. A disgusting amount of the following Acts are, fundamentally, mislegislations in the first place.

  • Terrorism Act 2000.
    While one's habeas corpus right is only fuckable for 96 hours, if the police were to get it into their heads that one was some kinda tururist, it becomes 28 days of "precharge detention."
    Powers to detain peaceful protestors, or even anyone around a lawful protest, or even anyone caught being a big nerd. The counterphotography agenda begins.

  • Anti-Terrorism, Crime And Security Act 2001.
    Part 4 was pretty racist, and moreover, incompatible with the ECHR; indefinite detention without charge. (replaced in 2005 with the "control orders")

  • Extradition Act 2003.
    Nothing so objectionable in principle, except that it is almost wholly one-way traffic (Brits to US), and that Britain will extradite citizens to the US without requiring even a prima facie case.

  • Police Reform Act 2002.
    CSOs and other populist-but-useless things, as far as I can see.

  • Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.
    Empowers HS to obtain "control orders" on anyone (that is, to house arrest or tag them & restrict essentially any of their actions and human rights). Indefinite term. Low appeal options. No charges needed. Can work entirely independent of judiciary.

    Admits evidence from extraordinary rendition countries, increases number of closed, "special" court proceedings. This is tacit, or not so tacit, approval of the first ECHR abhorrence; torture, and the delusion that it is effective.

  • Serious Organised Crime & Police Act 2005.
    Provides for the Westminster protest exclusion zone, as well as empowering the Home Secretary to make anywhere in Britain one too. ("Terrorists can smuggle in bombs in protests"). Modifies the Harassment Act; private companies can obtain police-enforced injunctions on any group or individual approaching them even once; this is legal potential for blanket protest repression.

  • Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.
    Illegal to photo police or army in public. 10 years max imprisonment (in practice, ridiculously difficult for them to prosecute with). CSOs don't count tho, snap away at them. "Terrorist register" a la Sex Offenders. Asset seizing. Hold the DNA of control ordered folk.
    Tried to fuck our habeas corpus for 42 days instead of 28. (House of Lords threw it out). Also tried to sneak in secret coroner's inquests.

    Habeas fucking corpus! "Precharge detention".


    And just in case you'd forgotten why you love the Sun newspaper; following the London bombings of 2005...
    "LAWLESS BRITAIN: Britain is crawling with suspected terrorists & those who give them succour. The Government must act without delay, round up this enemy in our midst, & lock them in internment camps. OUR ARMY OF READERS DEMAND..."

5. Raise all boats?

Fuck the obsession about bonuses: that's curtain dressing.

Britain's Gini coefficient (a measure of inequality by which ratio of (a) the area between a country's Lorenz curve and the 45 degree helping line to (b) the entire triangular area under the 45 degree line) stands at 34, which isn't revolting by global standards.

Looking closer at what that crunchy piece of economics means: the richest 10% of the population are more than 100 times as wealthy as the poorest 10% of society. Income inequality is at its highest since WWII, as a direct result of the New Labour policies. At least the Tories never pretended to give a shit.

Why does it matter if some (virtuous/meritorious/rich) people have more than (lazy/stupid/poor) others?

6. Missing House of Lords engineering.

The 1997 New Labour manifesto mooted the end of hereditary peerage, a unique aberration amongst Western democracies. We still now have hereditary peers (92), a speckling of bishops, and hundreds of personally handpicked ones (that is, "Britons of distinction").

As much as the nobility are an awful way to rule anything, at least they were rather more free to dissent in theory. (Yeah, ok, as if).

7. Cash for Honours.

Some businessmen who made secret loans to New Labour prior to the 2005 elections coincidentally got nominated for the new peerages. No issue. CORRELATION DOESN'T IMPLY CAUSATION, FULE. (A criminal investigation led to the arrest of Blair's chief fundraiser Lord Levy, later released.)

8. ID Cards
I understand the libertarian case against them - it's the one for Orwellian horror, right? - and it's overblown. But it's costing £5.7bn and rising, and wouldn't have stopped any of the terrorist plots to date, though its identity fraud and serial offender benefits could mitigate. On balance: Fuck it.

9. Trident renewal
Much like my complaint that Blair-Brown didn't defy the massive multi-trillion-dollar IMF racket on their (our) economic policy, I really am wasting my breath on this: no country, and especially no small country with an imperial ego and international acceptance of its nukes, will stop making nukes. Maybe the Greens, in a sunnier world.

10. Criminalize the world.



11. Tuition fees.

Am Scottish --> Am shutting up.

12. Dr David Kelly.

Included to symbolise the general NL culture of secrecy, political bullying and spin, which we have only Ianucci's "In The Loop" (and now Diaries, Diaries, Diaries) to document. Truth = death.

13. Imported a touch of American celebrity-politik

What am I complaining about? After all, it's just a rare instance of a government actually well-reflecting its contemporary culture.


On The Julian Lethbridge Guestlectures

"Biology rightly protests when alien concepts are imported from other disciplines, such as occurred with the Intelligent Design hoo-hah. But this embargo cuts both ways; God's existence is not a scientific question, and scientific inquiry therein is simply a category error. Do not dismiss from outside without examination from inside. Truth cannot be traced across the borders here; they are exogenous species."

Aberdeen Uni recently ran a series of incredibly poorly-publicised lectures one Dr Julian Lethbridge, (a Spenserian-Wittgensteinian theologian-curmudgeon from the University of Tuebingen).

The umbrella was a Defending the Humanities gig, and the weight of his understanding was properly novel, a little intoxicating. I was in rout for much of the time, trying to sense together his system, the shape of his world.

Here's my attempt to formalise a holist, then. I'll try not to just copy out the notes, though I'm utterly sure I'll miss something critical and straw-man him anyway:

He's a singular man: at each of the four hour-long lectures he pelted the perhaps five folk who turned up with perhaps a thousand ideas pulled from Aristotle, Bonhoeffer, Spenser, Leibniz, Frye, Barth, Barthes, Don McLean, and, centrally, Christ/Wittgenstein. The pelting was to soften us up for the man's ontology, which I'm going to call a Romantic Christian Antireal Plural Logico-Theism until I run out of pigeonholes.

Why He Was Talking:
"The humanities are the study of meaning. They exist, and exist primarily beyond the magisterium of science. They must understand themselves, must defend themselves against the shallow, instrumentalist conception of life that relegates them in the name of cost-efficiency."

How? First: Kill universology. Make the incursion of natural-science methods into the objects of the humanities, and vice versa, a fallacy and a category error.

Second: Affirm a Romantic, yet linguistic basis of existence, with a generous metaphysics. Pretend that you don't need faith in an Abrahamic God for this to stand up.

"The act of Understanding is a self-contained defence of the humanities."


: Each academic discipline must be separate because it has a separate object of study. Theories are incommensurable because they aren't looking at the same thing. (Aristotle)

The differing objects of study have thus led to the development of distinctive methods. Disciplines are autonomous because they use demonstratively different modes of inquiry on their different things and, critically, start from different presupposition.

3: As quantum science has realised, and the humanities are founded on; the observer changes the observed. Object-as-seen dictates method creates object-as-seen.

4: All progress, all constructive thought has been founded on assumption. It is far from unreasonable to make assumptions; the justification is simply that we have no other choice(?) BIG CLAIM: All academia, whether it admits it or not, is foundationalist.

5: Theology does not need to prove the existence of God; he is an exogenous constant, like the reliability of induction or the uniformity of nature is in Physics.

6: For a thousand-and-a-half years our greatest thinkers were primarily (though socially necessarily) theologians; do we mean to say that nothing of general worth arose from this?

Understanding the World As In Itself It Really Is (On History)

Wow. Even from the title you can get a sense of how tricky the path he's walking is.

"The intellect seeks out, seeks to justify, that which it has already accepted. Systematic scepticism is vanishingly difficult - all thanks to the demonized processes of socialization and indoctrination, there."

He works this claim into respectability by arguing the World, entire, to be an Intentional Object. Our current cultural prejudice is to bow to science, and physics in particular, to stand for our World As It Really Is

"Intentionality: Aboutness; The distinguishing property of mental phenomena of being necessarily directed upon an object, whether real or imaginary"

In the crassest sense, a thrown stone is "an intentional object"; some mind's action has imbued it with purpose, op cit: doing your head in. Better: as soon as any object is observed, it is intentionalized, via categorization or representation or even just location.

The "natural" world which the sciences consult with are, in one very significant sense, not natural at all - the mechanical philosophers of the C16th contrived

History is said to be the study of intentionality: the perception, will and consequences of the actions of people. Events in history (as opposed to geology) are given significance by the reactions of minds to them. In this it is a literal reading of Schopenhauer's "The World As Will And Idea", but presumably without much of that'un's entailments.


OBJECT OF STUDY: Intentional objects - the actions/thoughts and consequences of humans being humans.



"The discipline of physics is not physical."

Understanding the World Transformed (On Theology)

What we know now as physics has, from the C17th, developed so as to factor out (or actively subtract) the Divine and the Human from its calculations; and the subject is all the better for it, as we have seen.

But as a result, we cannot count attempts by physics or the natural sciences which have followed its lead to answer theological or intentional questions; the method of physics makes gods and people invisible to it, and has in the past pretended that the human-as-subject can be divorced from the data/theory too.

"A scalpel is a method for dealing with bodies. It cannot see the person it cuts; it obscures the person to deal with the flesh."

What can theology offer the secularist?

Well; the pomp is that it deals with that which the scalpel cannot touch: that which is hidden to perception and sometimes to proof.

"It is, whether our conclusions are true or false, the profoundest study of humanity in terms of its language-ties, its men and women, and its meaning."


[e.g. (Christian) Theology assumes the world to be made of and with love. And what is the first thing to notice about love? It is transformative; it radically alters perception.

"Entering it, one is suddenly aesthetically magnified; the stars are presenting for you alone; birdsong is omnipresent and omnibenevolent. An astounding amount of negative experience becomes perfectly tolerable. There's nothing esoteric about transformation. All those who look closely at the world know this.]


Today, theology is an embarassment, the only subject with less "hardness" and so parent-calming power than philosophy. (Comes from the general Western secular democratic suspicion against godites, I suppose). It used to be "The Queen of the Sciences": for more than a thousand-and-a-half years the greatest minds who ever recorded themselves were primarily (socially necessarily) theologians; do we mean to say that nothing of general worth came from this?

BIG CLAIM: Theology does not need proof of God's existence.
(Though individuals certainly might.)


A god who speaks to humanity.

The theologian assumes so; physics does not concern itself with the logical basis of induction or of nature's continuities, neither does theology with their God.

1. God exists. (as an Abrahamic perfection, usually)
2. Is omnipotentbenevolentiscienct.
3. God spoke in writing.
4. God speaks still.
5. Personal belief is a requisite of understanding this God; it is the mechanism of understanding.

1. If logic were above God, then God would be diminuted, subject to something.
2. Nothing is above God. (Perfection as Highest)
C. Therefore logic does not bind a god like this one.
God is not necessarily logical, can work "above" the logical.

Who can tell me what's wrong here? (Why trust an irrational beastie?) We have other words for that which transcends the logical; "fantastical".


"All disciplines must have a degree of faith. That is what presupposition is."

Which is a bit of a threat really; "if I'm irrational, then so are all of youse!"

Anyway: consider the Credo -

"I believe in God."
"I believe that God exists"

A "Science Credo" equivalent would be

"This is what I see the world as."
"This is the only correct worldview."

"The 'Born Again' or whatever other ghastly person who shrieks "I know God exists!" is being facile, and is simply mistaken. God is attached to via hope, not knowledge."



"...don't work but are still interesting."

Don't see them as proofs - which would after all just be an attempt to tie God down with reason, to patch one's shaky faith with logical security. Aquinas' five arguments can be shown to be something quite different, under a philosophical eye. They can tell us something about how theologians think, if nothing else.

ONTOLOGICAL - "Essence implies existence" (Doesn't work.) Prefigures Descartes' Cogito?

(Gödel's ontological proof, one real purpose of which is to remind us that we don't actually understand the argument)...

TELEOLOGICAL - "World has purpose; implies Intender" (Doesn't work) Lethbridge argued that this "proof" was actually part of the thought process that has so far reached a Evolutionary conception of life - it was an intellectual leap, and necessary.

1.We became able to conceive that some things work on their own (processes w/o Maintainer)
2. We became able to conceive that we can self-determine once created (dropped Aristotle's teleology)
3. We became able to conceive that things may arise on their own (origin of species)

COSMOLOGICAL - "Beginning implies an eternal, immune" (Doesn't work)
(Unmoved Mover + Contingency + First Cause all the same argument?)


"Science cannot analyse its own axioms. Whereas philosophy and theology are slightly larger than themselves..."

He continues here with the line that faith is a feature of all thought, that all academic fields require one to "sign up" or intellectually assent to the foundations of the field.

Philosophy's not really supposed to have foundations per se, though the primacy of rationality, argumentative honesty and our potency in determining meaning are kind of timeless treaties.

What else do we have?
A series of rotten dialectical prejudices, subject/object, aprior/aposterior and so on.
Apart from that, mostly just the fads and contemporaneous flotsam.


"Any diagnosis of the values of any system must take on a degree of sympathy for that system. Otherwise it is a diagnosis only of oneself."

And the "sympathy" that one must have with God is only attainable via personal commitment?

The idea is of "sharing another's object", taking on their semantic as they meant it. It is a kind of trust. (Trust is inductive, earned; faith is given on credit) He used a metaphor, the scholar as lover. Who have you convinced to love you by violence or unkindness?

"There is a limit to what one may do if one is the object or cause of jealousy; for the jealous lover, everything one does is transmuted into misdirected love. It is a vicious and total transformation of the world, the inverse of the other love's action. And you cannot understand that which you hate"


[ Long bit on Logos, the word of God and Wittgenstein here.]


BIG CLAIM: 'Knowledge' in theology is more than head-knowledge.

I sympathize - there's more to life than the crackling lines of deduction - but that's still too mystical for my palate.


Once more now: The disciplines must remain autonomous, must not be led into some reductive alleyway. But they're not competing, for fuck's sake!

They are separate but they obviously share an enormous amount, not least in the limitations that those that conduct them bring to the studies. "Not incompatible, merely distinct!"

Grace, nobility, integrity and hope are not scientifically demonstrable. But it's a mistake to think of them as very less real for this.


LECTURES 3&4: (On Litcrit and On the Humanities):

Anyway; there's lots to disagree with, but it's a fascinating mindset nonetheless. I kind of want to wash my mouth out with some Dennett, however.

  • ERROR 1: Describes History as the study of "the world as in itself it really is". Which requires a very funky epistemology to even begin to ratify.

  • ERROR 2: Claims that physics makes "the human invisible to physics' tools." But much of quantum problems deal with observer issues, cf. Bohr's complementarity, Heisenberg, etc. Perhaps he means that the human condition is not considered as (the humanities find that) it is, but instead as a phenomenon awaiting mechanical analysis, which somehow misses a point about it.

  • ERROR 3: There's a very good - though not binding - argument that if something is "hidden" (not present) to both perception and logical demonstration, it may as well not exist. Lethbridge does suggest that there is a third manner, the "interpretative", second-order perception, but this still can't accommodate so large a boondoggle as Yahweh.

  • "Profoundest study"? If by profound we mean "obscurantist", which does more or less fit. Of course theology is unfalsifiable! Why should it try to be scientific?

  • ERROR 4: "Theology does not need proof" - isn't this what Russell's teapot is about? I'm not sure that you can simply axiomatize this away. (Although, what can't one axiom away?)

  • ERROR 5: Presupposition 5 of Christian theology - that one must buy in to properly "get it" is incredibly self-serving. He justifies it at length - the believer is an anthropologist getting right in about this strange culture, Yahweh.

"The Bible cannot be fully understood without a personal commitment to its God"

No wonder theology's dying.

  • ERROR 6: I'm actually not sure that the disciplines do carve up so neatly, as if names meant total iron-curtain division of object. Take anthropology, which is conventionally thought of as four sub-fields; linguistic A, social A, physical A and archaeological A. This skips merrily past the cultural/natural distinction, which is apt enough for the science that aims to analyse ourselves and what we've been.
Dennett calls theology a "microdiscipline", a subsubdepartment of proper philosophy, pushing his decent, humane belligerence as he usually does.


All this said, I do really like his style and his rigour. I haven't escaped being changed by his emphatic, sensible, sentiment.

"We are born in chains, but eventually, if we are lucky, the words & being of others grant us some partial freedom."