Let us reorder this world around us.
- Tony Blair, 2001
- 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 -
Child Tax Credit,
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.
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".
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..."
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.