Monday, 17 May 2010

Left for Dead

I don't believe that the LibDem/Conservative coalition is a sham, and that Cameron will shortly cast off his mask and emerge as a blood-thirsty tyrant. The bad news is that even so, next week's package of emergency cuts will mark the final demise of the British Left.

We have just lived through a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Left, with neo-liberalism revealed as completely bankrupt, banks and "market forces" universally detested and a feeling in the air that structural change  was finally possible. Yet the Left has failed so comprehensively to grasp this opportunity that the Right's agenda of devastating cuts predominantly loaded onto the public sector has prevailed. Everyone talks as if the deficit is the only important problem, that immediate cuts are necessary. I feel desperately sorry for the BA cabin staff who are set to be the first victims. Any sort of halfway sensible Left could have told them that now is not the time for a showdown, but instead they've been allowed to wander like helpless children into Willy Wonka's elephant trap.

The reason for these failures is not hard to relate, New Labour's incapacitating infatuation with neo-liberal economics which persisted right up until the end and prevented them from saying or doing any of the things that might have effected change - like a Tobin Tax on finance, using its ownership of several huge banks as a battering ram, aggressively threatening the barrow-boys of the markets with default instead of rolling over to them.

Labour will elect a new leader, and he or she may or may not press more radical policies onto the party, but it's too late, because the British public will never forgive the party for flunking this one-off opportunity. As the welfare state is demolished in a gradual and utterly civilised manner over the next five or ten years, they will not be turning back to Labour.

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