Blair 1997I am very tired of the labels used in the Labour Party to categorise people. You are either supposed to be a Blairite or Brownite, a reformer or a loony leftie etc. Further, these labels tend to be assigned by association rather than through any logic or sensible rationale. A comment in this direction in reply to my post about the Compass conference here stung me into action – if I’m so opposed to the categorisation, let me at least try to lay out what I like and dislike about what the Labour government has done. Here’s my list so far:

IN FAVOUR
– Tax credits, efforts to eliminate child poverty
– Community policing, community support officers
– Investment in junior schools
– Massive funding increase for the NHS
– Devolution
– Public smoking ban
– Foxhunting ban
– Independence of the Bank of England
– Excellent management of the economy
– Investment in railways and public transport
– Efforts to get government services online
– Military intervention in Kosovo, Afghanistan

ON THE FENCE
– ID cards (not opposed in principle, opposed in practice to this legislation)
– Reforms of the NHS
– Policy on Europe: better than the Tories, but not pro-European enough
– Pensions policy: where will it go?
– Local government reforms: very piecemeal, some good ideas
– Energy policy: some progress on renewables, but now nuclear

AGAINST
– State funded religious schools, city academies
– University tutition fees
– Messed up House of Lords reform
– Confused and insufficient housing policy
– Dreadful sentencing policy – too many in prison
– No changes made to income tax
– War in Iraq

Now, I have no clue where that leaves me in terms of any of the categorisations. For what it’s worth, I want Blair to go, but I very much fear Brown as PM. I believe in an equal and happy society, and in more redistributive taxation, but that does not mean the state has to do everything. I believe in proportional representation and full engagement in the European Union. And I also believe that I should be able to go along to something like the Compass conference without being bracketed as a loony leftie.

Feel free to ask for additions / amendments to the list – this analysis of my views on the government is very much in its early stages.

6 Comments

  1. afarfetchedresolution

    “Of your ‘in favour’ list – that seems to me a completely Lib Dem list – everything on that list is either shared common ground between the LDs and this govt, or the govt oppose it but the Lib Dems are proposing it and the govt not”

    – Tax credits, efforts to eliminate child poverty

    Labour made the 2020 pledge to end child poverty and have committed the resources to lift 3/4 million children out of poverty. The Lib Dems have at best paid lip service to supporting this after the fact.

    – Community policing, community support officers

    Lib Dems have consistently used positions in power in local government to slow the introduction of PCSOs – and (I believe) also voted against them in parliament.

    – Investment in junior schools

    Lib Dems proposed tax increases to pay for schools that would have provided a tiny fraction of the increase that has done into schools thanks to Gordon Brown’s stewardship of the economy and judicious use of the proceeds of growth. The Lib Dems have now dropped that tax pledge – having changed their mind initially and decided to spend it on Higher Education students (or at least, the most well off HE students) for a while instead.

    – Massive funding increase for the NHS

    Which dwarf anything the Lib Dems promised in 1997 or 2001

    – Devolution

    Which was a Labour policy dating from the 1970s which the Lib Dems aped. (although to be fair home rule was a Liberal policy pre-dating both parties)

    – Public smoking ban

    A Labour proposal (did the Lib Dems even support this?)

    – Foxhunting ban

    ditto

    – Independence of the Bank of England

    ditto

    – Excellent management of the economy

    Not so much a policy as a record. It would be remarkable if the Lib Dems made a manifesto commitment to “manage the economy progressively worse with a view to making a pig’s ear of it by 2015” but that’s the inevitable result of a 2009 Lib Dem victory – which mercifully is a mere figment of Lib Dem imaginations.

    – Investment in railways and public transport

    Not an especially Lib Dem policy – but one that Labour has delivered on.

    – Efforts to get government services online

    ditto

    – Military intervention in Kosovo, Afghanistan

    ditto.

    So in fact, Jeremy, your point is nonsense.

    As to the against list: Top up fees, the war, Lords reform are as much problems for the left of the Labour Party as they are for Lib Dems. The difference is that there are ideological and political reasons why the left of Labour would criticise the Labour leadership on these issues whilst the Lib Dems have no such smoke-screen behind which to conceal their opportunism.

  2. Alison

    I would add the UK intervention in Sierra Leone; in fact I would consider it a major and much-underrated achievement of this government. Everyone I have met from the UN and from African organisations considers it to be a text-book example of the kind of successful intervention we all ought to be better at doing. It was Blair’s first major foreign policy adventure and one for which he does not get enough credit.

  3. Jon, I’m sorry I’m trying not to post words “Lib Dem” on your blog too much, but Manu is right. This is completely a list of Lib Dem policies, not Labour ones.

    Of your ‘in favour’ list – that seems to me a completely Lib Dem list – everything on that list is either shared common ground between the LDs and this govt, or the govt oppose it but the Lib Dems are proposing it and the govt not (eg railways and devolution – and also PR which isn’t on your list but I think you support it as the LDs do and Labour doesn’t).

    Of your ‘against’ list that looks completely like a Lib Dem list – especially tuition fees, Iraq, Lords reform, sentencing, which are all areas LDs have strongly said what you are saying here and clearly the govt haven’t.

    I find it a bit difficult to pin down your ‘on the fence’ list (by its nature) but generally we are in the same area – strongly in the case of Europe, and not quite so close on ID cards but even there still in the same final position.

    What Ming was announcing in the article you linked to was not a cut in tax take (what I think you were objecting to) but shifting the burden away from poorer people – for example through significantly lifting the threshold at which you start paying tax, and therefore taking lots of poorer people out of paying tax altogether.

    Really Jon this is definitely much more of a Lib Dem list than a Labour one, Blairite or Brownite. You might be right it reflects social democratic values, but the party that supports these points at the moment in the UK is the Lib Dems. Surely you can’t dispute that?

  4. Robert

    I don’t think I’d give this government any points for transport policy. Apart from the creation of Network Rail, their policies have been either disasterous or ineffectual.

    Energy policy is another bad one: Blair seems to have pre-empted the forthcoming review by saying the future is nuclear. Where are are subsidies, grants and tax breaks for renewables and micro-generation (as well as standing up to the NIMBYs)?

  5. “For what it’s worth, I want Blair to go, but I very much fear Brown as PM. I believe in an equal and happy society, and in more redistributive taxation, but that does not mean the state has to do everything. I believe in proportional representation and full engagement in the European Union.”

    Oh. So you’re a Lib Dem. 😉

  6. While I admire the humour of that comment, it’s quite wide of the mark, especially now Menzies Campbell is the Lib Dem leader. See this from the BBC.

    Further, the list above contains quite social democratic values, and Labour is still a member of the PES after all!

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