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18 March 2005
New Labour’s ideology

Non-trivial Solutions has it in for New Labour:

Blairism is pragmatic, reactive government. It’s headline-hunting, poll-watching, focus-group-monitoring, ideology-free mush.

I hear this a lot and I think it’s highly dangerous.  Not only is it wrong but it encourages people to underestimate the enemy which is always bad news.

I think, on the contrary, that New Labour is highly ideological.  At it’s root is a coherent set of ideas which inspires many, if not most, of its actions.

This set of ideas does not (yet) have a name.  The phrase “political correctness” is sometimes used but New Labour’s ideology goes way beyond that rather vague description.  The fact that it’s ideology is nameless intrigues me.  It may be intentional: a way of smuggling in change without anyone noticing.

By the way, when I say “coherent” I do not mean “sensible”.

So, what are these ideas?  Here are a few:

1.  Don’t fuck with the economy.  Well, there’s a bit more to it than that - it’s more like “don’t fuck with those parts of the economy that we know produce wealth.”

2.  We are all members of groups eg. women, gays, blacks.  All groups, on average, are the same in all respects.  Women are as strong as men.  Whites are as good sprinters as blacks etc.  Any difference in outcomes between these groups is the result of prejudice.

3.  Britain is guilty.  Big time, long term.  Hence, tradition is to be despised.

4.  While capitalism can shift the goods it cannot shift the safety/equality/niceness.  Therefore, the state must intervene in the form of gun bans, minimum wages etc.

Funnily enough, I am not quite sure where schoolsnhospitals fit into all of this.  I suspect they don’t.  If they were already in the private sector there would be no great rush to nationalise them.

However, I think just about everything New Labour does can be seen through this prism.  It gives its supporters a guiding light (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor).  It means that whenever a “problem” arises they can identify, more or less immediately and without being told, both the “cause” and the “solution”.  This is particularly useful in the case of New Labour’s acolytes in the media and elsewhere.

So, ideologically-rich mush, then.  And I really think it’s about time it had a name.

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  1. I genuinely don’t think that’s right, or at least not at the top levels of New Labour. The Guardian-reading, muesli-munching, right-thinking people you describe above are useful idiots in the quest to remain in power, but I don’t think it forms a core of New Labour ideology. If they have an ideology at all now, it is about staying in power, at all costs.

    Posted by Andrew on 19 March 2005 at 07:09pm

  2. I think the guilt bit comes from the total collapse of Christianity (see Rowan Williams for full details).

    For 1400 years we acknowledged our human frailty. ‘My sin is ever before me’.

    We’ve binned that in a couple of generations in exchange for the basically hippy notion that man is perfectible (hence Sure Start schemes and social workers). But it’s too deep in the psyche to eradicate, and emerges in the form of

    ‘We are all racists, sexists, homophobes, natural polluters etc’.

    On some areas (eg the environment) we’ve even got the lost primeval Eden.

    Posted by Laban Tall on 22 March 2005 at 02:06pm

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