Monday, June 05, 2006

The New Labour Spin Called

Madeleine Bunting has a good piece in The Guardian today:

The key for Labour is to revisit the concept that Tony Blair dug out of the sociology textbooks and used to great effect. He seized upon Anthony Giddens's ideas of rapid globalisation. Huge change was sweeping through every area of life, particularly the labour market, it was claimed. Blair used this to outmanoeuvre anyone who didn't endorse his idea of "modernisation": they were characterised as dinosaurs while he was surfing the wave of tumultuous change all around us.
But this story of huge change was only part of the picture - what about all those lives shaped by humdrum, which haven't been changing? Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham, does a brilliant job in the most recent edition of Renewal, demolishing all the exuberant guff about the "knowledge economy". In fact, there has been only a little growth in skilled, knowledge-based jobs and much more in unskilled cleaning, care, security and sales assistants. So much for this great wave of change. Even by 2010, 78% of jobs will not require a degree.
Why is this so important? Because it punctures the myths about meritocracy and it belies all the speeches about opportunity. The lived experience of the British electorate bears little relationship to the reality that Labour's political elite has been pronouncing upon. The more a Labour politician talks about opportunity, the more a substantial number of voters are left scratching their heads and wondering what opportunity, and if it's just them who are losers. Or even worse, they wonder if it is just their ethnic group, or their housing estate, that has been the loser.

She says Labour has lost touch with its common voters. That is a very true description. It also applies to the Social Democrats in Denmark. They are actually copying New Labour. It is only recently they voted against keeping Danish forces in Iraq. The conservative government in Denmark won't tax homeowners more than they are being taxed at the moment. Their taxes have been frozen. The Social Democrats agree with them out of sheer fear of the voters. It's populist policy. It's not Social Democratic policy, if by that phrase you mean politcies in the interests of common people.

One of the results of this has been that home owners' equities have risen astronomically. It is, however, the more well-to-do have have gained most by the rising house prices. The normal average Social Democratic voters have not experienced so big gains, because they mostly live in small house and semi-detached houses in more "modest" residential areas.

Madeleine Bunting says further:

What we glimpse is the gravy train on which this elite travels: the freebies that "come your way" and the kind of gambling with property and mortgages now considered respectable. And alongside it, an implicit contempt for modest, unambitious, ordinary lives

This is the game of turning the whole population into petty capitalists: "Gambling" with equity values in houses, investing on the stock exchange. There's nothing intrinsically wrong in that, of course. But the chances of doing it with some success and profiting enormously from it are so unequally distributed. Of course, we can all become capitalists, but some are so much more successful capitalists than others. Maybe we should start trying to find life's meaning in a completely different direction.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference


Blogger Sophia said...

I like very much Bunting's writings and analyses.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Cosmic Duck said...

She writes very well. She really raises important points, for instance the criticism of the smug New Labour.

12:03 PM  

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