New Labour has had no lasting impact on the way our country is run. Neil Kinnock, when told that Tony Blair had flown halfway round the world to beg The Sun’s owner Rupert Murdoch to support New Labour, predicted its failure.
“It won’t matter if we win, as the bankers and stockbrokers have got us already by the f******g balls. And that is before you take your thirty pieces of silver.” (Alistair Campbell, The Blair Years)
Kinnock had already noted Blair and Brown’s charm offensive, which had assured financial interests that they had nothing to fear from New Labour.
For the trappings of office, New Labour gave up power and “cringed before the rich man’s frown”.
The outcome was:
- University fees.
- Private Public Partnerships, a slick but unsound method of financing the building and maintenance of hospitals and schools. The result has been rich assets for the private partners and crippling debt for the public sector.
- Allowing NHS medical services to be offered to private contractors.
- Outsourcing public services including giving contracts to union busting Carillion.
- Advocating the privatisation of the Royal Mail. The programme, prepared by business secretary Lord Mandelson, was only dropped because of Labour backbench opposition.
- The final consequence of grovelling to the rich and powerful was to obey President Bush’s command to fight in his shameful Iraqi war.
Those desperate to find any permanent achievement for the Blair years claim that for the first time in our history we had a minimum wage. Even this claim is untrue.
The 1945 Wage Council Act set minimum wages and conditions on an industry-by-industry basis. There was direct trade union involvement, no scope for zero hours contracts and the top rate was paid at 21 not 25, as now. Thatcher abolished wages councils in 1989.
New Labour’s minimum wage was a feeble attempt to restore some of the comprehensive minimum wage laws that had been introduced by the Attlee Government.
New Labour won three elections, but only by giving an undertaking to threaten no vested interests. Holding office is not the same as being in power.
Alarmingly, there are still remnants of discredited New Labour who will not accept this verdict. There is no case for the mandatory reselection of MPs. But this does not mean the automatic selection of those who will not accept that their uncritical support for New Labour was misguided.
This article is sponsored by the progressive publishers The Radical Read Project.