Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fisking a Mad Tory

Some Tory PPC has been going on about New Labour being too left wing. I thought a good fisking is in order.

There is a big myth in politics, and it is this: that New Labour really was new. That it was a truly centre-ground party that had radically abandoned the leftist ideologies of yesteryear that had led the country into the mire of the late 70s. Fitting then that the party's theme song Things Can Only Get Better should have been by a group called D:Ream. Because now we've woken up from the dream of Blair to find ourselves in a country that at heart is testament to deeply leftist politics.

Deeply leftist politics? I've been seeing a country where criticising a director's right to his annual 15% inflation busting pay increase is considered politics of envy, where talk has been of "light touch" regulation has been the fashion.

The tax burden is actually higher now than in 1978 (at 36% of GDP, compared with 33% three decades ago). We now boast a civil service of half a million - about the size of Sheffield. That includes a cut in the size of our armed forces from 238,550 in 1978 to 73,290 today. Yet it does not include all the jobs that have been pushed off the public-sector books by being recategorised under a plethora of agencies and trusts. And we are facing huge national debt - a financial position that is closer to the 1970s than we'd like to think.

A 33% tax burden is a little hard to believe for 1978 with a publicly owned gas and electricity board, British Leyland, British Telecom and British Rail, UK Public spending gives a figure of 42.9% for public spending and that would either mean the tax burden figure is woefully inaccurate or the government was seriously spending beyond it's means.

As for our armed forces, I've found a news story here that indicates that the MOD currently has 215,000 people in it's employ, I'm really not sure where she's getting her figures from, but they seem more than a little off.

While we're on the subject of defense spending, a few % of GDP figures:

1978 = 5.679%
1997 = 3.091%
2008 = 2.819%

So the Tories cut defense spending by 2.6% (they nearly halved spending) whereas Labour cut it by 0.2% of GDP (around a 9% cut). As a final point, it's worth noting that public debt as a % of GDP is around the same level it was in 1997 and had come down from a far higher figure by that point.

SNIP - Boring Bit - SNIP

It's a real shame. An opportunity missed. New Labour could have delivered the dream and truly changed Britain for the good - if only its control-freak instinct could have been resisted. Even now, Labour politicians talk of "empowering people". But the very fact that it is Whitehall granting people these so called "powers" over their own lives, which were theirs to begin with, reinforces Whitehall's dominance.

Giving a school "power to innovate" is simply giving it permission to apply to central government to avoid a barrage of unnecessary Whitehall restrictions, for a limited period. That's not empowerment - it's centralisation in disguise.

I'm not sure what to make of this bit, I can't offer any clear criticism but I would say this. All governments like to say they dislike central planning and bureaucracy but as DonPaskini pointed out a while ago, the Tory frontbench is rather lacking in hard headed technocrats with the expertise required to cut back the bureaucracy. There is no reason to believe the tories can do any better than Labour on this score.

As the credit crunch begins to bite in the high street and bastions of the financial world fall like dominos, the grim reality now dawns that, once again, the country's been spent out by a leftist government. Once again, it will take hard-headed, sensible, centre-right politics to sort it out.

The credit crunch is the consequence of letting the ideas of rightwing intellectuals rip, liberalisation of the financial sector is an idea with right wing origins, why should followers of this flawed set of ideas be the ones to sort it out?

Will Gordon Brown retreat further back to his deep-left core at his party conference speech tomorrow, and reach for the "capitalism is bad" vote? If he does, he will be disowning any success he may have presided over in the City. But even if he does not, the nation just does not have the time or money for any more pseudo centre-right. The D:Ream is over. Things are getting tough, and it's time for the real thing.

Possibly just personal opinion, but there really is no deep left in the Labour party no more. The LRC who whould probably count as the hard left would like a little more national ownership, higher taxes for high earners and stronger unions but this is not particularly more left wing than previous Old Labour governments. And the thing about capitalism is it works in theory, it just doesn't work in practice.

Talking of academies, I attended the opening ceremony of the new Brightstowe Academy, in Shirehampton, Bristol, this week. The previous school (Portway) had struggled for years, but the Oasis Trust came in and gave it a new birth.

I was struck not only by the energy and vision of Oasis, and the head, Julie Winterman, but also by their sensitivity to what young people need and want. Perhaps the most striking part of the day was seeing how many of the things that really made a difference didn't cost anything. One girl told me how, when Oasis took over, they were all put into houses, in their school, and had inter-house competitions.

I saw the benefits in action: the opening event was finishing and hundreds of young people were getting ready to storm out of the marquee. Chaos looked certain to ensue.

The head took the microphone. "I know which house is the winner of the behaviour competition," she said. (Or something similar.) "But if you don't all behave and leave in an orderly fashion, that might change." Hush fell. And several hundred teenagers filed out in order.

Good buildings and excellent facilities are important - but won't make a school. A good head, organisation and vision cost nothing, but are priceless. Here's to future success at Brightstowe.

The last bit, I would say is more a salute to Labour. Under Labour, teaching has become a far more desirable profession among graduates, our improvements have meant that the teaching profession has been able to attract far more talent. A good head, organisation and vision depend on being able to attract talented people to the profession, the reason talented people have been attracted to the profession is because of the extra funding Labour has put into education.

If these are the so called "New Tories", they seem to be full of cliches, devoid of ideas and in absolute denial of the good Labour have done in 10 years of office.

Hat Tip: Labourhome

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