In 1945, the Labour Party campaigned to destroy Beveridge’s 'five giants' of want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. In 1997 and each subsequent election it tried the same trick, the latest pledges being to “secure the recovery”, “raise family living standards”, “build a high tech economy”, “protect frontline services”, and “strengthen fairness in communities”. All a bit desperate really.
It has been said that Labour deserved to lose last May, while the Conservatives did not deserve to win. That’s how it turned out, though happily for David Cameron the third party was waiting in the wings, to hand him the keys to Number 10 anyway. Since then, nostalgia for Labour has been growing daily as memory decays. Here then is a reminder of what we have lost, five reasons why we should detest the whole lot of them, five reasons to vote only for parties that advocate real change worth having.
1. Labour took power promising an ethical foreign policy. It left power embedded in American-led wars for oil. Illegal wars sold on the basis of lies. Tens of thousands have died needlessly, deaths for which Labour’s leaders, no less than their Conservative collaborators, must stand trial. A by-product has been the increasing re-militarisation of our own society, with death in war now once more normalised and any criticism of armed intervention smothered in the name of patriotism. Meanwhile, our arms trade continues to make a killing.
2. Labour’s onslaught on civil liberties was relentless. Historic freedoms of expression, association and assembly have all taken a terrible mauling, along with many guarantees of due process. The icing on this loathsome cake was a hideously expensive identity card scheme, expressing Labour’s view that the People belong to the State and not the State to the People. Overall, Labour’s actions, at home and abroad, have increased, not reduced, the terrorist threat.
3. Labour’s contempt for the environment has been a badge worn with pride. The challenges posed by runaway population growth have been met with reckless indifference. Only the collapse of the mortgage market, High Court challenges under European law, and finally a change of government have prevented the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of Green Belt and other protected countryside in Wessex. Half-hearted attempts at a sustainable transport policy, all stick and no carrot, provoked a predictable backlash.
4. Labour’s piper-payers called the tune. Propped up by rich donors as an insurance policy against the declining popularity of John Major’s Tories, New Labour continued the policies of privatisation and debt-based public finance that have got us where we are today. It did nothing as vital industries passed into the hands of international investors devoid of local loyalties. Labour’s leaders would sell their own grandmothers; they already have sold everyone’s grandchildren.
5. Labour once again bungled devolution, just as it did in 1979. This time it got Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London away but this was always the limit of its enthusiasm. It hitched itself to a set of unworkable regional boundaries inherited from the Tories, then deliberately obstructed grassroots movements in Cornwall, Mercia and Wessex pointing to a more promising way forward. In local government it refined the Tory policy of arrogant interference and dismantled public debate, substituting executive members and elected mayors for meaningful scrutiny and collective decision-making.
We attack Labour not because we are happy to see Wessex under Coalition rule. We are far from happy. We attack Labour, as we attack all the London-based parties, because each falls short of our vision for Wessex. We attack the other two for what they are. We attack Labour for trying to fool folk that it is what it demonstrably is not.