Little Red Blogger

This blog looks at radical politics(with a libertarian socialist slant), music and culture. Marx to Mises, Girls Aloud to Steve Reich...

Location: Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The 'Modernisation' of the Lib Dems: Corporatism with a Human Face and Blarism Redux

The recent attempted knife welding by ambitious young blades in the Lib Dems is I think an interesting illustration of all that is wrong with British politics and politicians. The lib dems have broadly two wings the so-called economic liberal ‘free’ marketeers producers of the ‘Orange Book’ and the welfare statist Beveridge types. The debate between the two wings of this party is a profoundly depressing illustration of how sterile British political debate has become. The ideological spectrum ranges from authoritarian neo-liberal corporatist (‘new’ Labour) to socially liberal neo-liberal corporatist (Cameron’s Conservatives) with the marginalised warriors of the old post-war consensus sitting on the sidelines (old labour).

Like the Thatcherites before them the Lib Dem ‘free’ marketeers and self styled ‘modernisers’  wish to see ‘competition’ introduced to public services, private public partnerships with the full panoply of the reformed corporate state being brought to bear on the problems of British society.  People are to be given the choice of services they use, but as per ‘new’ Labour this choice is to be managed, kept within strict boundaries with the old consumer/producer dichotomy maintained and Croslandite ‘new’ class assumptions left unexamined. While portraying themselves as sceptical of the state, it seems the Lib Dem modernisers like ‘new’ Labour seek merely to promote corporatism with a human face. They seek to promote this corporatism in the name of liberty while ignoring or forgetting the great liberal themes of industrial democracy, the co-operative movement and the libertarian socialist currents that have always been present in their tradition.

All of this ideological jockeying is of course motivated by a desire to occupy the centre ground. The ‘free’ marketeers by desiring to occupy this centre ground are implicitly accepting the Blairite consensus and portray any attempt to provide an alternative to this consensus as being unrealistic and out-of-touch. This drive for the centre ground unites both their pragmatic desire for power and their ideological biases providing them with a sense of purpose that their welfare statist opponents lack. Also while being correct in calling the welfare statists out as having some implicitly illiberal and paternalist policies their alternative as detailed above isn’t much better. Indeed the left wing of the Lib Dems has not really articulated any coherent alternative vision with them fighting a rearguard action, hoping to restore the old post war consensus. Ultimately both wings of the party seem to be missing a historical opportunity to present a real libertarian socialist alternative to the mainstream Blairite corporatist consensus. It is frustrating to see a party with the potential to articulate these views being pushed towards being merely another centrist placeholder, the Lib Dems need a transplant of ideological backbone but not the kind that ‘free’ marketeers are proposing!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

New Tory New Cameron: The Coronation of a Meeja Prince

With a mixture of horror and fascination I’ve been watching the progress of the Tory leadership contest and the steady but relentless progress of Cameron towards the crown, Cameron’s victory has been skilfully achieved and his use of the media almost Blairite in its discipline and cunning if one were particularly paranoid you might think that Alastair Campbell has been advising Cameron on the sly, but aside from such conspiratorial thoughts. Cameron is perhaps the purest expression of all that is wrong with contemporary Britain a perfect fusion of ruling class privilege alongside hypermodern media management techniques. Cameron’s Eton education alongside his experience working as a director at Carlton Communications do seem the perfect schooling for a modern political leader. Not to mention his extensive blue-blooded connections to the royal family and the wider aristocracy, as Private Eye noted the Tories really have decided that ‘oiks’ have had enough turns at the tiller and that the toffs deserved another go.

Cameron has through a friendly media and his own particular skills managed to keep his blue-blooded background out of the leadership contest, indeed very few people seem at all surprised that the leaders of both the Tories and Labour are both well groomed plausible public schoolboys, the more things change the more they remain the same when it comes to our political elites it seems. Cameron’s whole political playbook does seem lifted from Blair’s reshaping of the Labour party as has been evidenced by an extensive ‘rebranding’ exercise conducted by his team after the leadership victory. As in Blair’s presidential approach to leading the Labour party the Tories are to be relabelled ‘Cameron’s Conservatives’ a new more media friendly symbol of two blue squares overlapping has been devised. The Tories are to be reshaped in to Blue Labour, defiantly non-ideological and based on the appeal of Cameron’s personality and vaguely libertarian social mores. Cameron is also trying to put environmental themes back into the core of Tory policy making with the appointment of Zac Goldsmith realising that a Blue/Green coalition is as viable as a Red/Green one, and it provides a means of differentiating the Tories from Labour .

The question is: have the Tories selected a winner? Will Cameron have the ability to best Brown at the next election? I think the answer is a qualified maybe, all depending on how much Blairite ‘modernisation’ the more rabidly rightwing members of the party can take. There is also the question of how long Cameron’s media honeymoon lasts and of course those ever present ‘events’ that plague any politicians career. Cameron is however a big danger and any progressive should monitor his progress very carefully as beneath the media friendly veneer and post-ideological waffle lie the potential for implementing some extremely retrogressive policies. New Cameron New Danger!