Wednesday, 1 September 2010

21st Century Schizoid Man

I'll never forget the day that Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair. Within an hour every tea-cosy, every sugar cube and waste paper basket was nationalised. When I stepped out into the street I thought they'd started shooting the remake of Red Dawn in my own town. Red banners everywhere, soldiers with AKs looking for enemies of the people. It was crazy.

What's that? It sounds like I'm speaking bullshit? Well spotted, I am speaking bullshit. In truth I have no recollection of what day, month or year it was that one plutocratic pro-surveillance, pro-humanitarian intervention, pro-privatisation, pro-banker New Labour type came and when another went.

And what with the absolute nothing of Bliar coming out with his (no doubt ludicrously self-serving memoirs) it seemed that Te Graun had really captured the Zeitgeist:

They even brought out their oily untermensch John Crace to come up with yet another of his sarky pisstakes for anyone who can be bothered.

Ah but what greeted me this morning?

Appears that the article last night was wrong. Mega wrong. Bliar's book is really a fount of wisdom for the young uns. And a careful analysis of how Brown lost the election.

'But his book reveals numerous occasions on which the struggle between the two New Labour titans sapped the strength and direction of the government, leading Blair to delay his handover to his chancellor.'

Just so's you know, when I previously described the Blair/Brown conflict as a clash of the Titans, I was being sarky.

'Blair nails his policy colours to the mast in his memoir by launching a sustained attack on the belief that the financial crisis means that voters want the return of the state as a major economic player.'


"Labour won when it was New Labour," Blair writes in his memoir. "It lost because it stopped being New Labour."


"The problem, I would say error, was in buying a package which combined deficit spending, heavy regulation, identifying banks as the malfeasants and jettisoning the reinvention of government in favour of the rehabilitation of government. The public understands the difference between the state being forced to intervene to stabilise the market and government back in fashion as a major actor in the economy."

Uh, yes. Brown was a notorious enemy of the bankers and savagely attacked them entirely unjustly by blaming them for their mistakes. And even before that Brown disastrously regulated the banks. The Brown in Tony Bliar's head that is. And look at his Reaganesque use of the word 'government' without an article as a commodity rather than as an immensely complicated construction. Couldn't 'government' take over public transport to make it more efficient? Can't 'government' do better at educating people? It's Bliar's very Reaganesque vocabulary after running a supposedly Social Democratic party that demonstrates the paucity of his thought.

Reading Te Graun really makes me feel that the left is pretty irrelevant now. It has never gotten over its yeoman servitude, and the idea that there is any interesting ideological debate between Blair and Brown only makes sense in the light of Britain's class system.

Perhaps the editors did try to feign a lack of interest in Bliar's big book of bullshit, but they just couldn't sustain it. Everyone knows that Bliar was a disaster, but the Fettes boy will still effortlessly gain kneebending reactions in the Metropolitan middle classes.

So I say, bring on a pure form of social democracy, divorced from identity politics and 'humanitarian intervention'.

Of course there is also a need for a civil liberties left, but it says everything that this interesting news piece was shunted out of the limelight by Te Graun in favour of Bliar's book. And in fact Te Graun showed little interest in the Tomlinson case which was primarily brought to light by responsible citizens. Could it be that social democracy can do better whith the Guardian, the Labour party and other neo-liberal sell-outs? Given the financial situation of the Labour Party, Te Graun and The Independent, we could be about to find out.

To its credit The Guardian does produce foreign journalism like this, which is very important, given that the right wing papers tend not to criticise that lovely outpost of progress in the Middle East. But I do think that it is untenable in attempting to uphold a kind of liberalism that is too right wing for social democracy and too socially liberal for the right.


  1. Part of the problem with the mainstream media today is that they are too accommodating to the powerful. Instead of challenging power, journalists seem to try to win favor with the powerful in order to have “access.” When Rolling Stone ran the embarrassing interview with General McChrystal there were howls from most U.S. media outlets over the revelations because it apparently broke the rule that you have to kowtow to the powerful in order to get access. I suppose the writer should have just written a puff piece and said “that’s that.”

    As for Blair’s memoirs, I think he is thumbing his nose at everyone. I believe he has made a huge amount of money from speaking engagements and the like, and is still popular with a small but wealthy and influential crowd of people. Money power in the political arena has gotten so powerful that politicians and lobbyists are pretty blatant about it now. I imagine even Reagan and Thatcher had to clothe their ideas in various populist robes, whether it was patriotism, religion, or sentimental nostalgia.

    Now, the powerful could care less how stupid, hypocritical, or uncaring they sound. People like Blair can get away with repeating the same tired formulas from the ‘80s and ‘90s because few in the media challenge them and they have wealthy allies that benefit from the policies they push.

  2. @John
    Thanks for your comment. It is true about the media, the sad thing is that Britain used to have an excellent standard when it came to interviewing its leaders though this is now declining. The grammar school middle classes of the time seemed to have a set of values that were quite admirable. Whilst I can't say I'd idealise this class, the conservative writer Peter Hitchens recently wrote about how 'middle class' now essentially means 'sharp elbowed'. I'm not a great fan of Hitchens but I have to say that he was spot on there.