A new era for Britain?

With this year’s election in Britain over, and Britons having voted for a hung parliament, one might wonder whether there is really much difference between the candidates for the office of Prime Minister.

After all, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown adopted many of Thatcher’s ideas and policies upon transforming Labour into New Labour (through vigorous privatisation of e.g. the health service, the post office, law and order and the job centres, as well as Thatcherite fiscal and monetary policies).

And David Cameron has seemingly transformed his party into a slick, new vibrant Conservative Party, not unlike the force for change that Blair was for Labour in the mid-to-late nineties – thus finally ridding the Conservatives of their state of confusion that they had been in since the splits in the party over e.g. Europe and since Blair had co-opted many of their policies.

Another similarity between Blair and Cameron is their treatment of their respective parties as focus-group run electoral machines for their own personal advancement – what J.G. Ballard referred to in “Kingdom Come” as being “the new politics”, based on “people’s dreams and needs, their hopes and fears”, devoid of any message.

Also, many Britons who were too young to have experienced a non-Tory government had come to take the ideas of Thatcherism for granted. Perhaps this is why Thatcher’s departure as PM was more the end of the beginning of Thatcherism in the UK than the beginning of the end. John Major probably got it right when saying that the 1992 election (that he won) “killed socialism in Britain”, and that his win “meant that between 1992 and 1997 Labour had to change” to become electable, having lost consecutive elections since 1979.

Whilst all the above-mentioned is true, whilst the electorate might find the parties they can vote for and realistically expect to gain any degree of power too similar, and whilst the middle-of-the-road Liberal Democrats, left-wingers, and right-wingers alike might curse the first-past-the-post British electoral system for not allowing their views to be properly and proportionally represented in parliament, there are significant differences between Labour and the Conservatives.

As Independent commentator Johann Hari writes today in The Independent, Britain before Labour’s election victory was a Britain of crumbling schools and hospitals, no minimum wage, no tax credits, Tory hate-campaign’s against single mothers and no legal status for gays, not to mention Northern Ireland. And since the Conservatives opposed all these changes, why shouldn’t we expect them to revoke them?

As Hari further says, “under them [the Conservatives], all the horrors of the Labour years would have happened, plus some, without any of the progress”. Cameron has stated that he will model his policies on those of Ireland, meaning that the British public are in for drastic cuts in welfare and high unemployment if he wins.

He has also promised huge tax cuts for the richest Britons, while slashing programmes for the needy. So even though the choice is not between good and bad as such, but between a greater and a lesser evil, we must hope that voters choose the lesser evil.

Labour might still be able to form a government with the Lib Dem’s, but must be much less confident than in the mid-nineties when Tony Blair’s spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, was speaking to a Japanese businessman about the prospect of the up-coming election, however:

“Ra whole of Japan is rookin fowad to your erection”, said the Japanese businessman to Tony Blair. Campbell replied that they were are “hoping for a big one” and the businessman “put his thumbs up and said ‘Big one, big one’”.

Literature:

Johann Hari, “What we’ll lose if we reject Labour“, The Independent, 6. May 2010

Johann Hari, “If you’re looking for a class war, just read Cameron’s policies“, The Independent, 9. April 2010

Alastair Campbell, “The Blair years”

Simon Jenkins, “Thatcher and sons”

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