Wednesday, 21 April 2010

trimdon labour club

There was a report from the Trimdon Labour Club on Radio 4 this morning, a place that was described as the epicentre of New Labour. The piece brought memories of the excitement of the 1997 election. Everything really did seem new and hopeful then.

I don't think, though, that I had much clue about what New Labour was, or would become. For me, the 'New' bit just meant something like 'a fresh start'. I had memories of flawed but inspiring idealists like Tony Benn and Michael Foot, and of decent pragmatists like Dennis Healey and Jim Callaghan. I had the ideologies of Victorian socialist pioneers, like Marx and William Morris. Not that I am remotely a Marxist but I do feel that his and Morris’ writings are society's conscience.

I had my membership of the party too and the words on the back of the membership card that read like they might mean things that Morris, et al, might approve of.

I had no idea that the 'New' in New Labour would mean a party that was largely unrecognisable to anyone who remembered 'old' Labour when it was in power.

Not that the last 13 years have been bad for us personally. We have spent that time first coming to terms with my family's particular tragedy, then recovering from it, and house price inflation and low interest rates have helped us.

But hasn’t middle-class prosperity, welcome though it is, been bought at a high price? The gap between averagely well-off and disadvantaged has burst open under New Labour (and it is this gap, more than the astonishing headline-grabbing one between super rich and super poor, that is really significant, I suspect). 'Stability', not least the illusion of relative stability that has been created during this slump, has been propped up by a dishonest and irresponsible national borrowing policy.

The empty tackiness of Brit Art and the terminal scuzziness of the expenses scandal are, it seems, just the surface cracks in a building that is built on the shoddiest foundations.

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