Sunday, January 22, 2006

Convergence in the neoliberal 'centre'

One of the remarkable things taking place in British politics now is how the new Conservative leader David Cameron is repositioning his party in the 'centre' of mainstream politics and reducing the 'clear blue water' between himself and Tony Blair. Another remarkable thing is the self-delusion of many in the Labour Party and beyond who think Gordon Brown (pictured above) , Blair's likely successor as Labour leader, will somehow signal a return to old welfare, socialist democratic Labourism. And a third is that the Liberal Party, if as now seems likely Simon Hughes is elected the new leader, will confirm itself as being to the left of Labour - for the moment at least.

In the LRB Ross McKibbin's Destruction of the Public Sphere tells some home truths about the neoliberal convergence, namely:

"Gordon Brown, though alleged by the Conservatives to personify Old Labour, differs little in substance from Cameron. His, too, will be a businessman’s government – even if businessmen refuse to acknowledge it. His surprising decision to abandon the new corporate financial reporting rules shows how far he will go to assure businessmen that he is business friendly. And his fundamental order of priorities differs little from Cameron’s. He has always wanted to create an economic environment conducive to an American idea of business success: the aim of both major political parties in the last ten years. The way he has financed much of the country’s social infrastructure, via the PFI, could not be more business friendly. Bad for the country, but unquestionably good for business (and lawyers, and consultants). In two ways, however, he has acted differently from recent Tory chancellors."

And moreover "Does it matter whether Brown is prime minister rather than Blair, or Cameron rather than Brown? Does it matter, indeed, whether there is a Conservative or a Labour government? At the moment, not much. There are several reasons for this. The first is that the country’s political elite is now largely divorced from the country; probably to a greater degree than at any time since the 19th century. This elite is drawn from an increasingly narrow social range: primarily from the law, the media, political and economic consultancy and ‘research’. In the present cabinet, for example, there is only one former trade unionist. Whatever their formal political allegiances, they are all the same kind of people who think the same way and know the same things. Their authority has been increased by the way the prime minister runs his government – in an informal, ad hoc and disorganised manner that marginalises the administrative Civil Service."


At 9:14 AM, Anonymous lespauljunior said...

What gets me is that most media commentators portray this as the three major parties 'fighting it out over the centre ground' which is 'where elections are won and lost'.
But neoliberalism isn't the centre ground, it is the most rightwing ground available to conventional bourgeois politics.
The real centre ground is still defence of the NHS, progressive taxation, the welfare state. Conventional old school rightwing labourism, in other words. Yet somehow Respect can't seem to colonise it.


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