Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Darling End for New Labour? The British Budget


A Darling End for New Labour? The British Budget

By Binoy Kampmark

When a figure of conservative propriety as Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, desires what amounts to government control over banks, one that exceeds mere partial or public ownership, the political fault lines must be changing.

Who could this be, speculates a journalist for the BBC, Joe Pienaar. Karl Marx with dusty theories of capital, revised for modern consumption, or perhaps former Labour leader, Michael Foot, famed walking obituary of his party and author of suicide notes masquerading as party manifestoes?

Well, it’s neither. The same might be said for British Chancellor Alistair Darling, whose measures are far from Marxist. Nor do they necessarily smack of Foot-like inevitability before the fall, as much as conservative commentators would wish that to be the case. This is, after all, a “national emergency,” or so goes the common wisdom of the day. That, in turn, overturns what amounted to previously accepted orthodoxies.

The Darling measures seem, on paper, to be considerable, though even now, they are seen by some to be insufficient to stop the pervasive rot that has set into the system. Massive borrowings to cope with ailing economic decline (debt is good); slashes in the value added tax (VAT) to trigger a spending drive, and, the inevitable, dreaded tax increases on the wealthier to off-set the program. (What counts as wealthy in these financially fluid times? Probably those in the £150,000 bracket.)

The Tories are bewildered, not entirely sure how this propelling towards traditional categories implies. In one sense, they are thrilled by what seems to be historical repetition. Big debts are manna for their political armory, while future tax rises promises them potential electoral gains.

In the words of a delighted Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, Darling was “giving £20bn in giveaways and taking back £40bn in higher taxes, including a major rise in National Insurance, a tax on the jobs and incomes of middle Britain.” All Labor chancellors, suggests Osborne, eventually return to their tested ground: the domain of profligate spending that is bound to send a country to the “verge of bankruptcy.”

But Osborne is more than a little disingenuous. Does he even know what the “middle class” is? More to the point, for years in opposition, British conservatives have been lamenting how a cunning and merciless Blair appropriated their political ground (without just compensation). They even produced an ersatz Blair, David Cameron, with the dim aura that accompanies those assembly line products of public relations.

Whatever Gordon Brown’s flaws, and he has many, his solidity and stewardship come across as impressive to some voters, and it’s rapidly eating into Conservative party gains in the polls. The Tories were stunned and embittered by the endorsement by many EU countries, and the US Treasury, of Brown’s capital injection formula, something they instinctively opposed.

Do these fiscally expansive moves imply a death of New Labour? Not necessarily. With figures such as Gordo and Peter Mandelson, it’s hard to see how the tag of ‘New’, while withered, will be dropped. The totemic reverence of the financial sector, the key aspect of New Labour’s policies since 1997, may have ceased to be totemic, but it is no less revered. Redistribution in the Brown scrapbook does not necessarily suggest socialist pandering or a return to bruising card-carrying unionists ascendant before vicious capitalists. Besides, such measures are considered temporary. They may work, or they may not. Besides, as one Brown cabinet minister put it to Pienaar, “We’ve always been redistributionist. Look at tax credits.”

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 


Dunne Speaks: Can ACT's Dream Run Continue?

By most reckonings the ACT Party has had a very successful political year. Not only has its expanded Parliamentary team settled in well to its work, without controversy or scandal, but its leader has gained in community respect, and the party’s support, at least according to the public opinion polls, has increased sharply... More>>

Keith Rankin: Basic Universal Income And Economic Rights
"Broad growth is only going to come when you put money in the hands of people, and that's why we talk about a Universal Basic Income". [Ritu Dewan, Indian Society of Labour Economics]. (From How long before India's economy recovers, 'Context India', Al Jazeera, 31 Oct 2021.) India may be to the 'Revolution of the twenty-first century' that Russia was to the 'Revolution of the twentieth century'... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Foreseeable Risk: Omicron Makes Its Viral Debut
It has been written about more times than any care to remember. Pliny the Elder, that old cheek, told us that Africa always tended to bring forth something new: Semper aliquid novi Africam adferre. The suggestion was directed to hybrid animals, but in the weird pandemic wonderland that is COVID-19, all continents now find themselves bringing forth their types, making their contributions. It just so happens that it’s southern Africa’s turn... More>>



Gasbagging In Glasgow: COP26 And Phasing Down Coal

Words can provide sharp traps, fettering language and caging definitions. They can also speak to freedom of action and permissiveness. At COP26, that permissiveness was all the more present in the haggling ahead of what would become the Glasgow Climate Pact... More>>

Globetrotter: Why Julian Assange’s Inhumane Prosecution Imperils Justice For Us All

When I first saw Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison, in 2019, shortly after he had been dragged from his refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy, he said, “I think I am losing my mind.”
He was gaunt and emaciated, his eyes hollow and the thinness of his arms was emphasized by a yellow identifying cloth tied around his left arm... More>>

Dunne Speaks: Labour's High Water Mark
If I were still a member of the Labour Party I would be feeling a little concerned after this week’s Colmar Brunton public opinion poll. Not because the poll suggested Labour is going to lose office any time soon – it did not – nor because it showed other parties doing better – they are not... More>>