Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Way To Go, Son

The Spinster Of This Parish writes on how he came to love New Labour. An honest and touching tale.

Some of it might have been that I got burgled for the first time and that changed my attitude to all that tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime rhetoric that I'd hated as glib and meaningless.

Whereas the millions of poor people burgled during the 1980s and early 90s were punitive morons driven by a tabloid agenda. But you were right, Spin. In practice they were glib and meaningless. Tough on crime ? Let's just forget about that, shall we ? Tough on the causes ? Of course - crime is caused by an absence of Sure Start schemes !

Then I began to see the reasons that had stopped people voting Labour weren't as selfish as I'd thought. A strong economy means being able to afford your home, means not losing your job, means being able to give your family a pretty decent start in life.

Hey ! Dad ! You're not a square after all !

I guess I was a little ahead - having looked at the crime figures before 1997, and noted what had happened under Michael Howard, I really thought those glib and meaningless phrases meant something.

Let me tell you all about it.

In the early hours of May 2nd, 1997 a heavily pregnant wife comes downstairs, wondering why her husband, whom she had left before midnight watching the election coverage, is still up. In the kitchen, the chatter of simultaneous coverage from the television and Radio Four. On the table, a half-empty bottle, a glass and an overflowing ashtray. At the table, her husband, with the kind of fixed ear to ear grin that comes from the conjunction of great joy and Glenlivet, slurring "It's fantastic ! They're being slaughtered ! Labour might finish a hundred seats ahead! Portillo's just lost - to a gay guy ! And they're saying Norman Lamont might not hold Kingston ! Every time I think about going to bed they announce another recount in a safe Tory seat - it's an absolute massacre !".

What a night. After 1978, 83, 88 and perhaps worst of all 1992, victory at last. Although I didn't carry things as far as an old Militant comrade who tragically drank himself to death in celebration, I sat and drank on, moist-eyed and maudlin as Tony Blair made his emotional victory speech.

Cut to almost exactly three years later. It's 5.30 in the office and I'm packing up to go home. I browse the late news items - what's this ? "Blair slow-handclapped at W.I. conference". I click on the item and smile as I read - 'seen this ? Brilliant !'. On the drive home I am full of an angry happiness as I listen to the speech faltering, hear the audience unrest - see ? You can't bloody well fool everyone ! A thousand Diana Goulds are telling you what they think of you and your New Britain ! And over the following days I lapped up the press coverage with an unholy joy, becoming aware as I did so just how much I hated the Government for which I voted and for which I had longed. I first campaigned for Labour (the 1971 Bromsgrove by-election – Terry Davis won) when I was at school and have been voting Labour ever since.

In the words of Talking Heads 'How Did I Get Here ?'. Is it just old age and parenthood, a comfortable job and a nice (though tumbledown) house, inevitable ossification and selfishness ? I have pondered these questions at length but it was bit by bit, policy issue by policy issue, and through my and my friends' personal experience that I found myself inexorably moving to what before I would have certainly called 'the Right'.

Time permitting, I'll pick up on some of these during the next week. Education, transport, the economy, welfare, crime, immigration. That's a long enough charge- sheet. And this isn't a Tory manifesto. Many of the disasters Labour preside over began in the 1980s.


Anonymous said...

Many of the disasters Labour preside over began in the 1980s

The 20th century was the era of statism. East or west, the answer was the same albeit with different flavour.

Began in the 1980s?

Only in the sense that multi-culturalism and post modernism took over the institutions. The idea that the state knows better than you began much earlier. 1945 brought in the NHS undermining the link to charity. 1911 brought in the welfare state.

Anonymous said...

The idea that the state knows better than you began much earlier

Yes in 1916 when Conscription was introduced, and the Government took control of munitions production.

It increased in the Second War.

War shaped this country, and emerging victorious from war shaped this country. Never before had it put millions of men into battle and equipped them and destroyed them with huge artillery barrages.

60% able bodied men were put into uniform,6 out of 10 million - 750.000 were killed-in-action and 1.700.000 wounded - 300.000 children lost their fathers 160.000 women lost their husbands

That is how the State grew and first spent 50% GDP - WAR.

The First World War brought Soviet Communism and instability across Europe - there has been nothing like it for postwar generations to imagine.

They get upset about 146 dead British soldiers in Iraq when 20.000 died on 1st July 1916 alone.

The fact is that nothing major happens today, life is banal and commercial, we live in a country safe for bean-counters without any great battles or existential threats. This society is riddled with smug complacency and physical obesity.

The upheavals of 1914-18 shattered millions of lives and brought The State as the embodiment of the nation in fighting for survival and that is where the powerful state came from.

The NHS was a simple extrapolation of the Wartime Emergency Medical Service which placed hospital bedsc in Northern England for the wounded when German troops landed on the South Coast.

Those beds survived until Thatcher - they were the reserve for the Cold War when the Southeast was hit by Soviet rockets