Monday, 3 May 2010

The next PM must face up to New Labour's corrosive legacy

The era of government that is about to end was utterly and outrageously disfigured by the rivalry of Blair and Brown. Private hissy fits were translated into public policy. Why is Brown now in favour of foundation hospitals, which he so viciously opposed in 2003? Because in 2003 it was Blair's idea, not his. Accountability and transparency were lost in the mire of "sofa government". The gang was all that counted.

And their legacy will be deep and lasting. Not just a public debt of £167 billion, unreformed public services, a broken society, and Armed Forces deplorably overstretched and under-resourced. What the New Labour gang grasped was that post-war Britain, though not quite a social democracy, had grown utterly dependent upon the state in all its manifestations. Margaret Thatcher had saved the country from economic perdition, ended the stranglehold of the unions, and nurtured a culture of enterprise, self-reliance, and share and council house ownership. But she had not truly weaned the electorate off government: the corrosive belief that "they" – some bureaucracy, the gentleman in Whitehall – can and should do everything for us. It is the great British paradox: the only thing we dislike more than intrusion is being left to our own devices. more...


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