Friday, May 12, 2006

Bryan Gould on New Labour

Throughout the Kinnock and Smith leaderships, Bryan Gould was one of Labour’s more cerebral soft left politicians.

And then, in a surprise move in 1994, he suddenly announced he was jacking it all in to take up a university vice-chancellorship in his native New Zealand. He is now in retirement.

Although he must know where a lot of the bodies are buried, Gould has largely kept his own counsel and resisted the temptation to comment on what the Labour Party has become. He hasn't written his memoirs, for instance.

But anyone that knew him at the time can pretty much guess what his opinion of Blair must be. Following a recent visit to the UK, he spells it out anyway, in a thoughtful guest post on the blog of leftwing MP Austin Mitchell.

Here’s what Gould has to say, in an analysis made all the more pointed by the fact that his former constituency of Dagenham has seen the BNP make serious inroads in what should be a rock solid Labour area:

‘We see a Labour government which pays excessive attention to the powerful, both internationally and domestically, and which apparently believes that nothing can or should be done without their support.

‘We see a Labour government that is prepared to endanger the democratic process and civil liberties by placing the interests of government and other big players ahead of those of ordinary people.

‘We see a Labour government that has pursued an economic policy that favours asset-holders but jeopardises the jobs of those who make and sell things, a government that has – in areas like education – reintroduced unwelcome and unnecessary divisions, a government that apparently distrusts the idea of community and collective organisation, and prefers to entrust the functioning of society to the unchallenged market-place.

‘If I am right in identifying a gap between what a left government might reasonably be expected to do and what a Labour government has actually done, we might begin to make sense of the current political landscape.

‘That gap means that there is a void in British politics – a hugely significant part of the political spectrum is no longer represented in the politics of power. This is more than just a deficiency, or an absence.

‘The democratic Left, which has been the wellspring of so much that is progressive, innovative and reforming in Britain, finds that it is not only unrepresented but has actually been supplanted by what it thought was its own instrument – that, instead of what should be its voice, a different voice is heard.’

He doesn’t spell out the logical conclusion from this chain of thought, of course. But you don’t need a postgraduate degree in politics to work out what he is saying here.

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