Wednesday, 31 December 2008

There's Always Hope...

The death and resurrection of the New Labour scam

Rumours of New Labour’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, writes Mark Cantrell, so woe betide anyone looking to the ‘party that will’ for a bit of genuine social justice in the coming year. In fact, New Labour isn’t dead – it is being reborn with a vengeance

SMOKE and mirrors – that’s what a lot of modern politics thrives upon these days.

The delivery of modern politics is a theatrical arena, an exercise of sleight of hand and honey-tongued double-speak designed to mask and distract the poor punter from the real purpose of the game – power and profit at the punters’ expense.

Behind the sincere faces, the rhetoric delivered with cool aplomb, even the spats and leaks and spin, the real business of wheeling and dealing with the voters’ well-being continues come what may.

The house of cards that is the world’s economy might be trembling in the gales whipped up by the collapse of the financial markets, teetering towards a grim 2009 that exceeds our worst fears, but for New Labour the project remains the same.

“Those who have recently speculated on the death of New Labour are in for a shock,” said the chief of the DWP James Purnell, writing in the Independent. Indeed.

Ordinary people looking to New Labour to steer them clear of this storm are in for a shock. In this rebirth, for all the supposed actions and u-turns that heralded its supposed death, the mission remains very much business as usual. That is restoring and sustaining an environment that best accommodates the fortunes of Big Business – along with ever-greater levels of wealth for the few.

And hang the expense.

So: “New Labour is in rude health,” Purnell added.

Remember the words of Peter Mandelson, now securely protected from the vagaries of democratic elections within the ermine-robed chambers of the House of Lords; here was a man, a New Labour architect (along with Brown and Blair) who is decidedly relaxed about people getting “filthy rich”.

Alas, the New Labour Party has not been similarly relaxed about the notion of ordinary working people making more money in return for their long hours of work. It takes a stern view of people being paid a decent living wage, of seeing them protected from the worst excesses of their wealthy masters in the boardrooms of City finance houses, corporations, or the union of big business that is the CBI.

In those circles, as ever, the standard refrain is we can’t afford that so work harder! And New Labour bangs the drum to the desired tune; a dirge to the working people urging them towards despair and heartbreak, as they are bade to work harder to dig themselves into poverty. And that was in the ‘good times’ of boom.

In the gap between rich and poor, there do we find the hollowness of New Labour’s proclaimed concerns for the poor, for the ordinary folk of this land and those abroad. They are but a resource to be processed, packaged and sold to those who wish to extract shareholder-value from our communities, our very society and nation.

Now, in the cataclysmic months that has seen ‘credit crunch’ become recession, shareholder-value has taken something of a crash dive. The crisis has claimed former stalwarts of the financial sector, retail mainstays of the nation’s high streets, and it has accelerated a cull of the labour force. We have witnessed billions doled out to bail out banks – and punitive measures enforced to duly deal with the ‘work-shyness’ of the tens of thousands of people who will start 2009 redundant and under the duress of Purnell’s new ‘workhouse’ regime of benefits.

Out of work, not by their own lethargy or fecklessness, these poor souls, but courtesy of the failings of their boardroom Overlords and the financial Masters of the Universe who navigated the economy to Ground Zero, they shall nevertheless pay for the sins of their masters.

At the epicentre of this unfolding crisis in the UK wing of the capitalist system stands New Labour. The smug grin might have gone, replaced by the fierce determination to do whatever is necessary to protect those at the top of the pile, but it will not turn its back on what it is – a defender of power, privilege and profit.

Capitalism shudders from time to time; it’s how the system works. In the process, it’ll shake out the system, churn out yet more misery, provide an opportunity for some, but out of this maelstrom it will be an unlucky or feckless capitalist indeed who suddenly finds himself cast out of the ‘palaces of purpled’ ease.

It happens, of course, but all too often the ones so ruined are fools who bought the hype, gambled on a shyster’s spin, and lost their shirt – and we but mistake them for the real capitalist. Many will fall into ruin, but few will be those men of ‘invisible hands’ who stir and milk the machine. In any case, they have friends in high places; friends (insofar as friendship goes in such a furnace-environment of power and ambition) who are remarkably relaxed about their “filthy lucre” and their inheritance of privilege.

This is the New Labour project.

It was never about ‘sound management of the economy’ – whatever that actually means – nor was it about delivering social justice. New Labour was – is – about power. And the perks it brings.

To that end, New Labour will do whatever it thinks is necessary to preserve its power – and the privilege of those wealthy people it admires.

The balancing act is a fine one, for soon it must face an electorate scarred by the economic fall-out, but the party as it is today remains committed to supporting an environment where the wealthy – be they individuals or corporations – can become all the more “filthy rich”.

As Purnell said, New Labour is in rude health – and it will ruin us if that is what takes to preserve its ambitions and its goals. The Rich can rest assured; here is a party that will fight for their interests. New Labour will do anything and everything within its power to protect the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots’. This is the death and resurrection of the same old scam.

And to Hell with everyone too poor to engage the project’s fawning appreciation of wealth. Which, of course, is most of us. Happy New Labour! Over our dead bodies.


Mark Cantrell,
31 December 2008

Copyright (C) December 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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