Tony Garnett • Blog Posts

Tony Blair

Blair, Milburn and Hattersley: a modern morality

Blair, the man who stole the Labour Party and delivered it to Thatcherism, is now in a different frame of mind. A Land Tax, no less. A tax proposed a century ago by the Liberals, taken up later by Labour, and defeated by the land owning Tories in the Lords. It is indeed a no brainer.

It would replace Council Tax, which Blair lacked the political courage to reform. It would be fair: the richer you were, the more you would pay. It would prod developers with land banks to build homes rather than hoard the land. It would return to the public purse gains donated by public investment.
But why is the neo-Tory Blair now advocating what he refused to enact in office?
He fears the tumbrils rolling.

Milburn, a Marxist Leftie when young who moved steadily to the Right as his career advanced, has now resigned from the Social Mobility Commission. He complains that Theresa May and her Government are indifferent to creating a fairer Britain. He’s surprised?
Why is this Blairite showing such concerns now?
He fears the tumbrils rolling.

They know that the Brexit vote was largely a protest against the contempt of the capitalist class. They know that there was nothing learned from the collapse of the financial system in 2008, when the taxpayer was given the bill and the bankers were forgiven. They know that the world is swimming in even more debt, while millions of our own children go hungry. They know that we’re close to another recession, but lack the traditional means of riding it out. They know “managing expectations”, the skill of manipulative politician, is running out of road. They know “extremism” might erupt and people in their despair and anger might try to smash their cosy club.
They fear the Left when they should be worried about the Right. But deep down they know the system they have made a career of supporting, a system that has richly rewarded them, has gone too far for comfort.
Hence their new radicalism. Too little, too late.

But then comes along Roy Hattersley, another Blairite apologist. He has the audacity to curse Momentum and warn against John McDonnell. Why? For proposing policies which, if enacted, would take Labour back to the pre-Thatcher centre ground, the post-WW2 world of Butskellism. He seems to think that Jeremy Corbyn, that classically principled reformist, is a new Lenin.
This from a man who took part in the ruthless hijacking of Labour by Mandelson, when all socialist ambitions were purged and the movement was centralised around the No 10 sofa.
Stalinism in all but name.
I believe that Corbyn’s Labour’s instincts are deeply democratic.

These three apologists for the system that got us into this fine mess are not going to get us out of it.


Photo credit: Centre for American Progress / Flickr