Alex Massie

New Labour RIP

New Labour RIP
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I've too much respect for my friends at The Times to ask if Rupert Murdoch dictated that this Peter Brookes cartoon appear on the paper's front page today...

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The Thunderer's leader column makes it pretty clear, I think, that the Times will not be endorsing Labour at the next election:

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both promised reform of public services that might have allowed the quality of services to be maintained at a lower rate of spending. In the absence of that reform, high spending and the maintenance of a large public sector workforce became the only way of maintaining servive levels. Yet such spending has proven unsustainable.

It is this which led Labour to its fateful decision. At the last two elections it contrasted spending growth with an offer of tax and spending cuts from the Conseratives that it characterised as ideological and unrealistic. This cannot be the dividing line at the next election because Labour will itself have to restrain spending and will be offering only tax rises. So Labour has chosen a different dividing line. It will fight, as it used to, partly on taxing the rich.

The deep international crisis would have been difficult for any Government. For this one - with excessive borrowing already underway - the challenge is particularly severe. It has mortgaged the future on the ideas of the past.

This is the thing that Labour MPs such as Tom Harris do not appear to grasp: everyone appreciates that this is an international crisis, what people are angry about - and not unreasonably so - is that Britain appears more, not less, vulnerable than all its peers. No wonder folk are upset that government debt is set to rise to 57% of GDP - a figure not seen even in the desperate times of the late 1970s.

Of course, in 1976, Jim Callaghan told the Labour Party conference: "We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists."

Apparently it does now.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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