Martin Bright

What Do We Really Want from a Labour Government?

What Do We Really Want from a Labour Government?
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After reading Seumas Milne and Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian and then looking at the advert for the New Left Review on the back of the London Review of Books ("Good Riddance to New Labour"), I do wonder what these people want from a centre-left government. God knows I have been critical of New Labour -- I've had a pop at its record on civil liberties, education, radical Islam, prisons. I could go on. This government has lacked imagination and it has failed to be bold enough. But between 1997 and 2008 Britain became more tolerant and more confident. Hell, it has almost became a modern European nation. It is a better place to be than it was in the 1980s. David Cameron knows that and so do his closest allies in the Conservative Party. Because we have been protected from the full force of the recession, this is also the main reason the polls are so close. 

My only conclusion (and the NLR seems pretty explicit here) is that many on the left would be happier with a Conservative government. 

I've been spending time with my 1980 Labour Draft Manifesto. It is a reassuringly bonkers document that shows just how far the Labour Party has come. It is badly designed, poorly researched and badly written. It is fine to sneer at the language of this week's manifesto, but any idea that there was some golden age of political language before the arrival of the spinners is just nonsense. 

There are some choice policies: "Labour will seek to transfer all privately rented property (except where an owner-occupier lets part of his own home) into social ownership".

"We shall establish a significant public stake in each important industrial sector, inclusing major companies in such sectors as pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, micro-electronics, construction and building materials."  

And there are some interesting timeless concerns: "There is the threat to our civil liberties, for example, from the growth in the use of computer data banks, surveillance equipment, and the rest." Don't you love the vague threat of "and the rest". 

Some proposals have come around again, such as giving extra funds and lending powers to the Co-Operative Development Agency. 

It never happened of course. But in the end I have more time for the authors of the 1980 Draft Manifesto that I have for people content to occupy the happy world of pure critique where no one is ever disappointed because no one has any expectations.