The New Labour project is exhausted. Its promise of change in 1997 was greeted with optimism – "things can only get better". A decade on, that change has become associated with the turbulence of global capitalism – fear of immigration and economic insecurity. New Labour has created a more individualised and wealthier society but not a freer or more equal one. In its neglect of its core working-class support it has lost its roots and ideological purpose. Despite its extraordinary electoral successes it has failed to build a lasting coalition for transformational change. (1)Blairism foundered because it didn't do any of the things it promised to do, which prompted people to vote for it in 1997. It didn't Not Be The Tories - except in name, Labour in power turned out to be as Tory as the Tories could have wished to be. They were every bit as corrupt, dishonest, pro-business and churlish towards the working class as the Tories could have wished to be.
The fact that referring to the 'working class' seems slightly odd shows how ideologicially timid New Labour has been. The fact that 'underclass' seems a perfectly naturally formulation shows how viciously right-wing their policies have been.
They failed hopelessly to drive through the electoral reforms they promised - Britain is still struggling under the miserably undemocratic First Past the Post system, and still has hereditary peers. A bit of tinkering around the edges, and then a mammoth case of cold feet. Blair decided it was easier to overthrow governments abroad and enforce democracy there than to try it at home.
Labour's failure to live up to its promises has left it in a weird position of being
a) the 'nasty party,Which is all very strange as these are the terms usually applied to the Tories. Leopards don't change their spots, but the unsghtly spots besmirching the party of Keir Hardie, Nye Bevan and Clem Attlee are currently much more noticeable than the blemishes on the party which gave us the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Edgar Griffin (2) and Michael Howard.
b) the dishonest, shifty bunch and
c) the ones opposed to the interests of working Britons.
Of course,t he Tory rhetoric about social inclusion is tissue thin and phoney, but Labour have been so inept - or disloyal - that the Tories don't need anything stronger. A few mealy mouthed words are enough to convince the electorate to vote for the Tories, for exactly the same reasons as they voted for Labour in 1997 - the incumbents have absolutely nothing to offer, not even the mealy mouthed promises.
(n.b. The use of the past tense in the title of this post should not be construed as suggesting that the current Labour government in Britain has ceased to suck. They still do, because they are still too like the Tories to do anything other than suck. Because the Tories suck. By definition.)
1 - "How did we become the party of the establishment?" by Jon Cruddas, in The Independent, 12th of September, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/jon-cruddas-how-did-we-become-the-party-of-the-establishment-927032.html)
2 - "'I'm a normal Conservative with perfectly normal views'" by Angelique Chrisafis in The Guardian, 25th of August, 2001. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/aug/25/uk.conservatives)