The coalition government is dominated by former public school pupils. Within days of the appointment of the cabinet in May 2010, it was revealed that 16 senior ministers attended public schools. The findings also show the resurgence of the UK’s elite universities and members’ clubs, revealing a glacially slow pace of change.
Why do I find this all so predictable? What does it mean for the Left?
There’s a culture change in the air about the way powerful people are behaving – the current unconcern of individual ‘top’ ConDems when they are caught out by the media, the brushing aside of pleas that basic services need to be maintained, the rudeness of the ruling class to others.
Think the arrogance of Andrew Robathan, the questions over Chris Huhne, and the crass indifference to real need, on any number of issues, of George Osborne… not to mention that casual sexist put down by David Cameron or the recent grimly misplaced nonchalance of Ken Clarke.
And that’s even before we get to Dominic Lawson shamelessly promoting (in The Independent no less – so perhaps ‘exploiting’?) the literal interpretation of ‘an eye for an eye’; or other such gruesome throwbacks to barbarism.
Beware, beware. There’s change in the air.
Let not the progressive Left forget that recession can bring with it a turn to the Right, to a conservatism which the Tories now fervently seek, and which those spineless souls, the LibDems, seem unable to escape.
So how does Labour respond to this threat? How are the former Labour heartlands to be regained?
The attraction of one approach, Blue Labour – a return to the supposed traditional concerns of the ‘working classes’, is that it plays to the gallery of allegedly alienated Labour voters.
But without great care Blue Labour may also play the tune of the Right, of the law’n’order brigade and of the subjugation of women and everyone else who isn’t a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) male.
‘Errors’ of New Labour there may have been, and most of them were shared also by other Western states. These were however surely balanced by the huge benefits which the Labour Government delivered for so-called ordinary people, but which were sadly never trumpeted.
There was no massive celebration of NHS improvements, of Sure Start, of the determination to address climate change, of revitalising our cities…. so most people failed to make the connection between the leverage of power to deliver decent lives, and the Labour hand on that lever.
And still now we harp on publicly about all that Labour did ‘wrong’, ignoring the equally, indeed, even more important things that it did ‘right’.
Yes, responsible (neo-Keynesian) fiscal positioning remains critical for future economic viability.
Intelligent, open learning from mistakes is essential, but we need to see this presented in the context of the benefits which Labour brought to the (wo)man in the street, during its ten-plus years in power.
Enough of the sackcloth and ashes. Labour must offer the hypothecated audience for Blue Labour not static right-wing understandings as an answer for the future, but real, positive stories from recent history. That’s what should have happened whilst Labour was in power, and it’s what must happen now.
Labour must not, in now again reaching out to the ‘traditonal Labour voter’, rely on ‘traditional values’. That’s to play directly into the agenda of the Right.
Remember always that Eton has not one girl amongst its students, nor any child experiencing the daily grind of poverty. Tories always do traditional values better than can the Left.
Progressives need a different agenda.
Because, whatever they say, Conservatives can’t offer hope of a fairer society for everyone.