I want your job, Gordon Brown

By skepticlawyer

As most people – even in Australia – know by now, Britain’s New Labour is tanking badly, and not just in the polls. They’ve been humiliated in several by-elections and in the local council elections. The worst embarrassment came last week, when Labour managed to lose its safest Scottish seat (Glasgow East) to the Scottish National Party. Although by-elections are a traditional way to hammer the party in power, it’s especially significant that the SNP candidate managed a 22.54% swing, a figure almost unheard of in the UK.

The SNP is being helped, of course, by the fact that it has proven to be a competent government in the devolved Scottish Parliament – far more so than Labour ever was. First Minister Alex Salmond is cannily copying the policies that made Ireland a ‘Celtic Tiger’, including a sharp cut in the corporate tax rate. Most of the iPhone I’ve just bought – including the chip – was made here in Edinburgh. It was only assembled in China.

Nationally, the Conservatives are riding high in the polls, helped by their photogenic and verbally slick leader, David Cameron. Labour’s Gordon Brown – a throw-back to an older style of politician, dour and hard-working – is daily humiliated in the dispatch box by Cameron, the archetype of the Oxford Union debater.

With that in mind, the nearest New Labour has to Cameron is an almost equally young and privileged Oxfordian, David Miliband. He’s quite blatantly written an application for the top job in the Guardian, such that other Labour MPs are calling for him to be sacked as a result. That said, there are also rumours flying around Whitehall that Labour apparatchiks are trying to hold back anyone vaguely electable in the hope that the next election will see the decapitation of the Blairite monster and all it stood for. It may mean five years of the Tories, the reasoning goes, but at least there will be clear differentiation between the two main parties afterwards.

Both Miliband and Cameron are personable and slick; in both cases the slickness seems to run in the family. Miliband’s father was a Marxist who bullshat his way into the UK as a ‘refugee’, although his sons were as privileged as Cameron, growing up in Primrose Hill and attending a carefully selected ‘quality comprehensive’. Cameron, of course, went to Eton, and is a distant relative of William IV.

Would Miliband save a tanking Labour? Unlikely. He would, however, make the defeat less catastrophic (the Tories are currently some 20% ahead in the polls; in a ‘first past the post’ electoral system, this is a recipe for political disaster). Various pundits have observed how close the two parties are, although on certain issues, the differences are notable. The Tories are stronger on civil liberties, planning to repeal Labour’s ’42 days’ detention, and are aware of the ‘democratic deficit’ created by the EU. They – like the Irish – would hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, killing it off completely.

Other differences are less clear, and enter more into the realm of speculation. One commenter at Tim Watts‘ place argues that:

The problem, as I see it, is that there is an (increasing) group of people who think that the outreach of women and minority communities is a fundamental attack on the “British” way of life. And these people are more than the usual suspects who read the Daily Mail et al.

The Tories are successfully focussing on the perception that places like London are unsafe, crime-ridden sink holes. I agree that Cameron is empty, but he is skilled at tapping the resentment of 11 years of Labour government.

I don’t think Cameron is remotely racist, and to the extent that this commenter thinks that the Tories are dogwhistling to racists, I disagree with him. However, there is no doubt that Labour’s multicultural policy and emphasis on immigration is hurting it badly. This is partly for the reasons DeusExMacintosh identified in her piece on the conflicts between Muslims and Britons over the uses of dogs. Instead of developing a home-grown system suited to a country with a distinctive cultural history of its own, New Labour imported a fairly hard brand of multiculturalism from Canada and Australia. It hasn’t worked, and some of the resentment has overspilled into other areas (notably directed at the EU). The wake-up call should have come when Boris Johnson not only won the London Mayoralty in a landslide, but the BNP managed to get a councillor elected as well.

Traditionally, the BNP only wins elections when there is corruption within the municipality they contest. When they start winning in London, it may be time to take the train driver’s advice and apply it to politics: ‘All Change, Please – this train terminates here’.

2 Comments

  1. Jacques Chester
    Posted August 1, 2008 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Most of the iPhone I’ve just bought – including the chip – was made here in Edinburgh. It was only assembled in China.

    Really? I would have put money on the probability that the chip had been manufactured by one of the fabs-for-hire. TSMC most likely.

    /nerd

  2. Posted August 2, 2008 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    Mate, that’s so nerdy even I don’t get it!

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