Friday, May 11, 2007

Begrudging Blair

The problem with not keeping up daily posts is that fellow bloggers beat me to posting more or less exactly what I would have written. Not for the first time, step forward Liberal England.

Perhaps there are a few things to add. By 1997, the Tories and the country really did need a long break from one another, and Blair is to be congratulated in putting together a non-Tory electoral force that was capable of winning repeatedly.

The only other period in the past century that the Conservatives have appeared so utterly out of tune with the electorate and incapable of governing was in the few years before and the eight years after the 1906 Liberal landslide before the first world war intervened. Blair too got Britain into a war that it would have been better to stay out of. But because the war was on a lesser scale and much further away, his party has survived intact.

Liberals should be wary of lionising the Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith administration, but they certainly contributed towards making Britain a fairer, more democratic and humane society. I don’t believe that the same can be said for Blair’s government.

My particular complaint is about the criminal justice process, where the Blair government has abandoned Labour’s liberal traditions and reduced law and order policy to a bidding war for Sun and Daily Mail headlines. Even back in the days when Labour opposed neighbourhood watch schemes, I don’t think anyone claimed they were on the side of criminals – an accusation that Labour willingly level at opponents who dare to oppose any of their criminal justice bills.

It is perhaps a bit begrudging to pick on this particular issue while overlooking independence of the Bank of England, civil partnerships or the minimum wage. But there is something deeply cynical about the way Blair and New Labour have cheapened political debate that induces such begrudgery.

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