What has happened to the Labour Party? How can this be a normal way to describe a public figure in 21st C? https://t.co/1Mz81uHN6f
— Oliver Kamm (@OliverKamm) September 24, 2017
The Times columnist Oliver Kamm is among the staunchest of an ever-dwindling band of Blairites, and was a supporter of Blair and New Labour throughout his time in office. That he should now be complaining of a lack of standards in the Labour party is somewhat ironic.
I remember when Blair won the 1997 election. Central to New Labour’s campaign was the idea that the Conservatives were out of touch and old fashioned and Britain was badly in need of modernising, and once in office they set about dismantling or “reforming” as many institutions as they could. Anything traditional was trashed, the latest whimsical fad adopted without question. Organisations and practices that had stood the test of time for generations were overhauled by Blair and his cronies who had not the slightest clue what they were doing, and nor did they care. All that mattered is Blair maintain his image as one of the cool, hip guys who could get down wiv the kids and get rid of Britain’s stuffy past. These were the days of Cool Britannia.
Blair’s contempt for the institutions and traditions of his own country went a long way to making the Union Flag a symbol of racism in some circles. Caught up in the stupidity, British Airways removed it from its tailplanes replacing them with tribal symbols and other such empty guff which typified those times. At least they were smart enough to reverse their decision in 2001, and BA were far from the only established firm to embark on a disastrous modernising and rebranding programme in the late ’90s and early ’00s; that list is long indeed. It goes without saying that New Labour’s reforms were cack-handed in the extreme: their ban on fox hunting was an unworkable mess followed by an absolute fudge; the wholly unnecessary House of Lords reform made things worse; and the abolition of the historic Lord Chancellor’s position without consideration of the constitutional effects epitomised the hubris of Blair and the whole New Labour mindset.
As is so often the case when a leader sets about trying to modernise institutions they don’t understand, Blair ended up chucking out standards in the process. Principles no longer mattered, nor did truth, honesty, and transparency. “Spin” was the new buzz-word and one’s political stance could be changed suddenly if a focus group advised the winds of public opinion had shifted momentarily. Endless tinkering, meddling, and unnecessary reforms coupled with cronyism, pettiness, and mediocrity were hallmarks of Blair and New Labour, and they left behind them an almighty mess inherited by jumped-up PPE graduates in shiny suits and power skirts who knew only Blair-type politics and nothing else. The absolute joke that were the Milliband brothers were fine examples of this, as was the clownish David Cameron. Desperate to win back the political centre, the Tories abandoned all pretence to conservatism and became another version of New Labour, indeed its natural successor. This had the effect of shoving Labour further to the left as political standards across the whole spectrum fell even further.
And now we have Labour scraping rock bottom with the Tories trundling up to the hole with drilling equipment, and metropolitan journalists who used up half their column inches praising Blair’s cultural, institutional, and political vandalism complain that standards have slipped.
Well, who’s fault is that, then?