Monday, 27 September 2010

Collective delusions

One of the most entertaining parts of Tony Blair's autobiography is his account of Labour's lurch to the left in the 1980s. Blair admits that even he didn't think a Labour government was the best thing for the country in 1983, despite being a Labour candidate himself. He also recalls his bewilderment as activist upon activist declares that the country voted for Thatcher in 1979 because Labour wasn't left-wing enough.

The comparison with Labour today is striking, and few in the party seem able to learn the lessons from history. Two articles appeared today—one by me—involving the word 'delusion'. Over at Spiked, Brendan O'Neil marvels at Labour's cognitive dissonance.

After it ditched everything it once claimed to believe in, launched three disastrous wars, obliterated key freedoms, and went from viewing the working classes as potential voters to branding them a dumb, unhealthy blob in need of constant policing, you might think there is nothing left to admire in the Labour Party. But there is one thing. Its powers of self-delusion.

These are so strong, so unshakeable, that they cannot help but inspire a kind of bizarre, wide-eyed awe in anyone who beholds them. And they have been on full display following the election of Ed Miliband as the new Labour leader.

And at the Institute of Economics Affairs blog, I discuss Milliband Minor's wide-eyed faith in a certain piece of political junk science.

As Labour draws backs into its left-wing comfort zone, the easy answers being peddled in The Spirit Level will continue to hold a certain allure. Buttressed by soft science and sold under the guise of equality, the reheated policies of the Michael Foot era can almost appear new and exciting. In truth, reducing income inequality is easily achieved, if there is a will to do so and if one is prepared for the unintended consequences. There are no such easy answers for reviving the economy and tackling complex social problems.

The electorate understands this. Across Europe, the economic crisis has failed to provoke the backlash against capitalism that was predicted (and hoped for) in some quarters. Even in Sweden, voters have condemned the Social Democratic Party and its Spirit Level-loving leader to an unprecedented second successive electoral defeat. If he wants to avoid the same fate, Labour’s new leader will have to draw on more than populist paperbacks and wishful thinking.

Please take a look...


Ed Butt said...

What we need to worry about is that so long as Scotland remains over represented in Westminster these delusionists will never be far from power.

AV is a bad system but the coalition need to push it through as it will go some way to countering the systemic imbalance in favour of Labour.

I will comfort myself in the meantime by looking at the picture of Ed Milliband looking pookily like Harry Potter featured on my blog some months ago.

Fredrik Eich said...

Is the spirit level any way related to the current trend of politicians constantly referring to "fairness" all the time or is it unrelated? It's hard to argue against "more fairness in education" and "more fairness in health" especially if you don't even know what they mean by "fairness".

Dick Puddlecote said...

"Is the spirit level any way related to the current trend of politicians constantly referring to "fairness" all the time"

Fredrik: Yes, got it in one.

timbone said...

Labour remind me of a very sick person who refuses to seek the opinion of a doctor

Anonymous said...

Labour are doing well in the polls at the moment.
Mind boggling, utterly mind boggling.
I think that in itself is a damming indictment of the state of the UK today.