The Brooning of Labour

If, like me, you were repelled by the unctuous vapouring of Gordon Brown’s Conference Speech, then you’ll enjoy Ross McKibbin’s acerbic commentary in the current LRB. Sample:

How problematic Brown’s policies were and are has been demonstrated by the Northern Rock affair. In the short term, of course, its difficulties were not the doing of the government. Northern Rock was the victim of a crisis in the international banking system caused by unwise mortgage lending in the United States. In the longer term, however, Brown, New Labour and much of the country’s political and financial elite have acquiesced, with more or less enthusiasm, in a financial regime which began in this country with the abolition of credit restrictions by the Thatcher government. Although there were arguments in favour of abolition it was always very risky – just as the present colossal levels of personal indebtedness (essential to Labour’s electoral success) are very risky. That it came to a run on a bank – something that has not happened in Britain for 150 years, not even in the international financial crisis of 1931 when the stability of the British banking system was the wonder of the world – shows how instinctively (and understandably) nervous people are of this regime. Furthermore, Brown’s system of regulation worked badly. It was he who divided regulatory responsibility between the Financial Services Authority and the Bank of England – which was asking for trouble – and it was he who extended the autonomy of the Bank, with predictable results.

The truth is that — as McKibbin points out — much of what is most detestable about New Labour — its authoritarianism, contempt for civil liberties, adulation of ‘wealth creation’, micromanagerial obsessiveness over ‘targets’, PFI, etc. — are actually more Brown’s creations than Blair’s. The only difference is that Brown is now varnishing them with a new layer of patriotic tosh about “Britishness”, “British values”, etc. If the Tories weren’t so pathetic there might be some hope of unhorsing the pompous ass.