British political leaders, 1970-2020
Fifty years of failure. A nice little soundbite: the kind that politicians just love to use during elections, when they want something devoid of specifics and hazy on facts with which to bash the other Party.
But in this case – yet another column from an ageing analyst – the observation is both warranted, and generously ecumenical. The self-interested cowardice of the British political class since 1970 has been one, not of managing decline, but rather of maintaining power at all costs by deceit.
It simply won’t do to adopt a breezy air of cynicism and say “don’t be silly, it was always like that”: it wasn’t, and there’s a mountain of facts to prove it.
Churchill was a mixed bag at the best of times, but always an inspiration, always a patriot. Attlee delivered a staggering collection of social reform after 1945. Macmillan was managing decline, but brought in an era of housebuilding and education for the right people at the right time. The much-derided Wilson devalued Sterling, but from the vantage point of today he steered a clever and expert path through a minefield of sovereign debt and trade union greed while somehow managing to keep his Party together…and US hegemony demands at bay.
The key point here is that I suspect most reasonable people would be unable to survey the events of of the thirty years from 1940 to 1970 and say, “Ah yes – that’s where the rot set in”. We bankrupted ourselves fighting the dictators, but we did it for more good reasons than bad. Britain’s education and health systems were fairer and more effective than ever before. A remarkable degree of agreement was achieved across politics with the idea of a mixed economy. England’s great cities became the undisputed vanguard of all things music, design, fashion, media and football. The lucky bounce of North Sea Oil seemed to have made our future secure.
And then it all began to go terribly wrong.
Edward Heath was a well-meaning man who, like most of the civil servants working with him to get Britain into the Common Market, had never had a proper job involving negotiation training, knew nothing about marketing and believed firmly in British fair play.
Unfortunately, the EEC didn’t. Heath was completely taken in by the Brussels line of a Europe so economically interdependent, it would never go to war again. Although the Foreign Office (FCO) were alert enough to point out to Heath ‘areas of policy in which parliamentary freedom to legislate will be affected by entry into the European Communities….Customs duties, Agriculture, Free movement of labour, services and capital, Transport, and Social Security for migrant workers’ they nevertheless argued that it would be ‘advisable to put the considerations of influence and power before those of formal sovereignty.’
So from Day 1, this was obviously an issue….but Heath not only ignored it, he lied to the electorate about it. In June 1971, a pamphlet was sent to every home in the UK alleging, “There is no question of Britain losing essential sovereignty.” Having signed up to the EEC in January 1973, Heath told viewers in a national TV broadcast, “There are some in this country who fear that, in going into Europe, we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified.”
Privately, Edward Heath felt a united states of Europe to be far more important than national sovereignty.
Following a brief Wilson interregnum in 1974, Jim Callaghan came to power for Labour – well aware already that the trade unions were riddled with communist infiltration and politically motivated “wildcat” strikers. But Callaghan himself was a lifelong TUC member, and unwilling to face the reality of his biggest donor (by far) seeing themselves as above the Law…..especially after their Pyrrhic victory in the 3 day week tussle with Heath.
His smug attitude (“what crisis?”) as concerted hard-Left Union action reduced Britain to chaos in fact disguised a genuine concern suppressed by missing cojones. His fear of destroying the Labour Party allowed Thatcherism to get off the ground.
If putting his own sectional interests ahead of the Nation sealed his doom and brought forth a veritable Conservative hegemony, Margaret Thatcher’s outlook went well beyond any desire to correct the balance: she hated the TUC (particularly the Miners) and those communities she saw as run by hordes of proletarian yobs. Thus, while her left brain was ideologically married to monetarism and the neoliberal ideology, her right brain demanded revenge for the defeat of Heath by the Scargillites.
Baroness Thatcher destroyed the social glue of entire working class communities, and her most important weakness was in not replacing the destruction with something more solid than financial City greed. Like Arthur Scargill himself and the extremists in Militant, Thatcher was a divisive class warrior who put wealth before moral and community considerations – herself once saying in a fit of anger, “there is no such thing as society”. It was a nonensical observation, and she knew it. But this – and the equally ludicrous “trickle down wealth” concept – will damn her forever. She was a middle class southern scientist who felt more comfortable among the racier financial figures, and failed to understand the iniquity of the so-called Poll Tax.
Flapping about in the occasional background of growing ideological rigidity were demographic forecasters rightly pointing out the basic flaws in the State Pension system, primarily surrounding the issues of longer citizen life survival and consequent unaffordability of the promises made during the 1945 Attlee Government.
But as always, vote-centric cowards put off the evil moment. They would not face the problem that there would be an immediate requirement to either increase the sums devoted to SP costs, or promise less in the end to those people still young. Politicians (surprise, surprise) opted to try and find ways to incur costs in what one might call “the long-term tomorrow”.
As early as 1957, in fact, the sensible Gaitskellite wing of the Labour Party proposed a PAYE based ‘national superannuation’ scheme with funds invested in the stock market. The Left (including Wilson) balked at the idea of investing in financial capitalism. In fact, had Heath used some imagination in switching from ‘current account’ funding of SPs to safer-end investment, even despite various crashes, the recent SPA reforms (too opportunistic and too late) would not have been necessary.
As I have posted before, the appallingly treated Waspi/Backto60 women have been left in penury as a direct result of political cowardice and ideological holiness.
After Thatcher’s departure at the hands of lesser figures, the Tory Party sank into a mire of gimmicks, sleaze, bickering and paucity of new ideas. But a return to the ‘Looney Left’ was, for most people, unthinkable as an alternative.
In the 1980s, a group of more democratic Labour MPs broke away from the Party to form the SDP. This ‘Gang of Four’ then formed an alliance with David Steel’s Liberal Party that, for a while, enjoyed famous by-election victories and began to do well in opinion polls. If, at this point, the then majority ‘spine’ of democratic Labour had rejected ‘Old’ Labour for the more electable SDP, it’s possible to argue that Britain would have benefitted. But again, self-protection, sectional interest and cowardice came before the National Interest.
Even at this point, we see consensus pragmatism losing out to the rigid ideologies of both Right and Left…and the average MP’s obsession with staying on the Green Bench Gravy Train at all costs. Finally, the GO4 + Steel began to squabble at the ego level. So the end was swift.
Even worse, it made the rise of Blair, Campbell and Mandelson pretty much inevitable. For something or somebody had to bring Labour ‘up to date’ as Crosland and Wilson had tried to do in the early 1960s.
Philip Gould’s banal ‘repositioning’ of the Party as New Labour brought Clintonian spin-based cynicism to the forefront of UK politics. Tony Blair’s arrival as Leader meant skipping all pretence at pragmatic substance in favour of soundbite signals, Campbellian fantasies and Mandelson control-freakery. These people may have seen themselves as media-savvy technocrats building a 21st century dominance for Labour, but in truth they traded principle for power, and delivery for depravity.
For me, this marked the start of peddling unreality as a political way of life: about everything from intrabank lending, immigration concerns, independent foreign policies, true levels of employment and actual wage values to educational standards and weapons of mass destruction. After thirteen years in power, ‘Cool Britannia’ was left confused and anxious in the face of lies, data manipulation, EU denialism, financial incompetence and immigration as a means of building a broader base. The EU and migrant idiocies led directly to the rise of UKIP.
Cool Britannia was morphing into a Cruel Britannia where Too Big To Fail came before people.
In the midst of the 2008-9 banking crisis, the “Greatest ever” British Chancellor Gordon Brown gave perhaps the best impression ever (for he was now Prime Minister) of The Boneless Man by caving in completely to the cap-proffering demands of international banking.
It is staggering to realise this, but Britain’s banking bailout at that time cost £780 billion – almost exactly the same sum as the much larger US Federal Government had to cough up.
It had been obvious for years that ‘New’ Labour had failed spectacularly to reset the balance of UK gpd back to modern forms of high margin and/or hitech products, in order to reduce our dangerous dependence on flakey City financial services. Squeaky-clean light blue Labour talked a good game; in reality, they didn’t do anything, because the were clueless about what to do.
Yet again, British interests had come last.
It says everything about the dozen years since then that Cameron was happy to be the heir to a vessel as empty as Blair, Nick Clegg sold out his Party for a meaningless non-job title, and the Miliband of Labour space cadets courted every minority in desperation for votes….all the while failing to land a single punch on the Murdochs, Jeremy Hunt, Rebekah Brooks or London Mayor Boris Johnson.
His Chancellor Bullingdon chum George Osborne having persevered with an austerity strategy during the cheapest borrowing rates in history, Cameron was nevertheless handed a gift in the shape of Labour defections to UKIP.
Yet again, a Prime Minister put Party strategy (and his own dismal diplomatic failures around Europe) above national unity by allowing a referendum on EU membership….which, he was sure, Remain would win – and thus sink the Europhobic wing of his Party.
He had already been handed a gift with the incomprehensible election of militant Leftie Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn was (and is) a Leaver for all the right reasons; but rather than split his Party, he opted for being neutral in the debate. (Party and ideology before country blah-blah ad nauseam).
The overall result was the worst possible outcome – a narrow victory for Leave which allowed the eunatics to argue against its validity….a fruitless and logically baseless activity that continues to this day. As the Establishment responded in increasingly unconstitutional ways to overturn the referndum result, Theresa May’s surrender to EU demands led in turn directly to Boris Johnson finally making it to Downing Street.
He is there – as the last straw man – thanks to an undemocratic civil service created by the euro-pc-sexuality-Common Purpose-media axis of quiet infiltration….and the serially spineless ethics-free can kicking of a half century’s worth of unaccountable bodgers.
But what a finale he is! He tolerated Sir Mark Sedwill for too long, and then banished him to a place where he will do far more damage to an independent Britain clinging on to free speech. In terror of the ridiculous ravings of Fergusons, Horbys and other pharma-fed “experts”, he bottled out of the Swedish Covid19 strategy. In an attempt to “save” the NHS (and his own backside) he caused unnecessary care home death by Covid-positive patient dumping. Despite the glaring incompetence of Matt Hancock, he refuses to change direction….for fear of losing face. He’s given Brussels the chance to accuse him of chicanery that was quite unnecessary. He went with a pointless Lockdown that blew £2 trillion of UK gdp.
And so we have open warfare in the Cabinet….with an upcoming financial crash to face, and a man too feckless and idle to listen to the growing clamour of more experienced medical and economic opinion.
Britain, meanwhile, limps home in that last place reserved for inglorious failure.
As the State’s political ability to effect change has become increasingly apparent, three things have developed to a stage where any reality of liberal democracy has vapourised:
- Secretive Cabinet government by decree
- Unelected power filling the political vacuum
- Social and media censorship across the piece.
This is not going to change without radical rebuilding from the foundations upwards.
And as regards the final point above, you may or may not know that my sole Twitter identity free from shadow-banned tweets and blocked RTs – @SlogJay – was shut down without explanation last night.