I have been intermittently ‘blogging’ on Labour List for a few months now but was intrigued by one blogger’s request that Labour List only posted articles on ‘left wing matters’ and that moderation should excise any non ‘left wing comment’ from the blog. The poster referred to Conservative Home’s apparent tight control of responses to articles on Tory Policy and how the responses posted on that site were supportive, surely – he argued – that should be how Labour List is run. The problem with Conservative Home is that unless you are an unthinking Tory clone your post will never see the light of day and by and large ‘New Labour’ is now where they are as a result of that style of blinkered debate within the Labour party, masquerading as unity.
I make no bones in arguing against much of what ‘New Labour’ stands for because little of the legislation introduced by the New Labour experiment, in my opinion, has much of a socialist intent, merit or addresses the fundamental concepts of equality, opportunity and the needs and expectation that socialist governance should and can meet. Most of its much trumpeted improvements to the NHS, for example, have done little to change the culture of the organisation (which is the biggest employer in the UK) for the better. Many could have and should have, the clinical governance initiative being a case in point. The failure to address the underlying funding structure and the restrictive ‘ring fencing’ practices remains the biggest barrier to any real improvement in the NHS across the UK. The NHS remains a classic example of the left wing’s panacea for all problems – a command economy – in that it is under the complete control of political will rather than being driven by actual patient needs. Occasionally the two coincide but more by chance than design.
Devolution has highlighted the impact of the weakening of Richmond House’s UK command control over the NHS when the devolved parliament and assemblies decide to take health care down patient directed pathways to meet real needs by using their devolved budgets in different ways. In Wales there are free prescriptions, in Scotland care of the elderly is free at point of delivery, both ideas being socialist by nature but objected to at length by UK Labour Health ministers in Richmond House. Wales and Scotland have forced PFI lead contractors to suspend all parking charges in PFI hospitals so hospital parking is once again free. Health Authorities and Trusts in England are only, belatedly, being allowed by Richmond House to follow on.
The Labour Government in Westminster reacts to these differences in health and social care from their norm by cutting Barnett Allocations for health and social services to the devolved assemblies and Parliament as ‘punishment’ for daring to be different and not toeing the Labour Westminster line.
Labour activists in England may struggle to understand the impact this has on the view taken of Labour in Scotland and Wales. We see much of Labour policy in the Assembly and Parliament as controlled by the Westminster PLP machine leaving such as Iain Gray (Labour leader in Holyrood) high and dry as he clearly spouts what London wants him to say even in the face of the Scottish Political reality. He knows if he does not toe Gordon’s line his backside will be grass and Lord Foulkes will be Gordon’s lawn mower. So time after time he goes up against Alex Salmond at First Minister’s Question Time with both hands tied behind his back and is left looking a complete numpty and Labour in Scotland are left looking a disreputable, unelectable rabble; all because London’s command and control, as dictated by left wing political theory, will not allow Labour in Scotland to adapt to the new political circumstances devolution has created.
Now if we only allowed debate on left wing political thinking on Labour List just where could people who care about the Labour Party having a core of socialist policy that addresses actual needs, rather than stultifying left wing political theory, have a voice?
My dichotomy is I will vote SNP at the general election in 2010 and Holyrood in 2011 because I believe the Parliamentary Union has served its purpose and is now holding back the UK as a whole. I also happen to believe that SNP social policies better reflect Scotland’s current needs and expectations than anything so far produced by UK Labour. The flip side is once the move to independence has been completed; Scotland will need a vibrant and active Labour Party in Scotland to hold the SNP to account and most likely form a future Scottish Government.
Just where does that fit into ‘Left Wing Political Theory’?