Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Monday, 22 August 2016

New Labour and neoliberalism

Anyone who talks about New Labour as being a “disciple of neoliberalism” really should define what they mean by neoliberal. One of the defining characteristics of neoliberalism as far as I am concerned is a dislike of ‘big government’. Neoliberals are not libertarians: they are happy to use the state and make it powerful in particular ways (e.g. defence). However neoliberals are in favour of the privatisation of many government activities, and cutting its welfare and redistributive roles. That is the only reason why austerity was a neoliberal policy.

There are lots of ways of measuring the size of the UK government, but here is one: government consumption as a share of GDP, using world bank data.


The share of UK government spending on this measure, as with others, rose steadily and significantly under the 1997-2010 Labour government. The contrast with the previous Conservative government could not be clearer. The positive benefit that brought to public services like the NHS was real and substantial.

There are other ways in which New Labour attempted to undo the impact of the market. One concerned child poverty. While they did not manage to reverse the increase in child poverty that occurred under Thatcher, it was not for want of trying. Relaxed about the inequality that came with neoliberalism for sure, but not relaxed about poverty. New Labour introduced the minimum wage.

New Labour could be described as neoliberal in some of the other things it did, or did not do. But true disciples do not usually pick and choose which of their leader’s teachings they follow. When it comes to the rather important issue of the size of the state, New Labour was not neoliberal.

41 comments:

  1. The size of the state is - as you admit - only a small part of neoliberalism. When it comes to 'favouring business interests' (from your own Neoliberalism article), they were neoliberal.
    Also, didn't all that privatising reduce the size of the state?
    On your final paragraph, I don't think New Labour (or Cameron and his lot) are true disciples of anything. They were/are just puppets doing what they are told by very rich/powerful people (Murdoch, NATO, donors, etc.)
    New Labour also reduced the power of trade unions in several ways.
    And, of course, they reduced the grasp of the state on education, health, The Bank of England, prisons...
    If the era of neoliberalism is coming to an end (as Jacques says) then New Labour will be seen as having been part of that era, doing little to try to change the dominant ideology.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did not say that the size of the state is only a small part of neoliberalism. You may think that revitalising the NHS after it had been run into the ground is 'small', but I don't think most people would agree with you.

      Delete
    2. "Revitalising the NHS after it had been run into the ground" -- fair enough, but surely this is further evidence of New Labour's particular brand of neoliberal social democracy: new hospitals were built under Private Finance Initiatives, while investment in staff and facilities were contingent on the extension of internal markets and outsourcing. More money went in, but there were significant continuities with the policies of the Major government on public service reform.

      Delete
    3. If you define neoliberalism as a set of characteristics, does calling something neoliberal require it to have all or just some of these characteristics? If its the latter, then it becomes a rather meaningless word.

      Delete
    4. This is fool's game, Simon. It could easily be reversed to ask you why you choose one aspect of neoliberalism to "prove" that New Labour is not neoliberal.

      Delete
    5. But I didn't say 'New Labour was not neoliberal'! I think my question above is perfectly legitimate. Without it, we get very sloppy thinking.

      Delete
    6. When I said a small part I was referring to your article on Neoliberalism:

      I know what I mean when I (occasionally) use the term neoliberal. Neoliberalism is a political movement or ideology that hates ‘big’ government, dislikes any form of market interference by the state, favours business interests and opposes organised labour.

      It's one of four things you mention.
      Also, do these GDP figures include Blair's wars?
      Sorry if I'm making a mistake on this, but obviously most people would not view spending those billions on war as a good thing. (Worse than Thatcher and Major.)
      How do George W Bush's GDP figures look after spending trillions on war (most diverted to favoured US war corporations)?
      Personally I think New Labour did a very small amount of good things in a very long time, including the minimum wage and an increased NHS budget.

      Delete
    7. "When it comes to the rather important issue of the size of the state, New Labour was not neoliberal."

      "But I didn't say 'New Labour was not neoliberal'!"

      I'm struggling to understand the point that you're trying to make here.

      OK, so on the narrow point of the size of the state, New Labour was not neoliberal. Yet New Labour is not "not neoliberal". So it's what? Partially neoliberal? And this gets us precisely where?

      Maybe that we should not call New Labour neoliberal, because that's woolly thinking? So what should we call New Labour then? [pauses for a hail of irrelevant expletives from the audience]

      Quasi-neoliberal?

      Delete
    8. Actually the post involved 3 of the 4. The minimum wage is direct interference with the market, and hardly favours business interests.

      Delete
    9. Mr Wren-Lewis i see little wrong in what your saying,other than in the targeted areas they picked,they never embraced that labour being able to find its true value in neoliberal economics,has been it downfall,so (theoretically but looking at what has happened) by implementing tax credits and the minimum wage was in the interest of business,since it forced it act in way that was against its ideology but it propped up what would have failed much quicker),which is why unions should play a part because you really can't have a free market unless in process and the law unless equal weight is given to the needs of the whole market and one thing all neoliberals fail to understand is the workforce is the market!oppress them you depress the market,its not a difficult concept but one,that doesn't seem to be understood by them!but like QE,both measures are a sign of the problems caused by the system and doesn't make them good practise in a good stable economy,So i would like you to open your mind to the fact that the minimum wage and tax credits were to the benefit of business,just like if you read Milton Freidman to maximise profits for the benefit of longevity that if you over priced (& caused economic damage)then actually making a loss to balance that wrong would actually be the right action to take? for long term sustainability? & failure to do so would result in helicopter money to do the same job in extreme emergencies!

      Delete
    10. gastro george22 August 2016 at 07:09. You say that New Labour was neoliberal in some ways but not in others. What is wrong with that?

      Delete
    11. "The minimum wage is direct interference with the market, and hardly favours business interests."
      That's if you view only one side of the balance sheet. Wages are also a source of profits. Spending = Income.

      Delete
  2. Was motivated to re-create the chart and posted to twitter: https://twitter.com/SocialPolicy/status/767666090247917572

    ReplyDelete
  3. While you are right to complain about some comments being woolly in their use of the term neoliberal as a catch-all term of abuse, I think that you're being trapped by over-precision in this case.

    I don't think it can be denied that neoliberalism has been the dominant force in national economics (note that I leave out academia) since the 80s, to the extent that it has had total hegemony over the public economic discourse. New Labour made a conscious decision that policy should conform to that consensus. In that sense it's not unreasonable to label New Labour as neoliberal.

    I'd go further - you use the NHS as an example. Now increasing the size of the state by providing the NHS with more funds is undoubtedly a good thing. But if, at the same time, you are increasing the marketisation of the NHS, laying the foundations for future steps towards privatisation, then that is wholly negative. As a side effect, that marketisation has wasted vast sums of money and, by channelling funds to private providers, is entirely welcome to the private sector.

    So I think, in short, that looking at a narrow set of statistics (government GDP share) to make your point obscures the bigger picture. In fact it's rather like right wingers using similar gross statistics to "prove" that there has been no austerity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would have thought it was blind faith in the "market" as the best most efficient solution to any economic or policy problem was the defining trait of the Chicago school economists who built the theories behind neo-liberalism. New Labour were all for the marketisation of socially provided services, they used policies like tax credits to just make the change less harsh.

      Delete
    2. Find me a set of data that suggests the size of the state did not increase under New Labour.

      Until the financial crisis Osborne was very reluctant to suggest cutting public spending, which suggests some New Labour success in challenging the idea that a smaller state is good.

      Delete
    3. Hi Simon, I believe the point people are making is that New Labour only increased government spending on public services to fund the privatization (e.g. to fund the 20% profit margin most private enterprises require) of those services. If spending had not been increased provision and/or quality would have had to full in order to fund profit margin and increased management costs, etc.

      A further point you miss, and it is the one that drive most Corbyn supporters away from New Labour is the voting in Parliament and policies post 2010. This feeds back into the, why did Labour except that its spending policies were the cause of the great depression. Clearly, if I've understood your posts over the last few years correctly its polcies on spending were not the cause of the 'crash', but, rather, a catastrophic market failure. New Labour could not accept that obvious fact as it clashed with its world view of markets are always best and, as such, could bring itself to challenge the false narrative about government spending pushed out by the media and Conservative party. This is the main 'neoliberal' dogma that lead most Corbyn supporters to class them as such. So when faced with the aftermath of the great depression New Labour had a choice - to defend public spending, both as a policy and as having not caused the near world wide depression; however, to do that would have meant publically admitting that market failure caused the collapse and that was/is something New Labour ideology could not contemplate. It is the underlying assumptions that make mediamacro, the issue you so rightfully challenge through this blog.
      Finally, you are right to remind Labour supporters that New Labour implemented some policies that made a real difference for millions of people, and, if 2008 - 2016 had not changed everything for the worse, its fawning devotion to everything market related would not have the power it now exerts over Labour members (and I would argue the nation too; though too many people blame it on immigration).
      The above is 'off the cuff' thinking aloud so I'll be glad of any corrections/nuances you will be able to add.

      shaunt

      Delete
  4. But is "dislike of big government" an aim, or a prejudice, or part of an underlying philosophy which informs political decisions, or all of the above? Such things are difficult to quantify, or approach as a tick list. There are surely different ways of being neoliberal just as there are different ways of being Christian (to keep with the "true disciple" metaphor). A government might use the state to extend and strengthen the influence of the market; I'd say that is what Thatcher, Major and Blair all did, to varying degrees, in very different ways, underpinned by ideas about the state and the market that would have been largely off limits pre-1979.

    I found this piece by Will Davies very useful: http://www.perc.org.uk/project_posts/the-difficulty-of-neoliberalism/

    "To describe Blairism as ‘neoliberal’ may sound to Progress like a form of abuse, but it is technically very accurate. It doesn’t mean that Blairism was not ‘progressive’ or ‘modernising’, on the contrary. The introduction of market mechanisms and quasi-market mechanisms into the public sector modernised governance in ways that was arguably very well-suited to an age of reduced political and cultural deference, and rising consumerism."

    ReplyDelete
  5. 'Anyone who talks about New Labour as being a “disciple of neoliberalism” really should define what they mean by neoliberal.'

    When the meaning of a word has become so confused or contested that you have to explain your own personal definition every time you use it, perhaps it is time to find another one.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Suppose you find, as some economists have done, that introducing a degree of competition in the NHS improves outcomes. Would acting on that make you neoliberal?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that for some areas of healthcare activity an element of competition and/or the involvement of private provision has the potential to improve outcomes and/or reduce costs, and that it is therefore worth trying.

      If this doesn't make me a neoliberal, then there aren't any neoliberals involved in formulating NHS policy. If it does then healthcare policy-making here and everywhere else in Europe is overrun with neoliberals.

      This is a perfect illustration of how useless the word has become.

      Delete
    2. Again, you're employing an narrow argument to support (or deny) a wider label.

      The obvious answer is that it depends on the wider context. If there was a specific case where competition would improve outcomes (medical rather than economic) then it might make sense to introduce competition in that specific case - that would not be a neoliberal action. There would also need to be a judgement made about whether that introduction of competition would have negative secondary effects.

      What would be neoliberal would be to use the evidence of narrow cases to promote competition generally.

      [BTW, I'd be interested to have links to the evidence that you're citing.]

      Delete
    3. gastro george22 August 2016 at 06:55. I agree completely. Which means that it is not enough to point to neoliberal type outcomes, you also have to ask why these outcomes were chosen.

      Delete
  7. Recently I have enjoyed Wendy Brown's 'Undoing the Demos' on this subject. She is taking a wider view criticizing over economozation of the public sphere. She builds on Foucault's use of the term.

    In this sense I would way that the new-labour project persisted in that vain - though I take, and would accept, the point you make. I don't want to go further in that direction, we need to step back.

    The book resonated strongly with me. It is worth a read.

    https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/undoing-demos

    ReplyDelete
  8. Citing one measure just won't cut it I'm afraid. How about NPM?
    The language and behaviours of the market crept into almost all areas of public provision and public life during the New Labour years: had there been no financial crisis, had Blair/Brown remained in office we'd have seen further market creep - NPM is used to prime the public sector for privatization - under the auspices of Purnell et al.
    Mark Fisher discusses a form of Market Stalinism that took hold during the Blair era: I can only agree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our blogger cited other measures like the minimum wage. Because he is using the mandarinesque/jesuitical technique of showing that if there are a few deviations from neoliberalism, then it cannot be "true" neoliberalism, as he writes: "true disciples do not usually pick and choose".

      Just consider the minimum wage issue: sure 100% neoliberals would not want that, but what about keeping and deepening neoliberal anti-union labour market "reforms", and standing by and smiling as zero-hour contracts and gangmasters drive low-income working practices?

      And as to the higher share of government spending that largely went to relatively affluent older people via the NHS.

      The major non-neoliberal policy New Labour implemented was tax credits, and even among non-neoliberal policies it is as neoliberal as it can be, because it ultimately is a way to subsidize a policy of low wages, harsh competition for jobs with desperately poor immigrants, zero hour contracts.

      Delete
  9. I think you really need a healthy dose of study in political economy. I am finger-pointing you in particular, this is a problem generally with modern economics teaching.

    We need to clear up what is meant by neo-liberalism. This is heavily related to a school of thought in political science which links democracy and capitalism through individualism and freedom. Francis Fukuyama is probably the most famous neo-liberal.

    The golden age of neo-liberalism was the 1990s. This was the age of the Washington Consensus and the Great Moderation. Basically they believed in the efficiency of markets and therefore deregulation. They were not, however, opposed to the welfare state as they were also socially liberal.

    In terms of economics, pro-deregulation but with a minimum welfare safety net. Macro-activism, yes (although subject to certain rules), but not at the micro level. Industry policy or centralised wage fixation systems? No way. They tend to also believe in natural laws and natural rates. They advocate positivist (algebraic) approaches. Micro-foundational economics -whether new-classical or new-Keynesian also sits very nicely with their philosophy.

    Privatisations and a light touch to financial and other regulation, but a minimum welfare saftey net plus relatively generous spending on the NHS (by relative British standards perhaps, although but probably not by Continental ie German or Scandinavian standards), that was pretty much the philosophy of the Blaire Government. Definitively new-Liberal.

    The new-liberal orthodoxy was very strong up to 2008, few people had the historical or philosophical perspective or where brave enough to question it - perhaps Stiglitz was an important exception within the mainstream economics profession.

    NK.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As to ignorance, what amuses me is that everyone who tells me this gives me a different definition of neoliberalism. As I have explained in my post on the subject, one reason for this is different US and European perspectives.

      "centralised wage fixation systems? No way." So a government that introduces a minimum wage is in no way neoliberal?

      Delete
    2. Regrettably, I have to agree. A book I would recommend to get a clear definition is a first year text for many undergraduate courses in the UK:

      Burchill, S., "Theories of International Relations" Palgrave. This is the sort of approach I would like to see replace Mankiw. It also discusses why certain schools adopt rational choice approaches, and the merits and dangers of doing this. It does a similar thing with Marxian and Realpolitik approaches.

      By centralised wage fixation system, I mean collective bargaining systems - such as those in Japan and Germany. Talk to any mainstream economist about the merit's of these things and they would unconditionally dismiss them on the basis of "theoretical evidence" (an oxymoron that only a contemporary economist could possible use). A Japanologist, however, would tell you that such systems played an important role in key stages of its successful development. Tobin also once suggested such a thing - and even he then suddenly vanished.

      NK.

      Delete
    3. Thank you. Reading suggestions are always appreciated.

      Delete
  10. I disagree that a dominant characteristic of "neoliberalism" is about the *size* of the state indicated as total spending. Neoliberalism is not the same as classical liberalism after all, it is a somewhat different variant. Neoliberalism is about reducing the role of the state, or at least making the state a tool of private interests, via things like PPI, special loans from the BoE, outsourcing, ...

    However, let's look at the graph of *absolute number of employees* in the civil service, the first one here:

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/19/how-the-uk-civil-service-has-changed-in-10-charts

    In the "lobster" shaded area the absolute number of civil servants has not substantially changed in 1997-2010 from the lower level reached during the Thatcher/Major governments, with some ups and downs, despite a substantial increase in population and in the number of old people and apparently in "real" GDP too.

    So we can say that New Labour was/is as neoliberal as Thatcher/Major, even if not quite as neoliberal as Cameron+Osborne, who have shrunk the total by another 15%. Still if you remember New Labour made redundant quite a number of NHS nurses, which I found amazing and a clear sign of the times when it happened.

    More interesting statistics on various governments here:

    http://www.civilservant.org.uk/information-numbers.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. «So we can say that New Labour was/is as neoliberal as Thatcher/Major,»

      As to this, there is a nice interactive graph of total expenditure at the IFS, "Figure 1b. TME as a share of national income, 1948–49 to 2020–21 (%)":

      https://www.ifs.org.uk/tools_and_resources/fiscal_facts/public_spending_survey/total_public_spending

      Just follow the 40% line...

      Just before the crisis, for 2007-2008 New Labour's spending was at 40.2% of GDP.

      It was previously as low as that in 1995-1996 and 1992-1992 during the welfarist governments of J Major, and in 1987-1988, during the socialist third Thatcher government.

      During the first and second extremist hard-left M Thatcher governments total spending as a percentage of GDP was during 1980-1985 above the level that New Labour achieved in 2009-2010.

      Delete
  11. Also as to "New Labour" that was notoriously a coalition of mandensonians and brownites, with T Blair becoming ever more mandelsonian.

    That matters because the brownites were not (at least to start with, with talk by G Brown of New Labour being a «radical progressive, movement») quite as neoliberal/neocon as the mandelsonians, and for example D McBride reports firsthand how strenuously brownites like Balls and Millibands and Darling fought against attempts to raise VAT pushed by the mandelsonians, a classic neoliberal position.

    And with time the mandelsonian neoliberals have become more and more identified with New Labour. To the point that currently a committed New Labour brownite like A Burnham is a supporter of J Corbyn, while a few years back mandelsonian neoliberals were attacking G Brown himself, and later E Milliband, for being far-left (muslim kenyan communist :->) liabilities, two of my usual quotes:

    «Although Mr Brown talks a lot about aspiration, he means it in the sense that people at the bottom of the pile should be able to get to the middle, rather than that those in the middle should aspire to get a little bit further towards the top.»

    «Ed Miliband should abandon his “them versus us” strategy pitching the poor against the rich, so he can extend Labour’s appeal beyond the party’s core vote, Lord Mandelson has said.
    The former Cabinet minister voiced in public the private fears among Blairites that Mr Miliband’s criticism of the rich and big business risks alienating “aspirational” middle class voters.»

    That as to New Labour neoliberal politics, and how they were somewhat less extreme than the mandelsonians wanted because of brownite residual scruples.

    As to the spending issue, given that civil service numbers oscillated but remained much the same as those Thatcher has shrunk them to, the increased spending was pretty much obviously going in significant part into outsourcing, PPI, and other "make rich property and business owners richer" policies. That extra spending for one thing did not go into better pensions or more low rent public housing, and a bit went into tax credits for the working only because G Brown really fought for it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Neoliberalism is not market fundamentalism, i.e. the belief that the state should step back and allow markets to spontaneously emerge for the delivery of public goods, so it does not have an innate prejudice against "big government". Instead it sees the state as the crucial agent in the creation and maintenance of markets for both public and private goods (the theoretical progenitors may have been Austrain, but its praxis is better understood by analysing German Ordoliberalism).

    Neoliberalism is characteristically technocratic, managerial and interventionist. While it seeks to benefit capital at the expense of labour (i.e. flipping the priorities of the 1945-75 era), it does so by employing many of the governance techniques developed under social democracy (and a few pioneered under Fascist corporatism). It is fundamentally about political economy, not abstract economics (as Maragaret Thatcher said, "Economics are the method: the object is to change the soul").

    In respect of "privatisation", neoliberalism in practice has been concerned more with converting public monopolies into private ones (i.e. supporting rent-seeking by capital rather than labour), which is why the size of the state (allowing for cyclical fluctuations) has not changed much over the years. The only major privatisation (in the narrow sense of the state abrogating responsibility for provision) was the decision to end public housebuilding.

    New Labour was echt neoliberal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. he papers/articles set out below make a strong case for, at the very least, stating New Labour pursued a broad path that went along the route to ever greater neoliberalism. 'By neoliberalism, we mean the intellectual project, born in reaction to the postwar welfarist and Keynesian consensus, which burgeoned within the academic world and whose fundamental premise is “the superiority of individualized, market-based competition over other modes of organization”1. Or as economists would say, the market is a more efficient allocator of resources than the state.'1 And, Bob Jessop's, New Labour “maintained the broad strategic line embodied in the six planks of neoliberal economic strategy: namely: liberalization, deregulation, privatization, re-commodification, internationalization, and reduced direct taxes”2. Or Professor Stuart Hall, 'New Labour has picked up where Thatcherism left off..' in that it hat it sought to 'absorb social democracy into neo-liberalism '.
      So I guess, taking to account the point Simon made on public spending and the NHS, New Labour where not fundelmentalist neo-liberals across all its aspects, though their overall philosophy was one of neoliberalism. And let us not forget, over liberalisation of the Financial Services industry certainly was a major cause of 2008's woes. Simon, is there not a link between New Labour's neoliberal tendency/philosophy and its failure to challenge the establishment of the Labour spending caused the crash of 2008 myth?

      1. Antonino Palumbo, Blair’s New Labour and the power of the neoliberal consensus p2.
      2. Bob Jessop, “New Labour or The Normalization of Neo-Liberalism?”, p2), (Antonino Palumbo, “When Tony Met Maggie. The Terms of the Neo-Liberal Consensus in Britain”, p4
      3. Stuart Hall, emeritus professor at the Open University, Blair's project has been to absorb social democracy into neo-liberalism (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/aug/06/society.labour.)

      shaunt

      Delete
  13. Evaluating objectively the claim that the rise in spending on NHS spending was a key achievement of new labour, requires the outcome metrics to be defined and justified. Like most of us I value and welcome the strength of the politically underpinning of this universal institution. But I worry that to a degree the attachment is sentimental, rather than necessarily supported by hard reality on the ground; in terms of outcomes - at least as reported - the NHS is well down the international league table. I am not a health economist or expert, so could someone explain why the French partial insurance system scores better than the NHS. Are the scores or metrics wrong, or can we learn something?

    ReplyDelete
  14. For a fair comparison, shouldn't New Labour policies be benchmarked against Old Labour rather than Tories? Isn't that often the point when people accuse New Labour of pursuing neoliberal policies?

    ReplyDelete
  15. I thought the New Labour model was to deregulate finance and unleash an epic credit and financialization bubble and then distribute some of the resultant "prosperity" via byzantine bureaucracy focused on tailoring the public sector to "choice" and "accountability" -so tower blocks of bureaucrats sending emails to each other. New Labour's enthusiasm for PFI funding has left the public sector with a long term crippling repayment burden -what was that supposed to be about?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PFI was driven by deficit fetishism. Whereas state spending building hospitals would add to the deficit, private spending wouldn't. PFI is therefore a perfect neoliberal mechanism, as David Timoney explains above, as a means of regulating the scope of government while maximising the rents that can be extracted from government.

      Delete
  16. As to today's mandelsonian New Labour and "neoliberalism", two quotes:

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/labour-fears-corbyn-will-be-seen-as-unambitious-3tww86v5n
    «Labour MPs have raised concerns that Jeremy Corbyn’s rhetoric on tax avoidance could appear anti-aspiration. A senior shadow cabinet source said the party leader was in danger of overreaching himself in his criticism of David Cameron for investing in Blairmore, the fund set up in an offshore tax haven in the Bahamas by his father Ian.»

    Isn't that at the same time "signature" New Labour and "neoliberalism"?

    But it gets funnier, here is a New Labour criticism of J Corbyn for being a hypocritical profiteer off the backs of the overtaxed aspirational upper-middle classes who love tax avoidance:

    www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/12/jeremy-corbyn-admits-failing-to-include-state-pension-income-on/
    «According to official records Mr Corbyn has made £3million from the state as an MP in his pay and pensions over his time in Parliament. Mr Corbyn has earned a total of £1.5million in pay as an MP and built up a gold-plated pension pot worth £1.6million, which will give him an income of around £50,000 a year in his retirement.
    One Labour MP said that his criticism of David Cameron's tax affairs was "remarkable" given his own personal wealth.
    The MP said: "This seems to indicate that we're going back to our bad old ways of criticising people for getting on but its even more remarkable from someone who has done so well himself over many years out of the public sector, paid for by ordinary working peoples' taxes."»

    Briefing the Telegraph against J Corbyn for receiving a taxpayer-funded MP's salary for 30 years and fully paying tax on it at source seems a "signature" New Labour and "neoliberal" story.

    Two more quotes, one from New Labour's years of triumph:

    www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/rachel_sylvester/article6853007.ece
    «A No10 aide admits that Brown does not have the natural empathy with the middle classes that Blair did. "The moment Tony sent his son to the Oratory those voters thought - 'he gets it'," he says.»

    www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/may/16/theobserver.uknews
    «Jeremy Corbyn is, of course, the 'hard left' Labour MP who put his principles before his family, ending his 12-year marriage after his wife, Claudia, insisted their eldest child must go to grammar school. [ ... ] The Labour education committee chairman, Rupert Perry, decided - like the borough's best known former resident parents, Tony and Cherie Blair - to send his children to schools outside the borough.»

    Thinking of posh schools (or internships) as a "leg-up" that affluent parents can gift to their children and who cares about the children of poor parents seems to me a typical New Labour and "neoliberal" story.

    But yes, including spending on greater numbers of affluent older voters via the NHS, and spending on public services outsourced to private businesses, New Labour did increase the percentage of government spending in GDP, to levels not seen since the second Thatcher government :-).

    ReplyDelete
  17. Actually, nobody should ever use the word 'neoliberal' in any serious, no-polmeical circumstance, because it so fuzzily defined and so laden with irrational emotion. In theory, there is some sort of usable definition (Brad Delong is happy to describe himself as a left-neoliberal), but it is so often taken to mean 'stuff I disapprove of' (bit like how the word 'fascist' used to be flung around over the candles on a Friday evening in the kitchen in student flats), that as far as I am concerned it is counterproductive for intelligent debate.

    ReplyDelete

Unfortunately because of spam with embedded links (which then flag up warnings about the whole site on some browsers), I have to personally moderate all comments. As a result, your comment may not appear for some time.