New Labour became more Tory than Tories

Instead of undoing the Thatcher legacy, New Labour built on it and deepened inequality in Britain, by Vincent Browne.

If ever a government deserved to be removed from office, the New Labour government in Britain does, that is of course aside from our own Government, which, in the league of governments that must be removed asap, is top of the premiership. Instead of undoing the Thatcherite legacy New Labour compounded it.

It was more warmongering than its Tory predecessor and, disgracing its socialist lineage, New Labour made Britain even more unequal than it had been in the Thatcher-Major era.

It may be that a government led by David Cameron and supported by Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats might be even worse in some respects, but hardly in all respects. But even if worse in all respects, were this version of New Labour-Third-Way to be re-elected, it would be a depressing signal to other New-Labour-Third-Way con-artists that they could get away with it elsewhere, including here.

First the wars. Tony Blair brought Britain into three wars: in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. In Yugoslavia, along with Bill Clinton, he devised the notion of “humanitarian bombing” – the ideological device whereby they could launch a war in defiance of a UN charter and, incidentally, in the process kill between 489 and 528 civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.

The war on Afghanistan was launched in revenge for 9/11, purportedly because the Taliban government in Kabul delayed in handing over the leadership of al-Qaeda to the US. By no means was war the last resort, rather the first resort. Again massive loss of life and an escalation of an onslaught on the Islamic world with consequences yet unknowable.

The war on Iraq was, as we now know, a thoroughly disreputable venture, justified by lies and more lies – lies we knew at the time were lies. The pretext that the war was precipitated by “intelligence” that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to strike at long distance with weapons of mass destruction, was palpably false. UN weapons inspectors had been scouring around Iraq for years and had found nothing, even though their searches were based on the very same intelligence that Tony Blair and George Bush purported to act.

It is now evident Tony Blair decided to go along with the US on that escapade, whatever the pretext. In the process, the carefully documented death toll has been between 95,888 – 104,595, according to the website

Aside from that, Tony Blair gave Israel unconditional support for the attack on Lebanon in 2006. Gordon Brown gave tacit support to Israel on its murderous war on the people of Gaza over a year ago. Tony Blair even supported Vladimir Putin’s slaughter in Chechnya. And of course it went along with the torture of terrorist suspects. In every instance, supportive of the American position.

No previous British government gave such uncritical support to US wars. Harold Wilson refused to send troops to Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. Margaret Thatcher clashed with her close friend Ronald Reagan over the Falklands. John Major withheld support for Bill Clinton’s bombing of Bosnia.

Domestically, New Labour has been more Tory than the Tories. On law and order, no other government has introduced more criminal initiatives, for instance more than 1,000 new criminal offences have been created under New Labour, they quadrupled the period during which suspects can be held for questioning (28 days), and this was long after the IRA campaign in Britain. The treatment of immigrants was more harsh than under any Tory government.

Instead of undoing the Thatcher legacy, New Labour inherited and built on it. New Labour behaved with more “prudence” on economic management than any of the immediate Tory predecessors. Gordon Brown, as chancellor, had as his first priority to establish “credibility” with the markets. He became the chief apostle of “light touch regulation”.

And, inevitably, New Labour deepened inequality.

A report published in January of this year, An Anatomy of economic inequality in the UK by the National Equality Panel, funded by the Government Equalities Office and established at the invitation of Harriet Harman, minister for equality, is a devastating indictment of 13 years of New Labour rule.

At the beginning of the report, the first words in Chapter 1, it states: “Britain is an unequal country, more so than many other industrial countries and more so than a generation ago.”

It notes that Britain by 2007-8 had the highest level of income inequality since after the second World War (page 39). It states (page 42): “For all employees, real earnings were roughly static between 2003 and 2008. But between 1999 and 2007, the real earnings of CEOs of the top 100 companies almost doubled (reaching £2.4 million a year) and those of the next 250 companies almost doubled (reaching £1.1 million a year). It reproduces an OECD chart to which I have often referred here, on Gini coefficients of income inequality in OECD countries in the mid 2000s. This shows that of the 30 most developed countries, Britain rated seventh last (Ireland rated ninth last).

This is the Third-Way-New-Labour legacy. It deserves oblivion and Irish Labour had better be careful it doesn’t go the same way.