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Can Socialists Vote for Tony Blair?


John Simkin
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There has only been four neo-socialist prime ministers (McDonald, Atlee, Wilson and Callaghan). Only Atlee and Wilson carried out socialist policies. It is true that both Atlee and Wilson came under considerable pressure to water-down their socialist policies once they gained power. Even so, they were able to bring about a certain degree of redistribution of wealth. This was done in two main ways: progressive taxation and increased spending on the Welfare State. Although they never went as far as I would have liked, both governments had my approval. Just as important, both governments changed the political culture of the UK. In both cases, they were followed by moderate Conservative governments. Edward Heath’s government, for example, was to the left of Blair’s current government.

It is true their was never a majority of the British electorate who were socialists. Research shows that only about 30% of the British people held “socialistic views” during these periods of Labour governments (the same is true of conservatism – the majority of the electorate are “floating voters” who do not feel strongly about politics). However, given our flawed political system it is possible to have a government with minority support to get fairly extremist policies through Parliament. That was what happened during Thatcher’s period of office.

Some aspects of socialism are indeed popular with “floating voters”. For example, the NHS is a good example of socialism at work. Although the Tory Party fought against its introduction, it had to accept defeat when it discovered just how popular it was with the British people.

My complaint against Blair is not that he is not left-wing enough. My argument against Blair is he is anti-socialism. That is reflected in his policies on taxation. Why is it so wrong to ask people earning more that £100,000 a year to pay at a higher-rate that 40% in order to fund increased spending on health and education? This is also reflected in his policies on the welfare state. The privatisation of services (PFI) started by Thatcher and increased under Blair is severely undermining the concept of the welfare state. Only this week it has been revealed that many LEA’s are unable to remove junk food from school menus because of 25 year long PFI contracts. Ask anyone in the NHS why we are suffering so much from MRSA and they will tell you it is because of the privatisation of the cleaning services in hospitals. Look at what it has done to our railway system. The expansion of PFI is making it impossible for any government to make decisions to shape our future.

I believe the only solution to an anti-socialist Labour Party is to remove its leader. We have been here before. The establishment bought Ramsay MacDonald and so he had to be removed as leader. Tony Blair has also been bought and so he has to go. The best way for this to happen is for the Labour Party to lose its overall majority in the House of Commons. Those on the left of Labour (SNP, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrats) will then be in a position to moderate Labour’s right-wing policies. I would expect that if this situation arose Blair would resign and Brown would become PM.

Although I am in a very small minority, I believe the above is possible. Several polls have shown that Labour is going to have difficulty persuading its traditional supporters to vote. Apparently, Labour is doing especially badly in marginal seats. So also are the Tories. One reason for this is that the left will vote tactically. I believe Labour will do particularly badly in Scotland and Wales. Both countries have a higher percentage of socialists than England. Both the SNP and Plaid Cymru are to the left of New Labour.

My overall prediction is a hung parliament. This will be followed by New Labour moving to the left in government. You will no doubt say my heart is ruling my head. That is true. But you could say that is a problem with all socialists.

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