Philip Collins in the Times today gives us, albeit inadvertently, a nice insight into why Blairites have become irrelevant.
He calls for increased social mobility whilst also saying:
These days when the economy is hollowing out with posh jobs at the top and grim jobs at the bottom, the prospect of social mobility recalls Gore Vidal's aphorism: "It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."
There's terrible cognitive dissonance here. This passage draws our attention to why increased social mobility is nothing like enough.
First, Philip fails to note that you have to go a long way to the top to find "posh jobs." As Rick has said, being posh ain't what it used to be. The fact that doctors have been so pissed off as to threaten to strike, and teachers and academics are stressed and depressed, tells us that even good jobs aren't so rewarding these days. The youngster from a poor home who "succeeds" against huge odds will face high debt, unaffordable housing and stressful and unrewarding work. If "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" was the Old Lie; social mobility is the new one.
Secondly, the fact that the economy is hollowing out makes social mobility even more difficult: it's hard to climb a ladder if some rungs are missing.
Thirdly, even if the race for the handful of decent jobs were a fair one millions would fail, often through no fault of their own - perhaps because they inherited low ability. Why should they be condemned to grim jobs or worse?
A simple thought experiment will tell us that social mobility is nothing like sufficient. Imagine a dictator were to imprison his people, but offer guard jobs to those who passed exams, and well-paid sinecures to those who did especially well. We'd have social mobility - even meritocracy and equality of opportunity. But we wouldn't have justice, freedom or a good society. They all require that the prisons be torn down.
So it is with the labour market. What we need are better jobs and incomes throughout the economy. This requires an attack upon managerialism and more worker control; expansionary macro policy to increase demand for labour; the encouragement of new technologies and investment; and a job guarantee and basic income to increase workers' bargaining power and real freedoms. Blairites offer none of these. They fail to make the connection between the new, grimmer labour market outlook and the need for new policies. Yes, they were once the modernizers - and in some respects rightly so. Sadly, though, nothing dates worse than modernity.