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November 08, 2006


Paul Evans

They say that "if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans." The same goes for the predictions of determinists, I find.

Determinism is, indeed, one of the foundation stones of New Labour. An extrapolation Mrs T's TINA - There Is No Alternative. And, I'd argue, this kind of determinism is one of the consequences of centralisation. A small clique get to indentify what the biggest challenges are, and then public policy is shaped around the need to sidestep these challenges. The Third Way may have looked incoherent to outsiders, but anyone who understood the realism of New Labour had no trouble grasping it.

In Blair's case, the entire party was under unwritten orders not to create a situation in which Mr T would have to argue with the red-tops.

The use of the word 'modern' suits deterministst down to the ground. It's not negotiable - it implies that a primal force is simply being accomodated.

It partly explains why Conservatives from Trollope through to Paul Dacre have always satirised modernity with the quote "the way we live now."


I remember a govt document several years ago saying that the greatest 'driver for change' was rapid development in IT - as if the machinery itself were an unstoppable entity in seven-league boots. I wasn't sure at the time whether the tone of inevitability was calculated, or caused by lack of understanding and a degree of awe at the potential of emerging technologies.

The word 'modern' is a clever choice because it's so very outdated. It conjures up an image of caution and dependability: here are sober elder statesmen exhorting us to accept that we must move with the times.

tom s.

A very good point.

To get a more accurate view of the content I find it helps to replace "modern" with "shiny" as you read.


I wrote something similar in 1997:

Curiously, among the true believers - many of whom seem to be former Communists - the fervour for 'renewal' coexists with a passion for 'realism': a fierce disdain for anyone advocating reforms which would actually redistribute power or wealth. Ultimately the two enthusiasms seem to spring from the same source: the convulsive, triumphant abandonment of all those things Kinnock and Smith spent years edging away from. It must be quite a relief to admit that you don't really oppose the status quo - nuclear weapons, privatised railways, 40% top rate of tax and all: it must feel like coming home. What is new about New Labour, in short, is that the party doesn't plan to change anything fundamental and it admits it. (This combination of ideas also enables the party's ideologues to claim that Labour's policies had to change because they were 'old': a deeply dishonest presentation of a transformation which was entirely political, and by no means inevitable). Freed from the uphill struggle to build support for left-wing policies, New Labour's managerial apparat can bring their new brooms to bear on running the country. Labour can then re-emerge as the party of a cool-headed, unillusioned managerialism: it shares all the Tories' basic presuppositions, but without their feverish ideological baggage.


(The last sentence looks rather optimistic now; I hadn't realised that New Labour were carrying feverish ideological baggage all of their own...)

james higham

Managerialists like Blair don't like the language of value judgment and choices. So they try to pass these off as things that are inevitable, modern.

How do you mean 'value judgement', Chris? If he did like value judgement, how would his legislation differ?

Bryan Appleyard

Very true. Watch out also for transformation.


“I am a modern man. I am part of the rock and roll generation—the Beatles, colour TV, that’s the generation I come from.”

—- Tony Blair, in a speech at Stevenage, 22 April 1997


How can it be modern if it doesn't have formica on it?

John Konop

Economists Are Destroying America

Economists, politicians, and executives from both parties have promised American families that “free” trade policies like NAFTA, CAFTA, and WTO/CHINA would accomplish three things:

• Increase wages
• Create trade surpluses (for the US)
• Reduce illegal immigration

Well, their trade policies have been in effect for about 15 years. Let’s review the results:

• Declining real wages for 80% of working Americans (while healthcare, education, and childcare costs skyrocket)
• A record-high 46 million Americans who don’t have health insurance (due in part to declining wages and benefits)
• Illegal immigration out of control
• Soaring trade deficits, much with countries that use slave and child labor
• Personal and national debt both out-of-control
• Global environments threatened by lax trade deal enforcement

Economists Keep Advocating Policies That Aren’t Working

Upon seeing incontrovertible evidence of these negative trade agreement results, economists continue with Pollyannish blather. Some say, “Cheer up! GDP is up and the stock market’s doing fine.” Others say, “Be patient. Stay the course. Free trade will raise all ships.”

Even those economists who acknowledge problems with trade agreements offer us only half-measures—adjusting exchange rates, improving safety nets, and providing better job retraining. None of these will close the wage gap in America—and economists know it.

Why Aren’t American Economists Shouting From Street Corners?

America needs trade deals that support American families and businesses in terms of wage, environmental, and intellectual property abuses. Why aren’t economists demanding renegotiation of our trade deals? There are three primary reasons:

• Economists are too beholden to corporations and special interests that provide them with research grants.
• Economists believe—but refuse to admit—that sacrificing the American middle class is necessary and appropriate to generate gains in third world economies.
• Economists refuse to admit they make mistakes.

Economic Ambulance Chasers

Now more than ever, Americans need their economists to speak truth and stand up to their big business clients. Instead, economists sound like lawyers caught chasing ambulances: they claim they’re “doing it for our benefit”.


...it helps to replace "modern" with "shiny" as you read.

Love it...


My beef with new Labour managerialism is that it 'manages' the wrong people. On the one hand, we have an education system that is almost Victorian in its prescriptiveness, and on the other, a care system (especially care of the learning disabled) which has been deprofessionalised, so that one can visit social service 'respite' services for learning disabled children, only to find them staff and MANAGED by people who failed in the education system. And I am meant to let my autistic kid be looked after by folks like that. It's a scandal.



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