The rather silly contribution of Chris Patten on Any
Questions on Friday, 8th June and repeated on Saturday, 9th June 2001 showed
a typical and total lack of perspective. He had obviously prepared to make this
attack from some time back. Hague had mistaken a bandwagon for a hearse, said
the loser at Bath in 1992. But the reality made manifest by the election was not
that Hague had messed up, rather that the Labourites had not conspicuously
bungled their first term. The public remained satisfied with Labour, apart from
a week or so in September 2000. Unless Labour had very plainly messed things up,
no Tory could have done much better in Hague's place.
Hague is said to have lost owing to his bald head and a
Yorkshire accent. But those were things the media picked on because of their
Patten-like mentality. If the Labour government had obviously failed, such
things would have been of little importance. If the Tories not been so badly
rejected last time, these stigmata would not even have been searched for. Anyone
at all in the position Hague took over in 1997 would have had some personal
oddities sorted out by the media and turned into liabilities.
Patten more or less said what Michael Heseltine repeated on Newsnight
BBC2 a few hours later on Friday. The Euro needed to be accepted and the centre
ground reclaimed in order to win again. It meant coming to terms with three big
changes in society of recent years. The multi-racial society was now mainstream,
and so were the one parent family and the homosexual vote. Of the 178 seats lost
by the Tories in May 1997, 144 of them to were to Labour and they never looked
like returning, even though quite a few of them had been thought safe seats in
April 1997. The Tories’ share of the vote fell from the 1992 level of 43% to
31% in 1997 and was only slightly up to 33% in this election. Heseltine spoke of
perhaps still needing another two elections to get back. The Labourites are at
43% themselves, exactly what they had in 1997, and getting 11% of the votes is
far from impossible at one go.
As far as the public is concerned, the Labourites have
remained fresh over the last four years but that is less likely to be the case
after another four or five years. The result was almost a carbon copy of the
landslide of 1997 and, though the media have called it another landslide, it is
clearer to say that it was a consolidation of the 1997 result. Fewer than 30
seats changed hands and the Labourites surprisingly held on to the ‘safe’
Tory seats they took last time. The Tories got one seat back in Scotland but
still have none in Wales. The Nationalists in Scotland and Wales fell back in
terms of seats but less so in their share of the vote.
The Liberal Democrats have degenerated from the Liberal Party
that gave up pristine liberalism in the 1880s with the rise of Radical Joe
Chamberlain. They are now widely seen as the real left wing party. They are the
only ones who advocate putting up taxation. Pristine liberalism contrasted
greatly with this neo-liberalism almost to the extent of being its opposite.
Charles Kennedy has increased the Liberal share of the votes by 2% and their
number of seats by 6. Smug and stupid in his love of schools and the NHS,
Kennedy has unwittingly surrendered the centre ground to the Labourites, though
he expresses his idea that he leads the force of the future. He rejected the Old
Labour position to join the Social Democrats as a young man in the early 1980s
only to inherit the ghost of Old Labour 20 years later. His ‘impressive
progress’ is no more than to lead the ideological equivalent of the party he
refused to join in the first place. But he fondly feels he will be in government
within the next ten years.
There is something paradoxical in pandering to those you
intend to govern. If an elite is not needed, why is government needed? Blair
showed off his new son Leo Blair in a bid to celebrate his second win in a row.
But the big news of Friday was taken up by Hague's resignation speech.
Nevertheless, Blair pressed on with his vision for the next five years of
government and began sorting out his new cabinet. On his return from seeing the
Queen at Buckingham Palace, he said that the Labour majority of 167 was "a
mandate for reform and for investment". The Prime Minister warned there
would be hard choices ahead if reforms to the NHS, education, transport, welfare
and the criminal justice system were to go ahead.
The big rumour of the last few weeks is that Blair wants to
see more business (or market) methods used to reform the state sector. He also
hinted strongly that a referendum on the UK's entry to the Euro was high on his
agenda. "We need to make changes so that we are engaged, exerting
influence, having the self belief not to turn our back on the world or retreat
into isolationism," journalists were told. On Monday, 11th June
2001 Blair began with a large pay rise for ministers, an average of 40%.
Blair's aim is to join the Euro but Gordon Brown seems still
to be against it. The Euro is an issue that keeps the Tories in disarray, so the
idea that the Labourites might keep the referendum at bay was canvassed over the
weekend following the election. It is clear that Blair is keen to revive the
popularity of politics, though he remains keen on a public-private partnership
that itself might be unpopular. The public spending promised last year looks set
to continue. Blair may feel that after a while he will be able to raise taxes to
pay for a bigger role for the state. All in the media now seem to agree that
times have changed and the day of tax cuts is dead. Even the Tories blunted
their campaign by saying they would match the public spending of Labour.
Top 50 books of all time : by Old Hickory:- "I have limited the selection to the books I have read. I keep to the norm of not recommending to others books I have yet to read. Clearly, books I have not read by now suggests a judgement of some sort."
Hague is said to have lost owing to his bald head and a Yorkshire
accent. But those were things the media picked on because of their
The result was almost a
carbon copy of the landslide of 1997 and, though the media have called
it another landslide, it is clearer to say that it was a consolidation
of the 1997 result.
Kennedy has unwittingly
surrendered the centre ground to the Labourites, though he expresses
his idea that he leads the force of the future. He rejected the Old
Labour position to join the Social Democrats as a young man in the
early 1980s only to inherit the ghost of Old Labour 20 years later.
His ‘impressive progress’ is no more than to lead the ideological
equivalent of the party he refused to join in the first place.