Today is a difficult day for anyone who has been a member of Labour or, at the very least, shared the same progressive and caring values that those of us on the left unite behind.
There are two tragedies. First, on matters of the economy, Gordon Brown was spot on. He led the way during the past two years, ensuring that our banking system remained fluid and averting it from jumping off the cliff – taking us all down with it. Impressively, he lead the way around the world and at home.
The other tragedy is that during our best years – our golden era between 1997 and 2003, where we could practically do no wrong – the tribalism between the Blair and Brown camps let us all down. Not just the Labour Party, but also the British citizen. When Blair and Brown should have been working together for the long-term benefit of the country, they were, almost shamefully, engaged in a “he said, you said” tussle for power and control. Gordon Brown held off or delayed many of the social policies that could have benefited millions; he was waiting until it was his hand on the rudder of HM Britannia. Blair, having no luck influencing home affairs, eventually sought glory elsewhere: he lapped up international issues, far from Gordon’s grasp and care. From the bombing of Kosovo to our involvement in Sierra Leone through Afghanistan and finally Iraq, Blair found the international stage irresistible.
One wonders: if Brown and Blair had used as much energy fighting for the people as they did with each other, might we now be going into a fourth term of Labour government?
So, in some ways I am glad that this particular government is now at an end. At times, it’s been like watching a fatally wounded animal struggling against nature: you know that the best outcome is for it to pass away, and for it to be quick. I had started to feel alienated for the past couple of years by some of the Labour elite, whom I felt had lost touch with the reality of how many people in Britain live. After all, how can some of these ministers who have been chauffeur driven around and shielded from the public by civil servants for the past 13 years faithfully say that they are in touch?
But, what of the successes? In home affairs, there was progress: investment in the NHS; investment in police; the minimum wage; the fox hunting ban; gay rights; civil partnerships; human rights; the equality bill – the list goes on.
Yet this progress has been tempered in part by what we didn’t do. Why did we allow the housing crisis to occur? Why did we allow immigration to become such an issue? What happened to our public transport reforms? The 10p basic tax rate? The erosion or our civil liberties? Iraq? Child poverty? Not enough progress in the NHS for the money spent? The pension crises? Again, I could go on.
I applaud what the Labour Party has done overall. However, it was obvious to me and to many others that we eventually lost all sense in governing the country. We ended up being governed by it. The final straw for me was the shameful Digital Economy Act.
Therefore, and with a heavy heart, I say goodbye to this Labour government. Thank you for the good times – I wish you had listened more during the bad times. Now, it’s time for a new start.