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gracchus

I'm not totally convinced by this argument. To me it seems that all three parties are pretty much at sea, ideologically speaking, and this means that Labour isn't any more -- or less -- at risk than any other party. Given my natural political inclinations, I'd like to think that Labour is more likely to come out of this crisis than its rivals because the center-left tradition is in part aimed at providing a sense of security for people who work for a living. While the means of doing this may have to shift, the decline of industry in favor of services doesn't mean that peoples' basic economic needs have changed. (Yes, I agree that education and healthcare moved up the priority queue since the welfare state was formed.)

Ben P

I don't know if I'm entirely convinced either, because I think that Blair and a rather small group of individuals around Blair are the driving force behind this tendency. Other strands of "New Labour" thought would have a different inflection - obviously, G Brown and his coterie being a prime example. Although, to be honest, Brown is still an empty vessel in many ways.

As you suggest, though, all three parties are in some ways "at sea." That is why I think British politics is particularly interesting right now - because so much is up for grabs.

Ben P

gracchus

Interestingly, Canadia politics are following a similar dynamic to those in the U.K. right now, with a similar sense of flux. (Even the Bloc Quebecois is kind of a heavy-duty version of the SNP plus Plaid Cymru). None of the three federal parties with nationwide ambitions really have coherent programs or coherent ideologies any more.

I'd argue that that the Conservatives can't formulate one because a winning program would have to reflect the party's traditional center-right orientation, alienating the God-botherers, and appeasing the god botherers would drive the party down to about 15-25 percent. (God-botherers and the diehard party faithful who would hold their noses.)

The NDP has a potential for a breakthrough, but the party needs a more positive program than simply defending what remans of the Canadian welfare state -- for example, saying SOMETHING about economic development would automatically wrong-foot the other parties. As well, it needs competent managerial types for the front bench -- people need to be reassured that the party won't blow things up if it gets in. Except for in Saskatchewan, the party's recent forays in provincial government haven't been encouraging.

Tom Geraghty

Following gracchus, I totally disagree with the notion that social democracy is an anachronism in a "service-knowledge" economy. If anything, with the proliferation of low-wage service jobs, globalization and so forth, "providing a sense of security" is arguably more important now than ever.

Given that Britain has the highest levels of poverty and inequality, and the least social mobility of any advanced European economy, it seems to need a good deal more social democracy, not less.

Ben P

I suppose what I'm saying is that a party whose roots are so explicitly from a time-specific set of social and economic relations like the Labour Party, and Party who, until the mid-1980s was essentially the political wing of the TUC, is going to find itself a bit lost in a world in which those kinds of relationships no longer exist. An interesting work in this regard is Ross McKibbin's Classes and Cultures, in particular McKibbin's conclusions about the contingent nature of the British welfare state established by the postwar Attlee government.

This isn't to say that social democracy or even outright socialism is an anachronism - rather it is questioning whether the Labour Party is. And I'm not saying - one way or another - whether or not it is either. I'm just kicking around ideas.

Ben P

Tom Geraghty

What about the old idea of Labour-LibDem convergence? That seems to have been forgotten; with Labour's now smaller majority, will it be revived?

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