Hat tip to Tom
Harris for pointing out Bryan Gould's article, I
disown this government, in the Guardian's Comment
I remember Mr Gould, former Labour MP and member of
the shadow cabinet, as a seemingly decent sort of bloke
- far too decent for New Labour, as it transpires.
He returned to his native New Zealand in the mid-Nineties
to work in a university, but disowns his former Party
with these words.
The floor is all yours, Mr Gould...
Those, like me (and almost everyone I know in the Labour
party), who have been critical over the years of New
Labour and its record in government, might have expected
that the passage of time would bring with it a kinder
judgment. And in my case, in particular, it might have
been thought that – 12,000 miles away in New Zealand
– distance would lend enchantment.
How, then, to explain that the more we take the long
view of the Blair and now the Brown government, the
sharper seem the contours of its failures and betrayals?
How is it that the features of its landscape that grow
– as our perspective lengthens – in shocking, anger-making
prominence are those shameful episodes at home and abroad
which cumulatively are a complete denial of what a Labour
government (or any British government) should have been
There have been of course many good and decent day-by-day
achievements of this government. Across the whole range
of political issues, I do not say that Britain did not
do better under Labour than it would have done under
most alternatives. But these achievements have been
molehills, judged against the towering peaks scaled
by New Labour in its rejection not only of Labour, but
of any decent and civilised values.
The first – and for that reason perhaps most unexpected
– contravention of civilised norms was the Iraq war.
The damning judgment of that doomed enterprise has been
repeatedly rehearsed, but to read the charge sheet again
is still a shocking experience. A British prime minister,
claiming the right to moral leadership and an almost
religious duty to confront evil, sucked up to a soon-to-be
discredited US president and helped to launch an invasion
of a distant country – an invasion based upon a lie,
and one that flew in the face of international law,
undermined the United Nations, alienated the whole of
the Muslim world, seemed to validate the claims of terrorists
and those who recruited them, destroyed the country
that was invaded and killed hundreds of thousands of
its citizens, took many young soldiers to their unnecessary
deaths, and rightly reduced Britain's standing in the
The New Labour government still refuses to acknowledge
that any of this was wrong. It will not even countenance
an independent inquiry into how such a fatal mistake
It may seem improbable that the scale of the Iraq calamity
could be matched in any other area of government. Yet,
as the reasons for and scale of the global recession
become clear, it is also increasingly apparent that
another global (as well as British) disaster can be
laid – substantially, if only partly – at the door of
the New Labour government.
It was, after all, that government which enthusiastically
endorsed the virtues of the "free" market, which turned
its back on the need for regulation, which celebrated
the excesses of the City, which proclaimed that it was
"intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich".
The government that should have protected the interests
of ordinary people was dazzled by the super-rich; unsuspecting
Labour supporters found themselves thrown on the tender
mercies of a marketplace that was cleared of any limits
that might have restricted the rich and powerful. There
have been no more enthusiastic cheerleaders for the
culture of greed and excess than New Labour ministers.
On the central issue of politics – the willingness
of government to use its democratic legitimacy to intervene
in the market in order to restrain its excesses – the
New Labour government ensured that the dice lay where
they fell and applauded as they did. It was Tony Blair
who, standing shoulder to shoulder with Rupert Murdoch,
proclaimed that the future lay with the "globalisers"
and that those who wanted to reclaim some control over
their lives were "isolationists, nationalists and nativists".
It was Gordon Brown who removed the major economic decisions
from democratic control and handed them over to unaccountable
That betrayal of those who looked to a Labour government
to help them has seen a rapid widening of inequality
and a sharp intensification of social disintegration.
It is the jobs, homes and lives of ordinary people that
have borne the brunt. The country is a weaker and poorer
place as a result.
But even that failure pales by comparison with the
latest revelations about the abandonment by New Labour
of any pretence to civilised standards. We now know
that this government connived with the Bush administration
to hold people illegally, to kidnap them in secret,
and to torture them while in custody – all in the name
of a war against the forces of darkness. The perpetrators
of these outrages seem to believe that they can be washed
clean by simply declaring their superior morality.
Nothing more clearly distinguishes those beyond the
pale than their willingness to use the secret, illegal
and cowardly infliction of pain to terrify, cow and
bend to their will helpless people being held without
charge or trial or legal redress. It beggars belief
that any British government could, in a supposed democracy,
do so, and not even bother to respond to its critics.
It is simply incredible that a Labour government claiming
to represent the values of the Labour movement could
believe in these circumstances that it has any right
to remain in office.
For me, this is too much. I am sick to the stomach.
I disown this so-called Labour government. I protest.
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