This is a strange book. Anthony Giddens, now in the House of Lords for services rendered to New Labour, and famously author of “The Third Way” is a complete Blairite. He takes trouble to spell out how strongly he supports Mr Blair and all he has achieved in government. But when he turns to his recommendations to Gordon Brown, I find that I agree with most of his proposals.
It is hard to understand how he can be in favour of a significantly different programme for Mr Brown and yet have so little criticism of Mr Blair’s record as Prime Minister. He tells us that he cannot see any scenario in which Labour could win big at the next election. Indeed, he thinks the party may not win at all. But he thinks the advent of a new leader gives Labour the chance for revival. He then goes on to argue that over the past ten years, Labour has had the most successful period in its history because it has been in power for three full terms.
He dismisses the arguments that New Labour is simply soundbites with no coherent policy, or that its policies have been appropriated from Thatcherism and that New Labour has simply moved to the right and given up on Labour’s historical values. The large numbers of members who have resigned from the party share these views, but Giddens thinks such views are naïve and inaccurate.
I fear that Giddens, like manyIt is hard to understand how Giddens can be in favour of a significantly different programme for Mr Brown and yet have so little criticism of Mr Blair’s record as Prime Minister. others, believes that Blair has created a new base of support and alliance of interests – the famous big tent – and that this is demonstrated by the three election victories. And yet, if we look at the voting, Blair has won less support than Wilson and Callaghan and the traditional Labour Party that both of them so strongly deride. And yet I do respect the conclusions that Giddens has reached. I think they are based on an exaggeration of Labour’s success in power, a total underestimation of the hubris, deceit and lack of principle that led to Iraq and yet they show a yearning for all the best values that Labour has always stood for.
He tells us that Brown should seek to rejoin the European social democratic family of parties and cease to take the US as its model. He wants Labour to become more explicitly egalitarian and like the Scandinavians, become more serious about decentralisation and devolution. He defends multiculturalism and on foreign policy says Brown should seek an opportunity to show independence of mind from the current US regime. He should look for a quick withdrawal from Iraq and seek to move the international community back towards a greater emphasis on the rule of law and the importance of international co-operation working with the EU to this end. He also calls for a deferral of the final decision on Trident. What is hard to understand is why this very considerable change of direction is necessary if one believes the Blair Government has been so successful. But although there is little logic in his analysis I would be delighted if Brown were to accept his advice on the future direction of policy laid out in this book.