Blame game

January 25, 2009 at 11:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So when I read this:

cohenblame

My first thought was: is there anything Nick Cohen hasn’t blamed the left for recently? Let’s face it, if the guy’s taking up more column inches than usual, it’s normally because he’s found an inventive way of trashing his former comrades.

Anyway, aside from decrying the lifestyles of the super-rich and the increased polarisation of wealth in Blair/Brown’s Britain, Cohen’s substantiveĀ  argument is that New Labour could’ve moved Britain away from the Thatcherite consensus, been less lavish in its spending and cultivated an economy less reliant on financial services. Cohen posits that New Labour’s legacy will be a self-harming slavishness to lawless, reckless financiers to the expense of us all.

There’s an element of truth to this; I’m sure all of us, if we knew then what we know now, would’ve made different decisions, and governments are no different. Perhaps we should also have been more prudent in our expenditure, though we should also remember just how badly Britain’s public services needed investment when Labour came to power – it wasn’t like Blair had inherited the Sistene Chapel.

But what’s ignored in Cohen’s analysis is the extent to which those figures whose avarice and greed he blames for creating this crisis were also partly responsible for facilitating Labour’s ascent to power in the first place. As the conventional wisdom tells us, New Labour was only taken seriously once it had reassured the city, and it only reassured the city when it promised to leave them alone. If Blair had promised in ’97 to radically reconfigure the British economy in such a way that we would’ve been insulated from the sub-prime fallout, would he have enjoyed the same kind of electoral success? Would he have been able to secure the sustained & necessary public service investment?

To that, I’m not sure we can offer an answer which doesn’t rely on wild hypothesising, and that’s why Cohen’s hindsight-filled fuming falls a little flat.

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