I don\’t think Will Hutton understands what he\’s talking about.
I had thought that he was malevolent, simply willing to say or do anything, twist any argument or fact, to further his designs. Now I\’m coming around to the view that he\’s simply ignorant.
The 1992 general election defeat was a watershed. It convinced Blair, Brown and Mandelson that whatever their new leader John Smith might think, there was no electoral majority for any social democratic intervention in the economy, however clever or well-designed. Markets and business must rule unequivocally. Labour had to shed any pretension to intervene, redistribute or overtly promote fairness, and could only govern as a quasi One Nation Conservative party, spending the dividends from economic growth not on tax cuts but improved public services, from which the middle class would benefit too.Thus New Labour. Although the party won a landslide in 1997, paradoxically it won as a beaten tradition. What little social democratic radicalism it possessed, like introducing the minimum wage, were commitments made by the revered but dead John Smith from which it could not escape. It would do small social democratic things – such as the public benefit test for charities or introducing SureStart – but its only big economic social democratic commitment was to lift public spending on health, education and science.
Brown, although he would never acknowledge it, had reversed the judgment he made on election night 1992. He publicly and enthusiastically returned to social democracy.
I think that we all agree that the pin up poster boys for social democracy are the Nordics?
What Hutton seems not to know is that in many ways, the Nordics are vastly more free market than we are. Business is rather more untrammeled than it is here: certainly it is taxed a great deal less. What they actually do is:
Markets and business must rule unequivocally. …. spending the dividends from economic growth not on tax cuts but improved public services, from which the middle class would benefit too.
Seriously, I really think he\’s ignorant of what social democracy is in practice: why it actually works in some places. Precisely because where it does work the social democrats don\’t interfere in markets and business: they simply cream off some of the produce (and largely from the pockets of the population via income tax and VAT rather tthan imposts upon business or markets) to spend.