Writing in today’s Guardian Gordon Brown is the very picture of complacency and self-delusion. After the events of the last week he writes:
“But let me be clear: this is not the moment to junk the economic policy framework that has secured sustained growth, high employment, and low inflation over the last decade. The progressive British model that New Labour pioneered has been successful. Our fundamental claim – that it is not just possible but necessary in the modern world to combine economic dynamism and global justice – remains as valid today as in the early 1990’s.”
In reality this “growth” was based on a mountain of fictitious capital in the “successful” financial services sector and an unprecedent level of personal debt. Brown believed that the decline of British manufacturing was no real problem because of the growth of financial services. In reality the increased weight of this sector has made the British economy more vulnerable to the shocks in the global fiancial sector.
Brown and his government would like to give the impression that the current difficulties are purely the result of international factors that they cannot control. Yet Brown and Blair supported deregulation of the financial sector which has created the current circumstances.
You can only read with disbelief this assertion by Brown:
“Everything we have done since 1997 and everything we do this week in Manchester is driven by onw thing: our united ? to fair rules, fair chances, and a fair say by all.”
“Fair rules” which have allowed big business to get away with paying little tax by ‘moving’ to tax havens and “off balance” sheet accounting; “fair rules” that have denied workers employment rights for the first year of a job; “fair rules” that have allowed business leaders to leave with massive pay-offs even when they are responsible for a decline.
It is the “dynamism” of the global financial system which Brown has idealised, its “inventiveness” in creating complex “instruments” which instead of spreading risk has generalised it.
Today’s Guardian refers to a “national cult of property” encouraged by Chancellors “from Barber to Brown”. New Labour worships at the shrine of this cult fuelled by wreckless mortgage lending. Brown’s idelogical belief in the “free market” and its maintenance of Thatcher’s hostility to Council housing has helped to create the current collapse in the housing market.
UNITE leader Derek Simpson, always one to see what he wants to see, despite real world evidence to the contrary, is claiming that Brown’s promise to “clean up the City” was a clear sign that he was “shrowing off the shackles of New Labour”. Give us some more evidence than words Derek. All that we have seen from Brown thus far is express his support for a temporary ban on “short-selling”.
According to Accountancy Age Brown has Sky News that he want’s companies to bring all their ‘bad’ debts back on their balance sheets. However, the attraction of his beloved PFI was that debt could be put “off-balance sheet”. That doesn’t sound like the banning of “special purpose vehicles” that some have called for; yes even Thatcher’s former adviser Patrick Minford.
Derek and anybody else who dreams of Gordon, “the real social democrat” emerging from the neo-liberal body of the self-confessed “proselytiser” for globalisation and free markets, should bear in mind that in the USA we have seen the spectacle of a right wing Republican administration nationalising some of the “commanding heights” of the capitalist economy. This doesn’t mean they have abandoned their ideology, it means they have made a pragmatic decision to socialise the debts of the bankers in order to save their system. They are still in favour of the “small state” of course. Brown’s decision to nationalise Northern Rock was a similarly pragmatic decision because of the threat to the wider financial system.
Everybody is talking about regulation now, but it remains to be seen what content it is given by Brown. But there is no sign that he is going to abandon his “free market” dogma which has been so costly for British workers.
This afternoon in response to a question at the Labour conference as to what the government would do to “sort out the financial system”, to ensure there is “responsibility instead of irresponsibility” he stated boldly “whatever it takes”. So there you have it, the programme of the government! A bit short on detail and conveniently ignoring that he has allowed ten years of irresponsibility which has enriched the rich as never before.
This is precisely what worries me the most. If Gordon Brown considers his policy a success, with the economic boom having been built on a mountain of government, corporate and consumer debt, how on earth can he be trusted to do what is right. It is akin to allowing a drunken hooligan to drive the school bus.
I also want to know what it is he intends to do, because one thing is for certain, he is not very good at forecasting and I have no appetite to watch him lurch from one side to the other. We are in a mess, with a lunatic in charge, lets hope that somehow, we can get to our destination with enough semblance of order, to permit someone else to sort his legacy.