Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Real legacies of Blair, Brown and Smith

Back in the Guardian after the terrible local and London elections.

My old workmates from the 1997 election (Letters, May 17) seem to have fallen into the first trap of politics - don't believe your own propaganda. The best stuff we implemented after the 1997 victory was nothing to do with Blair or Brown; it was the legacy of John Smith - minimum wage, trade union recognition, social chapter, national devolution, regional development agencies etc. The Brownite stuff (independence for the Bank of England and lax regulation of the financial sector) and the Blairite stuff (permanent revolution in schools and hospitals, tougher on crime than its causes) all looks far less attractive in retrospect. Then there is the elephant in the room of foreign policy. Seven wars in seven years - and what happened to being at the centre of Europe!

More important than the policy failings of Brown - on pensions, post offices, tax relief for the dead while increasing tax on the poorest workers - and something even I didn't realise until last year's floods is just how hopeless he is as a politician. We live in a democracy; you have to go out and meet people and understand them (even the Chinese leader has understood this).

Wake up - the "nice decade" is over. Labour will lose the general election whenever it comes. We are facing the same squeeze that the Tories faced in 1997. Who would have thought that the Conservatives would be the first post-Thatcherite party? The changes we need to make have to be done quickly. We must have a new leader very soon so that defeat can be mitigated, giving us a small chance of regrouping; the alternative is we go into oblivion with Brown.
Nick Matthews
(Labour's policy officer for trade and industry and employment in 1997), Rugby