British Election Update, Part 3: Why I'm backing Labour
by Ben P, Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 03:20:40 PM EDT
Simply put, Britain under Labour is doing very well, and doing well not just for those at the upper end of the income ladder. With a hat tip to Jerome a Paris at Moon of Alabama, I present to you the following.
British income growth (by quintile) under Margaret Thatcher:
Now take a look at the British income growth under Tony Blair:
A bit of a difference, no? Too often, I hear that the left leaning parties that have come to power since the neo-liberal turn in the global economy that occurred in the 1970s have done nothing to stop - and in some cases, have accelerated - income inequality. I think this table clearly proves this wrong. And what's more, the generally equal rate of income (if anything, greater rate of growth for those at the bottom end of the economic spectrum) has been equaled by strong GDP growth. Clinton's administration went along way towards demonstrating the fundamental economic superiority of left leaning (really centrist) governments in the 21st century world: Blair's administration does so to an even greater extent.
This example is indicative of the degree to which the Labour government elected in 1997 has been good for Britain domestically - undoubtedly better than a Tory government would have been - from an economic and a civil libertarian standpoint. Beyond its positive economic record outlined above, it has created a minimum wage, has enshrined gay rights in to law, relaxed drug laws, and generally made Britain a more prosperous, more tolerant nation.
In response, the Conservatives have decided that - since they can't beat Labour on the economy - they will try to whip up the nation into xenophobic, anti-immigrant hysteria. Indeed, the Tories under Michael Howard have really become a desperate, ugly sight: their raison d'etre has become blocking immigration, removing Britain from the EU, repealing Labour's advances on gay rights and drug laws. This is not a reasonable libertarian conservative party, as it would be if Michael Portillo was leader; this is not the "one nation" Toryism of John Major; this is ugly right wing "populism" (in quotes because I believe much of this is not really popular). And it needs to beaten. Blair may or may not deserve a "bloody nose" for Iraq. But there are bigger fish to fry in this election, at least for the people who will be effected by the actual outcome (as opposed to foreign observers, whose primary prism for viewing the outcome is Blair backing Bush on Iraq).
No, the Liberal Democrats are a fine party. But they can't win this election. And whats more, a vote for the Lib Dems this time out will only have the effect of bringing in what appears to this observer to be a desperate, nasty Tory Party increasingly defined by what it doesn't like, not what it stands for, a Tory Party completely at odds with much of what the philo-Liberal Democrats in Britain and abroad stand for. The Tories need to be beaten once again, and soundly. They need to get the message that Britain will vote Tory only once they abandon their crude reactionary fantasies about the true state of the nation in the 21st century.
It is for these reasons that I'm strongly backing a Labour victory on May 5.