In a news update on the website of the British newspaper The Guardian posted on 26th March 2010, Hélène Mulholland reports that a newly formed coalition of ideologically committed left-wing organizations named the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), is set to field candidates in opposition to the candidates of the Labour party in 40 constituencies (Mulholland, 2010).
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The trade unionists particularly feel that the New Labour does not address their concerns or represent their ideology at all. Usually, the Labour party could count upon the trade unions to support them in any election, but now the trade unions are looking for other options. Some trade union leaders are even flirting with the Conservative party the former arch-enemy of unions. According to the article, one such union leader was enlisted by David Cameron, the head of the Conservatives to convince the trade unions that the Conservative party was no longer their enemy.
According to the article, this union leader felt that David Cameron’s recent remarks encouraging British Airways workers to ignore the strike that their union engaging in is not detrimental to his efforts to present the Conservative party as having changed its position regarding trade unions (Mulholland, 2010).
The disillusionment with the Labour party exhibited by the leaders of trade unions and other left-wing organizations is justified. For the last few decades, the political spectrum of Western countries has visibly moved in the rightward direction. Traditionally left-wing parties, like the Labour Party have survived this rightward shift by moving their policies rightward. The New Labour adopted the general policies of the Thatcher regime in nearly every sector of governance. The government of Margaret Thatcher undertook a program of massive deregulation of markets and privatization of state-run enterprises. Public utilities such as gas, electricity, and water utilities were privatized.
Government jobs were increasingly contracted out to private enterprises and jobs in the bureaucracy were cut by 30% (Rutland, 2008). Under Thatcher’s successor, John Major, the process of privatization of the British railways was set into motion (Mollona, 2009).
Tony Blair’s New Labour government continued the path of economic liberalization, privatization of state industries, and the reduction of government spending. The Blair regime’s first major act after coming into power was making the Bank of England an independent entity (Rutland, 2008). The privatization of state-run industries was continued under Blair, this was most often undertaken through Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) where the private sector invested in government schemes and control of government enterprises was partially handed over to them.
The New Labour government even reneged on its election promise to re-nationalize the British Railways, going on to finally complete the transition of the railways from a government-run enterprise to a privately owned one (Mollona, 2009). The Labour government also reneged on their promise to replace the National Lottery’s private ownership with a not-for-profit operation. The London Underground was privatized in 2003 and plans for the privatization of the Royal Mail are underway (Mollona, 2009).
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The Thatcher regime had confronted the powerful trade unions; anti-union laws were set into motion putting curbs on a union’s abilities to call a strike (Rutland, 2008). Despite being funded in large part by the trade unions, in its 12 years in power, the New Labour government did not engage in any major repeal of anti-union laws enacted by the Conservative government (Mollona, 2009).
Having faced the destructive effects of the Second World War, first hand, most of the British public was wary of war (Rutland, 2008). The launch of the Falklands War by the Thatcher regime was thus the start of a new era of militarism.
The New Labour government of Tony Blair adopted the warlike policy of the Thatcher regime. Blair supported the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslav troops in Kosovo and the 2002 Afghan War. He even supported the American-led Iraq War launched in 2003, even though the British public was strongly against it (Rutland, 2008).
The New Labour government has been criticized heavily for perceived restrictions on the civil liberties of the citizenry under the guise of fighting “The War Against Terror”, anti-war protestors have especially faced the wrath of the regime (Porter, 2006).
The past three decades have seen the rise of a unique form of government where the government controls over the rich and powerful corporations are removed and people are left to the mercy of the business class in the name of opposing the evils of “big government”, on the other hand, government intrusion into the lives of people has grown to unprecedented levels. The proponents of this ideology also seek the imposition of their will on weaker nations in the name of exporting democracy and human rights.
This ideology occurs under multiple names, the leading left-wing or right-wing political parties which are ostentatiously opposed to each other espouse this same ideology. Mulholland’s report shows how the people are gradually becoming aware of this and are looking for alternatives to the major political players in the coming elections.
Mollona, M. (2009). Made in Sheffield: an ethnography of industrial work and politics. Oxford, UK: Berghahn Books.
Mulholland, H. (2010). Hard left the Tusc coalition to stand against Labour in 40 constituencies. Web.
Rutland, P. (2008). Britain. In J. Kopstein, & M. I. Lichbach (Eds.), Comparative Politics: Interests, Identities, and Institutions in a Changing Global Order (3rd Edition ed., pp. 38-79). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.