If I Hear Just *One* More Blairite Bleating On About ‘Aspiration’…

May 11, 2015

by Martin Odoni

‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks.’

The lady in this case is the entirety of what is sloganistically referred to as ‘New Labour’. Every Blairite (adherent to the neoliberal-neoconservative philosophy of former Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair) in or connected to the current Labour Party has been getting his or her protests in first. The purpose appears to be that, before anyone can suggest that the party’s disastrous showing in last week’s General Election has anything to do with deposed leader Ed Miliband choosing too half-hearted a manifesto platform, the Blairites will argue the complete opposite, and insist that he chose too radical an approach. If enough of them say it, maybe those who do not agree will be embarrassed into keeping their mouths shut?

We have already had to listen to Blair himself voicing almost identical sentiments, but also Chuka Umunna, Dan Jarvis, Tristram Hunt, Liz Kendall, and even Miliband’s own brother, David, (among others) have all waded in with declarations of needing a shift in a pro-business direction. One irritating term they all seem determined to hit us over the eardrums with over-and-over is the single word, Aspiration. Apparently, the campaign run by Ed Miliband came across as ‘against it’, whatever ‘it’ is, and of being ‘hostile’ to the nation’s ‘wealth-creators’.

Everyone who is on the right wing of the Labour Party – which these days means being on the right wing of the political spectrum – seems to be using the word with depressing regularity. It is the all-too-familiar pattern of the fashionable ‘buzzword’. Every season in politics has at least one, and it is a sign of a politician, or more often a group of politicians, stubbornly refusing to think very much or to question their own thoughts that deeply. It is also a tell-tale sign that a party’s rhetoric is being closely orchestrated, which is the last thing any prospective leaders need, when the requirements are surely to stand out as individuals.

I despise this stubborn regimentation in itself, but I also despise the word ‘aspiration’ when used in politics, because it is of course a euphemism. When politicians say they are ‘in favour of aspiration’, what they really mean is that they are in favour of people who like to accumulate more money than they will ever need. And when they say that they support ‘wealth-creators’, they mean they are also in favour of people who have already accumulated more money than they will ever need too.

Do these Blairite fools really think that such an outlook will appeal to the former core-support that quite evidently switched to the UK Independence Party? Do they really not imagine that it is that core-support they need to win back? So many working class people, wrongly imagining that the causes of their problems are immigration and the European Union, have felt increasingly deserted and abandoned by the party that had been founded to represent them in the first place, and so they have looked to another that claims will address the supposed ‘cause’.

The defeat last week is thus merely a continuation of a slide in Labour’s support that certainly did not begin with the Credit Crunch in 2008. On the contrary, between Blair’s first majority in 1997, and his final one in 2005, the Labour Party lost some four million voters. So 2010 was not the start of the decline either, it was merely the point when the party’s support had descended so far that even the widely-hated Conservative Party had finally eclipsed them, more by default than by endorsement. Disadvantaged Britons had had hope when Tony Blair first arrived in office that life in general would become easier for them and that they would get a fairer share of the national ‘cake’, but Blair did not really believe that he could do that or that he should try, and so he made no attempt. Instead, he continued the Margaret Thatcher/John Major program of ‘Choice Economics’ and the dismantling of the Welfare State. (This played an indirect role in the Credit Crunch, as many of the poorer people in Britain who had inadequate incomes had to supplement them with inappropriate loans, which they could not repay when they fell due.) Disillusionment led first to many Labour supporters giving up voting, and eventually to many more transferring their vote to an extremist party that, falsely but plausibly, offered a way of increasing the resources for the native population. Meanwhile Ed Miliband’s very hesitant, quarter-developed efforts to sidle the party a little back to the left, while better than nothing, never had the conviction to draw anywhere near enough of them back.

And Umunna et al want to end this downward spiral by sucking up to the merchant class even more? If they are going to interpret being in favour of a fair deal for the workers as being ‘hostile to business’ or ‘opposed to aspiration’, then they can probably forget ever getting back into Government, because they will never have much appeal to the old demographic the party has relied on for so much of its history.

Never mind the aspiration to be wealthy and successful, Labour. In Britain, probably more than any other European country, too many people by far are not in a position to have aspirations in the correct sense of the word, because they are struggling just to make ends meet, struggling just to get through each month. Aspirations can only be explored when survival pressures are low. The only people therefore who are likely to be able to pursue aspirations are the ones who are already well enough off that they will need very little help from Government in the first place.

Blinkered by the desire to be elected entirely for its own sake, Labour has forgotten over the last twenty years what it is there for. The paradox is that it has so alienated its most critical support-base that it has made the party as unelectable as it has ever been.

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