Friday, 14 May 2010

Anthony Barnett sees the end of Thatcherism

Anthony Barnett (with background history as a long-ago editor of New Left Review, author of a very good and critical book about the Falklands War, key figure in Charter '88, founder and key figure in OpenDemocracy, leading advocate of the HangEm strategy in the New Statesman) has written a very controversial article for Open Democracy entitled 'The End of Thatcherism'.

No endorsement here, but a contribution to the debate we need to be having.

Anthony Barnett, The End of Thatcherism, 13 May 2010
This week's creation of a Conservative led coalition with the Liberal Democrats has brought the period associated with Margaret Thatcher after her election in 1979 to an end. The UK will continue to play its part in global capitalism but a new kind of domestic politics is on offer. One way of describing it, uncomfortable as it may be for me to report, is that the transition from New Labour to a Tory led coalition promises a distinctly more progressive government in the UK. If indeed the Coalition agreement is carried out, then the new government will be to the left of its predecessor by being:
tougher on the bankers
more focused on helping the very poor
more democratic
ending New Labour’s assault on liberty
Europeanising Westminster politics
implementing greener policies
reintroducing cabinet government

This is relative praise. It remains a Tory government. The new coalition says it is planning to stuff the House of Lords with 200 cronies to secure its majority there, who will stay for their lifetimes; it will not investigate our use of torture; it says it will ask the British people to decide on how we vote yet, despite language about “grown-up” politics, it will treat us like infants and not permit us to consider a proportional system. And, of course there is the famous chasm between words and deeds.

However, for those of us involved with the Convention on Modern Liberty, especially my Co-Director Henry Porter who led the way in campaigning against New Labour’s transforming the British state into an instrument of hi-tech despotism, the coalition’s programme is a triumph, as he has rightly claimed. First for what it delivers, in rolling back ID cards, the National Information Register and the promise of a Great Repeal Bill. Second, for prevailing not least thanks to the Guardian/Observer, over the Murdoch press and the BBC - which refused to report on civil liberties as a serious issue and still doesn’t. Third, in terms of political culture that the Convention plugged into - the latent energy of collaboration and constructive discussion of differences, as against tribalism. The first press conference of Prime Minister Cameron and his Deputy displayed an embrace of this culture proclaiming it as a different and better way of doing things.

The rest is here.

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