Brown reassures business: no return to ‘old’ Labour

As Brown massages the fears of business, the government plans another assault against the unemployed.

(UK) Britain’s Labour Party has long ago lost its socialist credentials, yet now the core of its shift to a faith in neo-liberal economics is manifesting itself in the reassurances made to big business and in their work and unemployment policy.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has already made it clear that the government will “almost certainly” have to inject increasing amounts of cash into the economy in the face of its persistent economic sloth. Meanwhile, at the annual Progress Conference in London, Gordon Brown still had to reassure the New Labour faithful and those natural tories who tolerated Tony Blair’s approach, that current policy is not a return to ‘old’ Labour. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that the banks and business elite are suffering some sort of mental aberration. They have waited with outstretched hands for public money to be handed over, they have grudgingly accepted semi-nationalisation to save their skins, and suddenly they go into a right-wing flap about a miniscule 45p rise in higher rate income tax; on the ludicrous basis that ‘Tony Blair promised not to increase it’.

As the Prime Minister eases the fears of the business world, he simultaneously adds to the fears of Britain’s most vulnerable. The government’s attitude to unemployment, which has been shifting further and further to the right since 2001, is finally being fully displayed without the unconvincing diguises. It is again a policy of shrinking the social security net, means testing disabled people into work and forcing mothers with children under 12 years into work. Doubly astonishing is that such a hardline policy is being pushed through in a period of collapsing businesses, dwindling work opportunities and massive job cuts. It is as if the government (or those privately appointed to draft reports) believe forcing unemployed people to find jobs, actually creates those jobs.

It’s discouraging that amongst a range of bills proposed in the draft Queen’s Speech (set for Wednesday) such as equal rights for temporary and agency workers, and the ever-present ‘public service reforms’, there is also the same dumping of blame on people for unemployment. A group of people largely created by the neo-liberal economic programme New Labour claims is the solution to almost everything.

New Labour’s ‘social philosopher’ Anthony Giddens writes in the Guardian today, that “..the period of deregulation, involving minimal governmental oversight of economic affairs, is over..”. It’s a pity he wasn’t shouting that message a little louder during the ‘good times’ as personal debt silently mounted up and companies in this new “market-efficient” economy freely swindled everyone into recession.

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