Thursday 25 August 2022

Labour's post-war failings

 A recent post outlines the many failings of the UK's post- war Conservative governments.  A friend suggests that, in fairness, I should construct a similar list for Labour.  Although I suspect he is a former Tory supporter, he speculated that the list would be shorter.  It is (though I'm open to suggestions for additions), though largely a list of missed opportunities rather than deliberate errors.

1.    1.  Over-centralisation in creating and in running of nationalised industries.

2.     2. Antagonism towards employee representation on the boards of both publicly and privately-owned industries.  This came largely from the unions, who preferred to preserve their monopoly of negotiating with the employers, thus preserving conflict rather than generating co-operation.

3.    3. Disastrous partition of India at independence. Perhaps this was not so much the responsibility of the Labour Government, but rather the cumulation of the policies of “divide and rule” carried out by Imperial governments over the decades, in generating antagonism between previously happily co-habiting Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and other faith groups.  Labour were , however, "in charge" at the time.

4.    4. Failure to participate in the setting up of European Coal and Steel Community, Common Market, (Gaitskell’s “1000 years of history” speech,) Harold Wilson’s “re-negotiation”, ambivalence to EU membership in the referendum - and counting. .

5.    5. Failure to devalue in 1964.  Instead, fighting to preserve the $US/£ exchange rate at $2.80 to £1.  Hence the plan to build a “New Jerusalem” was unnecessarily constrained  by a constant battle to balance external payments. Defeat followed in 1967 when the £1 was devalued to $2.40.  Under Mrs Thatcher it actually reached parity (£1=$1) but Tories prefer not to mention that.  It now bumps along at around £1=$1.20.  So much for World Beating Britain over the last half century.

6.    6. Continued failure to promote co-operation rather than conflict in  industrial relations (“In Place of Strife”  reform proposals, again largely scuppered by the trade unions.)

7.    7. Blair/Brown Governments’ failure to use their massive majorities to achieve:

a)    Substantial devolution (eg home rule with tax-raising powers) to Scotland and Wales;

b)    Electoral reform;

c)     Devolution of more powers to English regions or local government;

d)    Democratically elected second chamber;

e)    Reform of company law to include responsibilities to community and employees as well as profits for share-holders.

8.    8. PFI.  This scheme for enticing the private sector to fund public projects (hospitals, schools) was actually introduced by John Major’s Conservative government, but used extensively by the Blair/Brown governments in a rather naïve  attempt to make the public accounts look healthier.  Ministers and public officials were not very competent at negotiating contracts, the private sector took them for a ride, and  many public projects are now being forced to pay for themselves several times over.

9.    9. The Iraq War.

1   10. The infamous Miliband-approved mug:” Controls on Immigration: I’m voting Labour.”  A shameful attempt by Labour to undersell even the Tories on this issue.  It was pleasing to see in yesterday’s paper that Scouts in Kent are designing  and sending  “Welcome to Britain” greetings cards to migrants landing on their county’s shores.  One lad encourages them to “try the fish and chips.”

1111. Austerity proposals in the 2010 election which rivalled those of the Tories. Here's some exact quotes from their manifesto (page 6):

TTTough  choices for £15billion efficiency savings  in 2010-11;

toTough choices  on cutting government overheads;

toTough choices on pay: action to control public sector pay;

TTTough choices on spending;

TTTough choices on welfare. . . .£1.5 billion on savings being delivered.

1112.Failure to support the Liberal Democrats’ Coalition proposals for;

a) Electoral reform

b) Reform of the House of Lords.


  1. he speculated that the list would be shorter. It is

    Well, of course it is. The Conservatives have been in power for more than half as long again as Labour over that time.

    But Labour have still managed to do a lot of damage. Considering just the Blair government's constitutional vandalism:

    1. Establishing the Supreme Court, aping the American one mainly because they wanted to cosplay The West Wing, and of course the Supreme Court immediately started acting like the braindead political American one instead of the House of Lords appellate committee which had been working fine for over a century

    2. Granting the Bank of England independence, which seemed to work okay when times were good, but as soon as trouble struck in 2008 it threw all caution to the wind, decided the inflation target (its one job) didn't matter, and started printing money like there was no tomorrow, leading directly to the problems we are having with inflation now — it's hard to believe that politicians answerable to the electorate would have been able to justify running the money printers so hard and so long

    3. Establishing the Scottish Assembly in a fit of hubris because they believed that it would provide a perpetual Labour powerbase, only to see it suborned by nationalists and turned into a wrecking ball to attack the Union (yes, you can blame Cameron for not stamping on the 'Scottish Parliment' nonsense as soon as it was suggested, but it was Labour set the damned thing up)

    4. The Good Friday Agreement, which because they rushed it through for PR reasons rather than demanding a full and unconditional surrender and disarming of the IRA/Sinn Fein, allowed the republicans to claim 'victory' and laid the ground for the glorification of murderers and terrorists, and the confusion over the constitutional position of part of the United Kingdom that still poisons our body politic like gangrene, and that the EU was able to weaponise against us in the negotiations for leaving the EU.

    Probably more I've forgotten and of course the Coalition Government's idiotic Fixed-Term Parliaments Act is up there with the worst, but at last that's now been repealled. Let's look forward to the rest being junked too...

  2. Thanks, as always for your comments. It's strange that two observers can look at the same events and draw such radically different conclusions.