Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Down with Butskellism

In the years between the Second World War and the advent of Thatcherism, British politics ran along a line of very cosy consensus. The era of so-called Butskellism was, however a failure. The consensus of "don't rock the boat"- of cosy agreements between militant trade unionism and incompetent management led to a precipitate decline in the economic power and political influence of the UK.

Thus I can only greet the drive by the Conservatives to enter the "centre ground" of Blairism with the sound of one hand clapping. Unlike Ming Campbell, I do not consider myself "of the centre left"- I consider myself a Liberal. Liberals have a deliberate agenda, built around personal liberty. Unlike Thatcherism, Liberalism knows that in order to preserve and reinforce liberty new political and constitutional arrangements must be established- for the old political system is worn out.

I look at the choice between Blair- an Oxford educated public schoolboy- and Cameron- er.. another Oxford educated public schoolboy- with something close to contempt.

"But as the animals outside gazed at the scene, it seemed to them that some strange thing was happening. What was it that had altered in the faces of the pigs? Clover's old dim eyes flitted from one face to another. Some of them had five chins, some had four, some had three. But what was it that seemed to be melting and changing? Then, the applause having come to an end, the company took up their cards and continued the game that had been interrupted, and the animals crept silently away.

But they had not gone twenty yards when they stopped short. An uproar of voices was coming from the farmhouse. They rushed back and looked through the window again. Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously. Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

George Orwell
"Animal Farm"


James said...

I think that you're being a little unfair here, though the allusion does work well.
The problem with 'Butskellism' was that it didn't work economically - something that was becoming clear even at the fag end of Butskellism in the early 1960s.
The increasingly inflationary economic cycles that were part and parcel of that politcal consensus eventually consigned it to electoral failure.
Since 1979 we've been in a new consensus, but after thirty years it's still looking quite robust by comparison, and personally I don't see any reason to get rid of it yet, if only because no-one has come up with a serious alternative. There is proposed tinkering a-plenty, but no serious directional change.

There are several reforms which I would like to see implemented, and which I believe would achieve a change of direction and feel to the whole country (genuine devolution of powers to local authorities and a radical shift to land tax over income tax) but I acknowledge that there is no real public push for them, or for anything else for that matter.

Boring as it may seem, in the absence of discontent David Cameron is probably right to do as he does and attempt to be the heir to Blair.

Cicero said...

Well arguably the only lasting policy of this period will be the independence of the Central Bank anyway. The implied point of my post is that the complacency of the current system will be the seed of its own destruction.

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