Friday, 8 October 2010

Revolutionary justice

Alan Johnson: the face of a new generation, apparently
What a difference a week makes. No sooner does David Cameron reveal the true extent of his Government's radicalism than Ed Miliband's 'new generation' is exposed as the tired old re-run that it is.

While a shadow front bench sporting the likes of Alan Johnson, Caroline Flint, Ed Balls and - above all - Peter Hain can only churlishly lay claim to renewing the youth of the Labour party, the Conservatives have emerged from Conference showcasing a renewed sense of revolutionary zeal.

And while it did not escape the press that Mr Cameron's speech contained no new policies, the purpose of such a move may well have.

Six months into Government, Mr Cameron has shown himself to favour a more collegiate form of government than his immediate predecessors (and, indeed, Margaret Thatcher) as well as a more efficient one - why announce ten meaningless initiatives when you can elaborate on solid policies?

And after a fluffy, vague and rather disappointing election campaign, he has finally allowed his party to get back to doing what they do best - speaking plainly on common sense.

At the top of this parapet, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has returned his party to something it has not done since the days of Mrs Thatcher - speaking the mind of the working man.

The Daily Mail headline Don't have children unless you can afford to pay for them will have chimed with millions of low-income workers tired of working for a wage which is then taxed to a pittance in order to support the workshy, the lazy and the irresponsible.

Commenting on working class swings to the Conservatives in 1964, Enoch Powell quipped that "In the end, the Labour party could cease to represent labour. Stranger historical ironies have happened than that."

As ever, the man's startling prophetic intellect was correct - no longer the party of the thrifty and aspirant worker, Labour has transformed itself into a pressure group for State expansion, representing the two groups in society that have a stake in it - the scroungers and the public sector.

It seems, too, that the left have very little defence against a Conservative party in such populist mood, ceasing to make all intelligible sense and almost deliberately sabotaging their every move - it happened with Neil Kinnock in the '80s and it is happening again with Miliband.

A party with nothing to say has opposed the removal of child benefit for high earners simply for the sake of it, while its leader demonstrates his very liberal interpretation of the term 'a new generation' by making a 60-year-old Blairite ex-minister with no economic experience Shadow Chancellor.

At the same time, the Government has announced a radical simplification of the benefit system, a stinging attack on 'no-win no-fee' health and safety litigation, a cap of £500 a week for families on welfare and the removal of teachers' 'no-touch' rule in schools.

Mr Cameron has finally articulated the vagaries of the last five years into hard, popular and common sense policies at a time when Labour seems determined to self-destruct. If he keeps his resolve, his party could well win the next election outright and keep Labour out of office for a long time to come.

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