mardi 25 novembre 2008

New new Labour

Polly Toynbee over at the Guardian is ecstatic about Darling's crumbs and giveaways in yesterday's budget. It isn't an article so much as a desperate gush of hope and wishful thinking. Labour has shown its true roots and the Tories have been revealed for what they truly are. Hardly. The points she makes are as if the crisis had little or nothing to do with the policies that New Labour have followed the last decade or so but had suddenly erupted onto the scene ex nihilo. Now social democracy can come to the rescue since "... in a crisis social democracy is what works." But what we are seeing certainly isn't anything like social democracy.

For a start, the sums involved ( depending on which figures you consult, amounting to about 20 billion pounds or so) are small with respect to the enormous amounts of cash being sprayed at the banks. And it's a poor social democracy that only means throwing cash out of a sack in the middle of town and hoping for the best. Which in effect are what all the measures tot up to. Because this is nothing about helping the poor - which is what social democracy is at least partly about - as even Toynbee herself concedes. Commenting that a 'sense of rightness of things being restored' (wuh?) she trills "Of course low earners deserve a fairer share of rewards - the cleaners, caterers and carers who earn too little to keep their families above the poverty line - though they didn't get it this time. "

Though they didn't get it this time. Well, as the party's cheerleader (hmm not so nice a thought and a bit sexist image, perhaps), at least she recognises that, but it doesn't seem to prevent her from holding the contradictory ideas in her head simultaneously- that the budget helps the poor and will be good for the system as a whole too. (ie the system is there for the sole benefit of the rich). As to the latter point, she breathlessly says that the stock market loved it, thus Darling had got it right.

So everyone's a winner. Except the poor, who won't benefit from the VAT cut because what's 2% on the things they buy - it only stacks up to anything on big arsed purchases obviously. And who makes them?

It would be a curious philosophy that got everything wrong though. There are some interesting points and stats. But it's the, well, the philosophy of her approach that if not appalls, then irritates. it's the fact that when this budget fudget goes buttocks up, then she'll be in line for laying into Darling and lamenting why anyone listened to him in the first place. The former point is perhaps best illustrated when she says "When markets zigzag between exuberance and despair, confidence is the only currency. The language, the mirage, the smoke and mirrors, it all matters as much as the substance. No one alive has ever lived through such a crisis or faced the danger of a slump so deep, so if enough people say that the right thing was done yesterday, then it was. The stock market rewarded Alistair Darling with the biggest ever one-day rise - so for now, it worked. " The latter point was superbly constructed in a recent Private Eye.

I did a PhD long long ago which defended a dusty old idea that truth is something independent and objective from our epistemological conceptions and conversations. Part of the problem I had in actually finishing the bastard thing was trying to defend a demarcation line between truths that are, somehow, made and those that are just bloody well there whatever your discursive fecking constructs say about it.(1) Now does the anti-realist point that whatever enough people say is right, is actually right hold good? Is it even the place to apply 'ethical' thinking at all? How is Toynbee using the term 'right' here. It's all as vague and ephermeral as the party she supports a party that is in continual flux, open to any opportunity and willing to drop any 'principle' in order to hold on to power. Fair enough, that's politics of course, but why then even bring up the notion of 'right'. Unless it means right in the sense of right for the Labour Party's electoral prospects. Certainly not 'right' for those at the bottom of the shit heap they've made - since they didn't get anything this time.

1. I did eventually finish the wretched thing. If anyone wants a copy.....