Britain and Australia elected “pragmatic” center-leftist governments. They are a warning to America.
The political careers of Tony Blair in Britain and Kevin Rudd in Australia have some positively eerie resemblances of that of Barack Obama so far.
Both became the leaders of left-of-center parties whose prior leftism had rendered them unelectable, and gave them a new image of post-Cold War, post-political pragmatism and Big Tent political philosophies that could appeal to mainstream right and left, mainstream liberal and conservative, and seemed to transcend the ideologies of the 20th century. Both men were extremely vague and fuzzy about what they stood for, apart from evoking the mantra of “change.” Both had previous careers as professionals: Blair a lawyer, Rudd a diplomat.
Both, pre-election, strenuously distanced themselves from any association with leftist ideology. Both were electorally very successful with this strategy. And both are now capable of being examined in a more objective light.
On April 14, 1998, Blair declared: “It is indeed a third way, not old left or new right but a new center and center-left governing philosophy for the future….It seeks to modernize Britain but for a purpose: to create a one-nation Britain…”
Does anyone hear an echo of this in Obama’s 2004 speech to the National Democratic convention: “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is a United States of America.”
Blair was said to regard the “ideological” approach to politics as “almost a perversion of the 20th century.” Among many other statements along these lines he told the 2001 British Labour Party Conference: “The 20th century killed those ideologies [of rigid forms of economic and social theory] and their passing causes little regret.”
While Blair himself kept up the appearance of a post-political pragmatic managerialist to the end, and while he maintained the American alliance and kept up close relations with certain favored capitalists, in almost every other aspect of society and culture he and his government gave the left its head.
After 11 years of “New Labour,” Britain’s traditions and values seem in ruins across wide swathes of what is now commonly called the “broken society.”
THANKS DIRECTLY to the British government’s anti-family taxation policies, and indirectly to the whole style and ethos of many figures associated with it, both married couples and births within wedlock have become minorities for the first time since records were kept.
There are no-go areas for police in some cities and, it has been estimated, hundreds of feral teenage gangs. Rates of juvenile drunkenness, drug abuse and under-age sex are among the very worst in Europe (according to the statistics, teenage drunkenness is far worse than in Russia). In what is only the latest the latest of endless such reports, two policemen were recently reported attacked and bitten by an instantly assembled mob of 30 teenagers after telling a 15-year-old girl not to drop litter. Prisons are so full that even those convicted of serious crimes such as recidivist home burglary can look forward to non-custodial sentences.
The armed forces have been slashed. One coroner’s enquiry after another has blamed the deaths of British servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan on bad equipment, without these findings apparently resulting in improvements. Servicemen disabled in action have received derisory compensation. Hundreds of people are estimated to have died of infections caught in filthy government hospitals, but neither media nor official reports on these scandals seem to result in any improvement. Immigration is out of control and there is no idea how many illegal immigrants are in the country.
In 1979, when Margaret Thatcher came to power, the public sector had numbered 735,000. By 1983 she had reduced in to 635,000. By 1998 it was down to 450,000. After Labor’s coming to power in 1997 it expanded to 980,000 in 2004, and is still rising. Total government spending rose from 39.8% of GDP in 1997 to 43.3% in 2005 and is also still rising though hard to keep up-to-date track of. The complement of this has been a huge rise in taxation, open and hidden and government raids of private pension funds.
A vast and permanent underclass (and what Labor no doubt hopes is a locked-in voting constituency) has been created and bound by welfare-dependency and poverty traps. A by-election has recently focused attention of the Parliamentary seat of Glasgow East, in the very heart of Labour’s heartland: According to former Tory Leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has regularly worked in and visited it, thousands of children in East Glasgow are heroin addicts. The area’s life-expectancy for males is possibly the lowest in Europe at 63, but in one ward, Calton, it is 54, below North Korea, Iraq, and some of the better African countries.
Now a major economic crisis has come to crown these achievements, with the cost of household essentials such as food and fuel skyrocketing (choose between “heating or eating,” one headline put it). Home ownership is decreasing. The Thatcher government introduced very successful legislation allowing the tenants of public housing to buy their houses. Now in true socialist style the present government is advising people caught by plummeting house prices and negative equity to sell their houses back to the public authorities and resume renting them.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online