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1997 - LABOUR'S MISSED OPPORTUNITY

May 1, 2017 4:12 PM
By Cllr John Marriott - Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham
Originally published by South Lincolnshire Liberal Democrats

John MarriottIt's twenty years ago today since Tony Blair led New Labour to an historic landslide victory. As a Parliamentary candidate that year for the Lib Dems in the newly created rock solid Tory seat of Sleaford and North Hykeham I could see that the writing was on the wall by the number of times I was asked at the door who had come second in 1992 and was honest enough to tell them it had been Labour in their area. When the votes were counted, Labour's young pretender, Sean Hariss (what happened to him?) got within 6,000 votes of Tory, Douglas Hogg (his smallest majority ever), with yours truly way behind in third.

Despite the fact that Blair, like Cameron in 2015, hedged his bets on a likely coalition by snuggling up, in this case, to Paddy Ashdown, once the result became clear that putative partnership quickly disappeared. So, with a majority to die for, Labour could really have gone to town and created a political system fit for the 21st century. So, what did it do about voting reform, House of Lords reform, a Bill of Rights, a Written Constitution? Nothing. Just think how different this country of ours might have been today if Blair and co had had the courage to challenge our bankrupt political system back then.

We should have been suspicious as soon as it became clear following Labour's victory that Gordon Brown was going to make a virtue out of sticking to the previous government's spending plans at least for the first two years. Doubtless pledged so as not to scare off potential Tory voters, it could have been 'massaged', like most pledges, especially when Gordon opened the books at the Treasury.

The rest, as they say, is history. However, much of our problems today stem from how that Labour Government reacted to events which were probably not foreseen when it came to power twenty years ago. Here are a few examples:

Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook's 'ethical Foreign Policy' rapidly bit the dust when his boss got into bed with George W Bush and the two decided to finish the job that the Iron Lady and Dubya's dad had begun, with UN backing, in the early 1990s by invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussain. And what about Peter Mandelson's comments about being "intensely relaxed" about people making loads of money in the City or his government's failure, unlike Germany and France, to give just two examples, to introduce transitional arrangements for immigration when Poland and the Baltic States joined the EU? And, finally, something close to my heart, having spent 34 years at the chalk face, Labour's failure to address the skills shortage by kicking the Tomlinson Report on Vocational Education into the long grass in 2005. Goodness me, how we need those skilled people today as a Brexit Britain faces an uncertain future!

So, I for one will not be looking back on the years 1997 to 2010 with nostalgia. They were, in my humble opinion, a massive missed opportunity from which we may never recover in what is left of my lifetime.

1997 - LABOUR'S MISSED OPPORTUNITY

It's twenty years ago today since Tony Blair led New Labour to an historic landslide victory. As a Parliamentary candidate that year for the Lib Dems in the newly created rock solid Tory seat of Sleaford and North Hykeham I could see that the writing was on the wall by the number of times I was asked at the door who had come second in 1992 and was honest enough to tell them it had been Labour in their area. When the votes were counted, Labour's young pretender, Sean Hariss (what happened to him?)  got within 6,000 votes of Tory, Douglas Hogg (his smallest majority ever),  with yours truly way behind in third.

Despite the fact that Blair, like Cameron in 2015, hedged his bets on a likely coalition by snuggling up, in this case, to Paddy Ashdown, once the result became clear that putative partnership quickly disappeared. So, with a majority to die for, Labour could really have gone to town and created a political system fit for the 21st century. So, what did it do about voting reform, House of Lords reform,  a Bill of Rights, a Written Constitution? Nothing. Just think how different this country of ours might have been today if Blair and co had had the courage to challenge our bankrupt political system back then. 

We should have been suspicious as soon as it became clear following Labour's victory that Gordon Brown was going to make a virtue out of sticking to the previous government's spending plans at least for the first two years. Doubtless pledged so as not to scare off potential Tory voters, it could have been 'massaged', like most pledges, especially when Gordon opened the books at the Treasury.

The rest, as they say, is history. However, much of our problems today stem from how that Labour Government reacted to events which were probably not foreseen when it came to power twenty years ago. Here are a few examples: 

Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook's 'ethical Foreign Policy' rapidly bit the dust when his boss got into bed with George W Bush and the two decided to finish the job that the Iron Lady and Dubya's dad had begun, with UN backing, in the early 1990s by invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussain. And what about Peter Mandelson's comments about being "intensely relaxed" about people making loads of money in the City or his government's failure, unlike Germany and France, to give just two examples, to introduce transitional arrangements for immigration when Poland and the Baltic States joined the EU? And, finally, something close to my heart, having spent 34 years at the chalk face, Labour's failure to address the skills shortage by kicking the Tomlinson Report on Vocational Education into the long grass in 2005. Goodness me, how we need those skilled people today as a Brexit Britain faces an uncertain future!

So, I for one will not be looking back on the years 1997 to 2010 with nostalgia. They were, in my humble opinion, a massive missed opportunity from which we may never recover in what is left of my lifetime.

Cllr John Marriott


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