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New Labour, New Lair...


I turned up late from a book launch in London, wondering how to approach this high stakes poker game of a general election which, against most odds and all the polls' predictions, had decisively ducked the hung scaffold, delivered a Conservative majority at Westminster, swapped a one-party Scottish Labour state for a one-party Scottish SNP state, demolished the Lib Dems (Paddy Ashdown really had to eat his hat!) and even sent us home our own lone Tory MP, David Mundell, perhaps to make some sceptics think again.

Sure, Salmond sneaked through to roam Westminster's halls like some lugubrious toad, no doubt sure to stir and intrigue like some Palace courtier of old; and I did find myself wondering why, at 8.00 a.m. on the 8th, Nicola Sturgeon truly seemed not to look as happy as she really should have been. Was it the simple realization there'd now be no SNP/Labour coalition and fewer strings to pull; or worse, that she'd lost her life's ambition plus the keys to lock the Tories out of Downing Street and might now have to co-operate with David Cameron?

But amidst this fearsome tumult, I scarcely thought of Labour at all.

And then I remembered something.

About ten years ago, I'd had the 'flu and for my birthday, for a joke, I'd bought an updated edition of Bremner, Bird and Fortune's fun political satire You Are Here.

In those days (I was then forty) and largely unaware of the then small SNP, the two big beasts (Labour and Conservative) basically still battled it out between themselves at Westminster and the average non-political person, you might argue, saw less and less difference between both parties. We clung, perhaps, to the hope that some vital spark of idealism separated the two, that at least 1% of ideological variance held the totalitarian behemoth at bay.

The 'flu (and I had a bad dose of it) does take one down to the terrible darks of depression, but even so, I will never, ever forget the slow chill of icy horror that passed through me as I read that funny little book.

Bremner, Bird and Fortune had begun by taking the piss out of John Major's Conservatives. Now they were lynching Tony Blair's New Labour, and as I read I realized they could have replaced every single reference to Labour with the word Tory, and it would have sounded just the same.

Exactly the same.

Everyone remembers the day they lose their innocence, and that's when I lost mine. When I learnt there was no difference between the parties at all. If I recall correctly, the late Tony Benn MP once lamented the fact he'd lived to see a Labour Government enacting Tory policies. I know how he felt.

If things had stayed the same, I'd now be fumbling my way into the usual foothills of middle age, not really trusting any politician and quoting that old chestnut "whatever government's in power, I'm against it;" but devolution caused a tempest in British politics the result of which we've now all witnessed. Though it's only my personal opinion, what's past is prologue and that's why, today, I thought only of Tories and the SNP. To the average worker, Keir Hardie's Labour is no longer there to see.

Ed Miliband stood by a stone the other day, pledging and parleying with those who still held sway.

He did not know it was his grave, the future already gone away.

James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.

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