Monday, 3 May 2010

Oh yes it is an election (6) - A look back at Labour

Thing Could only get Better...

Thirteen years ago, Blair won a landslide victory that propelled the Labour Party into governance. It has been an interesting few years, and we as a public have got so used to spin and image that it now forms the very fabric of our baseless society. For who needs to work if you can look like a pin up model with a glass of sparkling chardonnay in your hand while the cameras snap your pic?

So the good things that Labour has done while in power (and I am assuming that they will loose the election on May 6th):

The Freedom of Information Act (and the preceding Data Protection Act). Good in theory, bit sluggish in practice. While I still think the government hides a hell of a lot of its matters, there is a lot in there that means we have a (slightly) more transparent understanding of what happens in the corridors of power.

Constitutional Reform. Despite the stop/start nature of reform, overall, it can be said that Devolution has been a good thing. From my own perspective, it has given Londoners a lot more accountability when coming to control local services. Just look at how we did not get snowed in this year, as Boris was determined to keep the city moving! However, there is still along way to go as is evidenced by the recent Parliamentary Scandals.

Northern Ireland. A lot of credit also has to go to John Major too, but the days of the IRA bringing London to a standstill are thankfully a distant memory.

The National Minimum Wage (plus the subsequent laws on Holiday time). When I started working, I was lucky enough to work for an employer that actually paid something half decent. £3.39/hour seems paltry now, but it was a king's wages compared to the £2.50/hr that many of my contemporaries were getting in 1996. Plus I was working Sundays, which meant more pay. But exploitation in legitimate jobs was rife. Today, that no longer seems the case, and even McDonalds has to adhere to minimum levels of pay and holidays.

But, oh yes, there is always a but, where did Labour go wrong?

Money. Like everyone else, its MP's were as bad as anyone else when it came to the trough. The phrase whiter than white haunts his party as scandal after scandal has ripped it apart.

Constitutional Reform. What it started, it did not finish. An Upper Chamber that isaccessible through bribes and a lower chamber that does not fully represent the electorate. I almost feel Russian in our democratic ways.

War. This is the big one. A lot of people are pissed off with this. Iraq was illegal. An oil war, pure and simple. And then there is Afghanistan. Even if the initial results from Afghanistan in the ousting of (the CIA created) Taliban was a good thing, our continuing prescience in a country that does not want us there is something that makes a lot of people uneasy. And do not forget the shredding of our civil liberties that has been linked to these wars.

Money. This time, our money. We are broke. We did not save during the good times and now we are screwed as an economy. We are going to get tax rises and public sector cuts. Life is going to get very tough over the next few years. And I am still betting on a new recession to hit us. Once Labour leaves government, this will (unfortunately) be their legacy after 13 years. Labour did not do a bad job, they were not a terrible government, and there was some real progression under their tutelage. But unfortunately, any government that has been in power for this long is tired of doing things. Overall verdict: Things did get a little bit better, then got a little bit worse...

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