Listening to Gordon Brown yesterday reminded you that New Labour is not actually responsible for anything, despite a dozen years in office. Above all, the government has washed its hands of any shared liability for the financial crisis that has overwhelmed the economy.
Brown, chancellor Alistair Darling, and unelected Business Secretary Lord Mandelson are united in once again trying to pass the entire blame for the crisis on to the bankers while absolving themselves for creating the framework for the very same financial system.
"We won't allow greed and recklessness to ever again endanger the whole global economy and the lives of millions of people,” said Darling in Brighton. “Markets need morals” said Brown in his keynote speech, yesterday, pledging that the government would pass new rules covering bankers' behaviour, including disqualifying those unfit to run banks.
Leaving aside the fact that there can be no such thing as a “moral market” in the capitalist system, there is the small matter of Brown’s own role in the financial meltdown that is far from over.
For 11 years Brown was chief supplicant to the world’s financial operators. During that time he willingly and actively encouraged the City of London to become one of the world’s sweetest honey pots for the busy bees in the banks, and the gamblers on the non-bank markets in derivatives.
Ensuring that credit expanded and flowed around the world, turning into debt as it went, was crucial in keeping the profits of global corporations high. Somebody had to do it to keep production churning out the commodities, and consumers buying them.
So in June 2007, just weeks before the credit crunch took hold, Brown declared that the City had entered a new “golden age”, telling bankers: “The financial services sector in Britain and the City of London at the centre of it, is a great example of a highly skilled, high value added, talent driven industry that shows how we can excel in a world of global competition. Britain needs more of the vigour, ingenuity and aspiration that you already demonstrate that is the hallmark of your success.”
But now, apparently there’s going to be “new economic model for a strong economy”, “a new settlement”. While these platitudes were enough to win over union bureaucrats like Tony Woodley, of Unite, Dave Prentis of Unison and Brendan Barber of the TUC, they were just faint echoes of the laughable “birth of a new economic system” conclusion to the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. And there, dissenters were dealt with severely using tear gas and sonic weapons.
Now, says Brown, finance is going to be the servant of the people, not the other way round. Why then, we ask, did the US and UK delegates ensure that the G20 decided against mandatory limits on bankers bonuses?
When Brown told his conference that “what let the world down last autumn was not just bankrupt institutions but a bankrupt ideology” he could (but wasn’t) have just as easily been referring to himself and the New Labour “project”.
Brown, Blair and Mandelson won the City over to New Labour on the grounds that they would use the state to set business and finance free to compete in global markets. They would resist the repeal of the anti-union laws and create markets in public services. And the City lapped it up and all went out and voted Labour.
Now the game is up. New Labour has lost it and the British state itself is teetering on bankruptcy. The Tories are on their way back with the support of The Sun, which has seen the writing on the wall and ditched Brown’s party. One thing is certain, however: New Labour is not actually responsible for anything!