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Almost comically statesmanlike

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Sam Bidwell has a very useful Critic piece on the Labour manifesto.

Blairism at its most zealous

The Labour manifesto is a recipe for bland bureaucratic managerialism

If Michael Foot’s 1983 Labour manifesto was the longest suicide note in history, then Keir Starmer’s 2024 successor is surely history’s longest victory lap.

If Michael Foot’s 1983 Labour manifesto was the longest suicide note in history, then Keir Starmer’s 2024 successor is surely history’s longest victory lap.

At an eye-watering 133 pages, one might expect “Change” to set out a comprehensive programme for government, replete with details of Labour’s plans for the next five years. Instead, we’re treated to page after page of carefully-constructed prose that avoids committing to anything too specific, and several full-page pictures of Starmer looking almost comically statesmanlike.

The whole piece is well worth reading as an insight into deranged managerialism, but also as an example of a bureaucratic malady currently destroying the developed world. We see just that in Starmer’s leadership, his anxious determination to take the evasion of responsibility to ever more carefully crafted absurdities. 

Yet if it’s radicalism that you’re looking for, Labour’s manifesto has it in spades. Not radical socialism, mind you, or radical progressivism — this is Blairism at its most zealous, a veritable Ma’alim fi’l-tareeq for bland bureaucratic managerialism. For every one of Britain’s major structural problems, Starmer has prescribed a new independent commissioner, a new knee-jerk regulatory intervention, or a new arm’s length body.

Don’t believe me?

For a start, there’s Labour’s new “Ethics and Integrity Commission”, which will be empowered to remove or censure ministers that fail to meet certain arbitrary “ethical standards”. There are also plans to expand the powers of the “Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests” to enable investigations into ministerial misconduct, and proposals for a new “House of Commons Modernisation Committee”, which will be tasked with policing the behaviour of MPs.

Then there are the open-ended plans for House of Lords reform, the new “Council of the Nations and Regions”, and the promises of further devolution to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In other words, the sovereignty of our Westminster Parliament is set to be diluted even further.

The role of the Office for Budget Responsibility will be strengthened, meaning that Governments will no longer be able to undertake bold budgetary reforms without facing a Truss-style backlash from the economic establishment.

Mad? Yes it is, quite mad, but also an indication of the finger-pointing culture which is the other side of modern bureaucratic managerialism. Get on the wrong side of this machine, point out the lunacy, or even a few unwelcome facts and you place yourself at the wrong end of that pointing finger.

It’s also a reminder of political courage, people who are not cowed by it all and are prepared to oppose the gross excesses of modern bureaucracy. Rishi Sunak doesn’t have that courage, his party doesn’t have it, Keir Starmer intends to make sure it doesn’t matter anyway, nothing will come of it. 
Until Nemesis casts her ice-cold eye over it of course. 


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