THERE’S a terrific scene in the TV adaptation of Chris Mullin’s A Very British Coup in which the newly-elected left wing prime minister, Harry Perkins, is catching the train to London and is asked by a journalist: “Do you intend to abolish first class, Mr Perkins?” To which Perkins replies: “No, I intend to abolish second class. I think everybody’s first class, don’t you?”
And there we have it: a template for New Labour half a dozen years before Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party. New Labour’s appeal was based on an explicit acknowledgement that success, ambition and the pursuit of wealth are all Good Things. Suddenly the taxation of the wealthier was not an end in itself but simply a necessary evil. And it was okay to want a better job, a higher income, nicer holidays, a bigger house. Voting Labour became something you did for yourself as well as for the greater good.
That’s why we won.
Yesterday Compass launched a campaign for a High Pay Commission. Its inaugural statement reads:Fortunately, the chancellor has already dismissed the idea. But as dog whistle politics go, it’s pretty effective.
The crisis we find ourselves in is one significantly caused by greed. The salaries of those at the top raced away while the median wage stagnated. Inequality grew, and an economic crisis ensued. The unjust rewards of a few hundred ‘masters of the universe’ exacerbated the risks we were all exposed to many times over. Banking and executive remuneration packages have reached excessive levels. We believe now is the time for government to take decisive action.
But perhaps the most damning part of the article is its conclusion...
Although we might feel better confiscating money from rich people, the actual effect on our economy would be negligible. And making yourself feel better is a very poor motivation for policy, whatever “the court of public opinion” might say on the matter.
And when any party starts producing policy “to secure the core vote”, it might as well write of the next election, go quietly into opposition right now and start thinking about the election after next.