neil birrell (neil@lds.co.uk)
Thu, 26 Oct 1995 01:30:29 +0100




The Labour Party conference in
Brighton embraced the old-
fashioned Conservative principles of
one-nation patriotism and kindly
paternalism. So much so that as the
conference finished an old fashioned
Conservative MP, Alan Howarth,
resigned from the Conservative Party
and joined the Labour Par@r; the first
time in histoIy that an MP has crossed
the house in that dire@tion. though
several have gone the other way.
Nobody can say, this time, that the
Party hie@rchy took the membership
in a direction it did not particularly
like. There was some dissension from
a minority but, for the first time in any
L,abour Parl@ conference, the plafform
was not once voted down. The news
media are agreed that Tony Blair's
speech was inspiring. The Party looks
even more certain to win the next
general election than it did in 1992.
The Tories under Thatcher strove,
as a matter of principle, to increase
the differentials between rich and poor.
Talking of @rolling back the state@ they
largely replaced local democracy with
a quangocracy of capitalists appointed
by the state. Under Major, with
Howard as Home SecretaIy, they have
set aside laws for the pleasure of
behaving vindictively towards
criII@inals and foreigners.
No doubt the old-fashioned conservat-
ism of New Labour is preferable to the
untrammelled greed and vindictive-
ness of New Toryism@ But whatever
became of socialism?

Full employment
Robin Cooke was cheered at the
conference when he promised that
full employment was one of Labour's
eventual aims. It will do the party
good at the next election. It may also
get the Marxist organisers of 'right to
work' marches rooting for a Labour
victory (though it may be disputed
whether this will be an electoral
adYantage or a kiss of death). But
whatever happened to @From each
according to ability. to each according
to need"?
(The phrase is claimed by MaIxists
on the ground that it was used by Marx
in 1875, and byanarchists on the ground
that Bakunin used it in 1970, but it is
probable they were both quoting Cabet
who published the phrase in 1842. It
expresses the aspiration of socilaism as
such, not a particular faction of
There is nothing to stop people working.
A nineteenth century French government
scheme relieved unemployment by paying
men to spend mornings digging trenches
on the beach, and afternoons filling them
in. Every able-bodied person who can
borrow a spade and get to the beach has
a 'right' to do such futile work now. No
payment of course, but your slogan says
nothing about payment.
The problem is that under the capitalist
system the only way most people can get
a share of the world's wealth is to be paid
for working, whether the work adds to the
world's wealth or not. So people
habituated to the capitalist system say
they want work, when what they really
want is a livelihood.
Weapons manufacture may not feel as
ridiculous as digging holes and filling
them in, but in the long run it is equally
futile, or worse. The best thing that can
happen to a weapon is that it becomes
obsolete and the material gets recycled. If
it is used it is not merely wastefill of the
world's wealth but actuaLly destructive.
But as our Wildcat cartoon last issue
observed, the arms trade is Justified on
the ground that it provides jobs. And, we
may add, not only jobs for arms manu-
facturers and traders. Even when there is
no war, as now, left-over land-mines are
continuing to provide work for the
manufacturers of artificial limbs.
@ork' in the everyday sense that most
people use does not mean expending
energy or doing something useful, but
doing something you are paid to do,
whether or not you would rather be doing
something else. Most people would rather
be in charge of their lives, but the capit@alist
system allows only @wo altemative ways
to a good livelihood: @vork' or (legal or
illegal) theft.
The Labour Party is for full employment,
wh@le s@ialism is ab@Ilt CFe@ating @ more
equitable system.

Selective Education
The Tories, as parl of their misnamed
'rolLing back the state' policy, encouraged
schools to opt out of local authority
control into state control. Labour policy is
to change the status of opted-out schools
in such a way that they can be
represented as either coming back under
local authority control or remaining
outside it, according to the preference of
the voter being canvassed.
Roy Hattersley denounced this policy in
an excellent speech. saying it amounted
to selective education, and David
Blunkett replied with another fine speech
saying it didn't. Both are against selective
education because they want every child
to have the best education appropriate to
that child.
This was precisely the object of selection
when it was introduced by local authorities
in the 1930s and made nationwide by the
1945 Labour government. It is now dis-
credited, but it was honestiy held at the
time that the way to give eveIy child a good
education was to separate the bright from
the less bright at the age of eleven years.
When this was the general view our
editorial writer heard an argument
against educational selection which had
nothing whatever to do with providing @he
best for each individual: "selective
education depnves the working-class of
its leaders". Bright working-class
children would go to gramrnar schools
and eventually qualify for middle-class
jobs, leaving no bright working-class
people to be trade union secretaries and
@rorking-class Members of Parliament.
The person who put this argument was
not against selective education as su@h.
He had been educated at fee-paying
schools and was sending his children to
fee-paying schools. He approv@d of the
nch having a good education, but wan@ed
the working-class to have an evenly poor
education. because that way the working-
class as a whole would be better off. A
good example of kindly paternalism and
old fashioned Conservatism (though I
believe the chap thollght of himself as a
It is significant that neither Hattersley
nor Blunkett said anything about the ten
or eleven percent of children who go to
fee-paying schools, some selected by
examination but all selected for smaller
classes and other educational advantages,
by having parents rich enough to pay fees.
No doubt the reason is that Len or eleven
percent is a big proportion of voters, so no
political party wants to ant@gonise the
fce-paying classes (Blunkett was
repudiated and rebuked by Blair earlier
this year when he suggested abolishing
the dodge whereby school fees are
tax-free). But the effect is to line up the
Labour Party with the old fashioned

Socialism g@s a menhon
There was one reference to socialism in
Mr Blair's speech, but it may have been a
slip of the tongue.


The politicians are guilty of a
@ great deceit, a giant fraud, a
gross betrayal of our country." This
came over the airwaves. It was
Michael Heseltine telling the truth. It
would sureky bring the government to
its knees. The next bulletin set the
words in conte@ct and it was clear that
it formed part of the customary
histrionics of the Tory Party
@ @feren@e There was nothin@ new
there, just the same old favourites,
the same crusade against social
security scroungers, the same tawdry
xenophobia, the same unfunny
over-rehearsed wisecracks, the same
draconian crackdown on offenders,
the same wicked fairy overseeing the
festivities ready to prick the fingers of
those daring even to glance leftwards,
and finally the same honest John
(ordinary bloke: @I know what it's like
when the week's money runs out on
a Thursday") Major tIying to hold it
all together and sweeten the bitter
taste in the mouth.
As the general election draws nearer
it is time for the Tories to define their
differences from the Tony Blair camp.
With the two leaders' outlooks
accused of being interchangeable by
many punters, it was time for John
Major to highlight his distinguishing
features. No volatile body language
for him. no strllttin@ or hoppin@. jllSt
a stiff upper lip allowed to quiver very
slightly at times of deep-felt emotion,
all in all a perfect mix of humour,
sobAety and measured determination.
After Portillo's bullish crassness on
Tuesday and Heseltine's farcical
ranting on Wednesday, it was almost
comforting to see a stage-managed
John Major still hanging onto the
leadership and trying to gloss over
the bad behaviour of his party's
hooligan element. In eighteen months
tirne the Tories could swing it again
and Michael Portillo could be pitching
the war cries - a chilling thought.
The con@rence has seen transparent
strategies galore to woo the electorate.
Extra funding for the assisted places
scheme was surely on the agenda to
highlight once more Blair's hypocrisy
in placing his son in a grant-
maintained school out of his borough,
whilst proposing to scrap assisted
places if elected. Labour offered 3,000
more police on the beat over three
years, so the Tories promise 5,000
extra immediately. Harsher sentenc-
ing, a crackdown on beggars and social
security scroungers, @ueen's English
for all, phasing out of inheritance and
capital gains tax (CGT relief will
benefit only 2, 500 people) . They
certainly know how to appeal to the
baser side of human nature.
Tory Party chairman Brian
Mawhinney's remarks that Camden
Council funded an Asiarl women's
group to play hopscotch at the centre
has been dismissed as nonsense by
the council. This disgraceful gaffe by
Mawhinney didn't get the media
coverage it deserved. The centre is in
fact funded jointly by the council and
the Save The Children Fund, of which
Princess Anne is patron, and provides
job training, advice and English
language tuition. Still anything for a
cheap laugh eh, Brian - and how they
laughed! The Asian centre in question
had five windows smashed this week
and remarks like his do not help racial
harmony. How strange that a party in
power for sixteen years can still blame
eveIyone else for the state of the nation.
Anarchists should be as jubilant as
the Tories at the end of the conference.
The televising of the country's leaders
prattling and posturing should make
our cries of 'Don't vote, it only
encourages them' totally redundant.
People should be gathering in the
streets to express their disgust and
dismay, but the third-rate pantomime
continues and enough voters could
well file dutifully into the polling booths
to give these charlatans another costly
We should now spend a few moments
meditating on the puzzling choice of
the Tory Party theme song: "Love lifts
us up where we belong"@ by sub-
stiluting the word 'love' with a more
suitable word. Yes, that's the one.