Since Tomsk was kind enough to expand upon his earlier point, and since it's been a while since I've stuck up a "Voices of Authority" article, I thought I'd hand the keyboard over to him so he can explain in his own unique style. I've been toying with allowing others to guest-star on the Musings, and Tomsk is an ideal first contributer.After the Labour party lost the 1979 general election, it took them another 18 years to get back into power. During this time a right-wing government remoulded Britain in its own image. One of their many achievements was to destroy the country's manufacturing base, leaving us heavily reliant on a deregulated financial sector to generate economic growth. Luckily for them, it took until 2007 for their banking "reforms" to go pear-shaped, and we are only now starting to pay for their toxic legacy in the form of a huge budget deficit.
Treat him gently.
Unfortunately for us, the Conservatives don't get the blame.
Instead we have another legacy of that era: New Labour. On the one hand committed to improving public services, reducing poverty, and other wholesome left-wing goals, but on the other a feeling that they had to embrace the Tory economic agenda in order to get elected, and later to stay in power.
For a while this strategy seemed to work. An unprecedented period of economic growth meant that we really could have both historically low taxes and a well-funded public sector. But when the recession struck, the New Labour method for running the country fell apart.
If nothing else, the financial crisis has demonstrated once again that limited government kowtowing to unregulated free markets inevitably leads to boom and bust. In an ideal world, public opinion would turn leftwards as a result. This is exactly what's happened in America,where the economic crisis destroyed any chance of McCain becoming president, and has given the Obama administration a once-in-a-generation opportunity to remake their government.
But what happens when the supposed party of the left is already in power? There was a fleeting moment when the financial crisis first hit when it looked like the progressive agenda in Britain was about to be firmly cemented in place. Gordon Brown, previously a lame duck, was getting plaudits for his swift action to shore up the banking system, and the poll gap with the Conservatives was beginning to close. All he had to do was hang on for an economic recovery before the general election deadline arrived. A hung parliament would be enough (and would open the door for PR, but that's a whole other post...).
The House of Commons expenses scandal has turned all this upside down. Even though all parties are equally to blame for the rotten system,the public have directed most of their anger at Labour simply because they are the party in government. The Conservatives have barely suffered, despite their MPs being among the worst abusers of the system. The opportunity offered by the financial crisis has disappeared, replaced by a lurch to the right that is entirely undeserved (anyone who thinks otherwise should look at the expenses of UKIP MEPs). The prospect of a majority Tory government, perhaps even a landslide, is more likely than ever.
This might not have mattered so much before the recession, when Cameron was positioning himself as a clone of Blair. But now we are faced with tax rises and/or spending cuts to fill in that hole in the budget, and the Conservatives have reverted to type, already indicating that they will choose savage spending cuts wherever they can. It'll be just like the 1980s, only without the craze for synth-pop. Oh wait...