by Daphne Liddle
GORDON BOWN last Tuesday gave the speech of his life and the most left-wing and populist speech we have heard from a Labour leader for at least two decades. And within hours the Sun newspaper — Rupert Murdoch’s largest circulation paper in Britain — declared: “Labour has lost it!”
What Labour has lost is the support of the Murdoch newspaper empire — but the speech had little to do with that. The Sun was planning to withdraw its support anyway and had already decided to make the announcement when it would have most impact, just after Brown’s speech at the Labour conference in Brighton.
It is more likely that that the withdrawal of Murdoch support left Brown more uninhibited about what he said. And being desperate he threw in almost every measure he thought would win support from the majority of voters.
So we had a big, mixed bag of promises — which we will take with a pinch of salt because we weren’t born yesterday — including some unexpected prizes and some worrying proposals.
Among the prizes are:
The proposals that are worrying include “state homes” to accommodate teenage single parents. No one would deny that such parents need much more support from society but will it be constructive, building confidence and competence and enabling these young people to live the lives they would choose? Or will it be institutionalising, patronising, controlling, humiliating and punitive with shades of the workhouse about it?
But it will please those media pundits who blame single parents for every ill in society when most of them are doing a good job in very daunting circumstances.
The proposals for “family interventions” aimed at “the 50,000 most disruptive families in the country”. Again, will this be support to help people live the lives they would like to lead? Or will it be punitive and humiliating? The pledge comes with unspecified punitive measures for those who do not cooperate. Another sop to the pundits?
The proposed National Care Service sounds like a good idea — to provide non-means tested personal care to the elderly and disabled and end the confusion over where nursing care (NHS funded) ends and personal care (paid by recipient or local authority) begins.
But if this is meant to replace Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance? The signals have been very mixed.
Brown never used the word socialist but he did talk about class values and mentioned that he came from an ordinary working family, which shaped the values he still holds — a clear swipe at Tory Cameron.
He never mentioned either privatisation or renationalisation.
He spent a lot of time attacking the Tories and their class values and different judgements. He was making it possible for the naive to delude themselves that he does still have working class values.
Nevertheless there is now a much more clear difference between Labour and Tory policies as we head into the run-up to the election. People do now have more reason to vote Labour.
The opposition of the Murdoch Empire is a definite indication of this. And Murdoch is no longer as powerful as he used to be. He backed the globally discredited Bush and Blair — and even “advised them” on policy. His star has waned with theirs. Murdoch’s Fox News channel in America failed to stop Obama being elected.
If Labour can at last get over the 1992 election defeat and the spurious claim “It’s the Sun wot won it!” and its fear ever since of displeasing Murdoch, it will have come as far as we can hope at the moment.
On Wednesday deputy leader Harriet Harman was on her feet urging members not to be bullied by the Sun and saying: “We may be the underdog but we won’t be bullied... this underdog is biting back.”