This is about more than electoral strategy…..
Gordon Brown wants to represent and protect the middle-classes according to this article in The Guardian. According to the commentary this amounts to the rejection of a ‘narrow’ electoral strategy of appealing to the party’s core vote. I think its fair to say that this reflects a certain degree of confusion over the best electoral strategy to pursue and its rather missing the fact that polling consistently finds that one of the Conservatives Achilles heels is that they are thought ‘out of touch’ with all but the very rich.
Social mobility is a concept that sounds nice and appealing and very just in and of itself but it is fundamentally wrong to contend that it equates to social justice because in abstraction it assumes that structurally there is unlimited capacity for the middle-class to expand which we know there isn’t. Pretending there can be is to make the same mistake banks made in assuming that debt could be allowed to pile-up endlessly.
State intervention can act as a corrective and keep the illusion alive to some degree but it cannot change the fundamentals. The one policy committment made is to cut corporation tax for medical companies and invest £15bn in medical research which sits a little ill-at-ease with projections of a growth of ‘low carbon industries’; these industries to grow will need help from the state.
However, the leadership is to wrapped-up in cutting Britain’s deficit to be able to deliver the investment needed to bring about growth. Potential sources of revenue for this investment; like a tax on banks, are rejected in favour of a rather abstract hope of return of investment on sale. Meanwhile, a redistributive taxation system (something that would also stimulate growth) is not on the agenda. Indeed, Lord Mandleson seems to hope for the end of the 50p band sooner rather than later. Of course, a redistributive taxation program involves more than higher income earners paying more; it means reductions for those at the bottom who pay far too much on tax.
Wage inflation is needed desperately to keep the system alive and the state is needed to fundamentally alter the structure of industry to combat climate change. In destroying the organised working class and increasing wage inequality (both in the US and UK) and consequentially increasing dependency on credit (and as a result setting the scene for the acquisition of mountains of bad debt) capitalism has once again been hoisted by its own petard.
In this context the comments of Brown, Mandleson and Darling are baffling to say the least. Returning to a ‘core’ vote strategy would not harm Labour at all because what the economy actually needs is for Labour to return to its core values.