The ‘intensely relaxed’become highly agitated….
Peter Mandelson, that iconic symbol of New Labour, seems to have had a change of heart. He is in the news today attacking Bob Diamond, the president of Barclays, as the ‘unacceptable face of banking’. This from the man who told us all that ‘New Labour was intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich’. So, why the change of heart? Simply put Mandelson is no fool and he can tell when the mass of peoples moods have changed – his agitation about bankers pay is a reflection of a widespread sentiment.
People woke up to the deficiencies of finance capital about the time its profligacy threaten to bring the economy to its knees and they are not relaxed in any way, shape or form about the issue and the burden that this has placed on the national economy. Some Labour members worry that this kind of rhetoric makes us look hypocritical or else signifies a return to ‘business-bashing’. Of course, in the case of the likes of Mandelson they need not worry because although the rhetoric finds little accompaniment in firm policy commitments. In terms of the wider Labour Party the charge of hypocrisy may well be accurately levelled at New Labour but scarcely can be levelled at the wider party itself.
My worry is that the current timidity of Labour’s leadership will in fact not go far enough because they will similarly be cowed by a fear of the past. Meanwhile, the likes of Nick Clegg will be free to opportunistically garner support from the popular resentment while Labour will be neutered by its far too quiescent attitude to capitalism and lack of a biting critique and, of course, a structural alternative. It falls therefore to the Labour-left to arm the entire Party with these tools that it needs in the current climate to channel peoples anger in the right direction; towards not just new and necessary controls but the work of reconstruction left from the economic wreckage left by the ‘intense’ and neglectful relaxation of New Labour.