IT IS a standing convention that no Parliament can bind its successor. The same cannot be true of one government’s policy binding the one that succeeds it. Winston Churchill inherited a socialist economy from Clement Attlee. It was not until the sixth succeeding Conservative Prime Minister that a Conservative government ripped away most of the socialist ties that bound it.
There is also the issue of the policy time-bomb, a policy implemented by one government that has lasting and deleterious effect, but only after that government has stepped down. Conservative governments, normally making policy for pragmatic reasons, rarely cause such detonations. The same cannot be said of Labour. This is a list of some of Tony Blair’s policy time-bombs which, while not so disastrous in their time, have since blown up.
By the late 1990s, there were few or zero Conservative MPs representing seats in Scotland. Scottish voters were regarded by Labour as experiencing a ‘democratic deficit’. They would be voting mainly for one party and not seeing it gain power. The solution was the creation of a devolved administration with its own legislative assembly. In fact this was not the limit of Labour’s ambition. This ‘deficit’ also applied in numerous Northern areas, and Labour proposed regional assemblies to dilute the power of a future Conservative-dominated Westminster. While devolution was supported in Scotland, the same was not true in any English region. In Scotland, Labour contrived a twin-track proportional representation system whose objective was always to result in anti-Conservative coalitions. But Labour, never understanding unionism, underestimated the seduction of nationalism, thinking socialism was so popular in Scotland that any nationalist sentiment would be contradictory. Clearly they had never heard of National Socialism. The political divide in Scotland used to be between statist socialism and a free-market-based social democracy. It is now between a toxic nationalism and pragmatic unionism. Labour is the increasingly irrelevant third party behind the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament. It has lost all but one of its MPs north of the border. Without Scottish MPs, Labour’s chance of forming a UK government without going into coalition with the SNP is slim. English voters may never allow Labour to enter government with that prospect. The Conservative Party can provably form a majority government without the need for any Scottish MPs, although it has now several more than when Blair was PM. The Scottish government is failing, but this is all hidden behind a vicious media-driven nationalist rhetoric that mimics continental politics in the 1930s. There is also the small issue that the future of our United Kingdom is now under serious threat.
Removing most hereditary peers from the House of Lords
Labour wanted to cull the whole lot, but cut a deal to keep 92. The position of the House of Lords was always a knotty problem of Gordian proportions as the franchise was extended, leading to a constitutional crisis under Asquith that caused a limiting of the powers of the unelected upper chamber. Successive governments resisted the temptation to use the sword until Tony Blair. Every government feared making the chamber elected, which would have created another Darwinian power struggle not dissimilar to the back-and-forth between Westminster and Holyrood. The primacy of the House of Commons would have been under further serious threat. A written constitution as a solution would have created more problems than it solved to the benefit of the legal profession and no one else. Successive governments keep creating more and more life peers to secure a majority. From about 600 peers of all kinds before Blair mucked things up, there are now more than 800, making the House of Lords one of the largest legislative chambers in the world and way too big for a country of our size.
The Supreme Court
The highest court in the land used to be the House of Lords, or rather the Law Lords elevated to that chamber. But leaving well alone was not good enough for Blair. He decided to copy the US and create an independent body outside Parliament. The effect has been to create yet another participant in the Darwinian struggle for executive and legislative power, to the detriment of the House of Commons. Crowdfunded lawyers with a bee in their bonnet about a single issue can seek to emasculate elected governments by outflanking them using unelected judges. The worst example has to be how the Supreme Court enthusiastically allowed itself to be part of the movement to sabotage the UK exiting the European Union, causing a constitutional crisis of a duration and extent unseen since the creation of universal suffrage.
Human Rights Act
The European Convention on Human Rights was created to prevent the rise of authoritarian dictatorship in any continental European country. Since fascists and communists have never been successful here, there was no need to incorporate it into law in this country. The effect of the Act has been to enrich lawyers who nitpick existing legislation and essentially believe that our elected House of Commons is insufficient to protect civil liberty. The chief beneficiaries, apart from the legal profession, have been Islamist terrorists and other criminals mostly of a foreign background whose advocates will try to trip up officials charged with keeping us safe by hampering their investigations, hindering arrests and blocking deportations. Illegal immigration is enabled, if not facilitated. It is also no coincidence that environmentalist fanatics can now obstruct streets and commit vandalism with relative impunity, as protecting their human rights is seen as more important that preventing disruption and destruction. Our human rights were not broken before Blair interfered and did not need fixing.
In every list of what the Blair government achieved there is always Sure Start, a scheme for the state to intervene in the lives of young families, especially those perceived to be disadvantaged. Other than that, the Blair government lavished far too much cash on pre-existing state services, creating a structural deficit and leaving the country unprepared for the collapse of an overheated banking system seen as a tax cash-cow by Gordon Brown to fund his socialist fantasies. The value of Sure Start does not merit its ionic status, and there is worse. There is an epidemic of knife murders in London and elsewhere. It is likely that the majority of the killers and their victims were once part of a Sure Start scheme. While Sure Start is not responsible for the murders, as a social engineering project it has provably failed if the ‘start’ these teenagers experienced was not so ‘sure’ as to prevent them descending into murderous criminality. It is not an excuse to state that there would have been more murders without Sure Start as it is impossible to prove this.
Readers may note that I have not included Blair’s military policies. This is because these were little different from what a hypothetical Conservative government would have implemented under the same circumstances.
It took 30 years before a Conservative government started dismantling some of Attlee’s time-bombs, but not before these had caused this country to become the ‘Sick Man of Europe’ carrying a begging-bowl. Every Conservative leader since 2005 has pledged to undo New Labour’s time-bombs, but done almost nothing, while seemingly planting some time-bombs of their own. We should not have to wait until 2040 before a Conservative government clears up after New Labour.