Monday, 12 April 2010

Golwg Column translation: Keeping to principle

'I'm a man of principle, and if your not happy with them, I'll change them,' So said Marx - Groucho not Karl. In the next few weeks we'll hear a great deal about principles in the context of politicians trying to win our support.
At one time it was relatively easy to separate the two major parties by their principles. The Conservative party was certain that the market was the way to growth. The less government had to do with the market the better.  You could describe them as the party of big business. The party for the capitalists. And it was big business, to a large extent, that were the main donors to the party.
The Labour Party had an opposite view of the world. `as their name suggests, they were the workers party. A party that reasoned that the best way for society to progress was for the state to control the economy and in many an industry for the state to take the reins completely and nationalize them.
That's how it used to be between the two parties until the 1950s. Then a new word appeared in the political dictionary 'Butskellism' - a word that described the political consensus between Rab Butler from the Conservative Party and Hugh Gaitskell from the Labour Party.
Butler was the Conservative Chancellor at the time and Hugh Gaitskell was the former Chancellor in the Attlee government. under the influence of both a political consensus emerged. The two parties came to the conclusion that the economy should be a mixture of private and publicly controlled industries. And government's role was to gently intervene in the economy. And this is how it was between the two parties until the advent of Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister.
She broke the pattern and her party went back to its roots. many an industry was privatized. The old consensus was out and the party was back as a party of business.
She was so successful that she caused Labour to shift its principles. Old Labour went out and in came New Labour.
Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown New Labour became the friend of the City  and the business community in general. The constitution was changed dropping Clause 4 to break the links with socialism.
And thats how it remained. A socialist party changing to be a party and a friend of business. Breaking the harsh regulation over industries was the day's mantra. The light regulation became apparent when our banks got into difficulties. And the economic difficulties we face as a country follow this 'light touch' regulation.
And now in the midst of another election, how in the world are we going to differentiate  between the principles of the parties? Perhaps the old world of parties with principles and a core philosophy are over. Pragmatism rules. It will be one of the two pragmatic parties that will form the next government.
Perhaps the message for us the electors lies in Groucho's saying. Will it be possible to influence the parties to change their principles to suit us?

No comments:

Post a Comment