Referring to the new wave of City bonuses and Downing Street's reluctance to introduce regulation on hedge funds and private equity, John Harris wrote in the Guardian that this is "Labour's final betrayal".
'Final' though implies the existence of a long list. So we decided to wade through New Labour's monumental list of lies, mistakes, u-turns and nails in the coffin. Shortlisting twelve years of toxic decisions proved exceptionally complex. However, here's a small selection:
- The Iraq war. Blair's infamous 45-minute claim, the dodgy dossier, the farce of seeking a second UN resolution when a decision had long been taken, a country blown to smithereens, a million demonstrators shunned like a shred of arse paper. The Iraq fiasco will forever mark Tony Blair's legacy.
- Tuition fees. Whatever your views on the cost of Higher Education, the brazen about-face performed by Tony Blair and his subordinates was a textbook exercise in how to foster apathy. "We will not introduce top-up fees", said Labour's manifesto in 2001. Three years later, Blair tripled them.
- Private Finance Initiative. The mother of financial black holes whereby a hospital costing £87 million ends up, over time, draining the taxpayer of £400 million in order to line the pockets of private firms. Ten years on, the government is having to nationalise the losses. "Opaque and dishonest", is how Vince Cable branded it.
- Final Salary Pensions. Government leaflets gave a misleading impression of the security of final salary pension schemes, but 400 of them collapsed between 1997 and 2005, leaving 125,000 old people in financial ruin. The High Court found the Government responsible.
- The 10p tax rate fiasco. A massive slap in the face to low earners. A kick in the nuts to the tune of £232 a year for any childless person making under £18,500. Some claim this remarkable act of political ineptitude kickstarted Gordon Brown's downfall.
- "Ethical foreign policy". People say that New Labour's first term was their best. But look at how the hypocrites were showering mercenaries and dictators with arms, from Sierra Leone to Indonesia. Meanwhile, taxpayer-funded London's Arms Fair continues to be the largest in the world.
- The Walter Wolfgang moment. A frail 82-year-old WWII survivor was manhandled out of the 2005 Labour conference in Brighton and barred from re-entering courtesy of the Terrorism Act 2000. His crime? Having shouted "nonsense!" during Jack Straw's speech.
- The 2000 London Mayor elections. With Ken Livingstone a clear favourite amongst Londoners and party activists, Blair decided to stop him with some old USSR-style control freakery. First he set up a central commitee to veto candidates and then he shunned the promise of a one-member one-vote selection system. In Blair-land the vote of one MP was to be worth the same as 1,000 rank and file party members. Finally, Livingstone got kicked out of the party. New Labour still lost. One of Blair's biggest humiliations.
- Air traffic privatisation. Another textbook u-turn and further indication of New Labour 's strong beliefs. In 1996, the Labour conference said that "Our air is not for sale". Sure.
- The ID card scheme. £5.6bn to run this useless, gargantuan scheme. And the figure keeps going up. And the government tells you dole handouts are a burden on the economy.
- The Trident nuclear arsenal. Forget hollow talks of non-proliferation. Forget the politics of fear: how is a £20bn-plus (£16.8m per missile) nuclear fleet going to protect the population from suicide bombers on buses?
- The Bernie Ecclestone donation. £1m and Formula One was handed a reprieve from the tobacco ads ban. "I'm a pretty straight sort of guy", Blair famously said about it.
[READ PART TWO HERE]