Dead Men Left

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Rehabilitating the Third Way

I've not got my grubby paws on the IPPR's latest wonkfest, The British Road to Social Justice, but a quick scan over the press release suggests:

1. Why does the title parody the Communist Party's revisionist classic, The British Road to Socialism?

2. The "Anglo-social" model: yes, we've tried that for the last eight years. Expecting free markets to produce social justice is an absurdity. The Third Way does not work, even in its own terms; calls for more redistributive taxes and increasing basic pensions are all very well, but without also challenging the institutional framework they operate in, and without challenging the fundamental biases of the free market towards greater inequality, they won't amount to very much.

What the IPPR appear to have produced is a slightly more rigorous formulation of the programme New Labour has always worked to - it is firmer about needing social justice, but unclear as to how the forces that produce inequality should be curtailed. This is a Brownite manifesto [*] and nothing more. It is inadequate to the task of dealing with either the pronounced weaknesses and failings of the "Anglo-Saxon model" and the Third Way; and insufficient to deal with the wholesale rejection of the whole neoliberal project like that delivered by the French referendum. (Having duly pronounced judgement, I'll have to go and read the thing.)

[*] Update: "...unclear as to how the forces that produce inequality should be curtailed. This is a Brownite manifesto...": it's not just "unclear", it attempts to embrace them. As for "Brownite manifesto", on reflection I am not too sure whether - beyond a few rhetorical quirks - there is sufficient difference between Brown and Blair to impose this distinction. Relative to the Third Way as a whole, "Brownism" slightly stresses social justice beyond that "Blairism" is comfortable with. Yet on this weak rhetorical ground, an entire cottage industry of Brown-nosing hackery has been assembled.