Byline: CORRELLI BARNETT
LET THERE be no mistake. Today's vote will be a referendum on New Labour's 13-year record in government. New Labour -- especially the Blairite wing -- constantly brags about winning three successive general elections, as if simply gaining and holding on to office was the main purpose of politics.
But how will history judge the Blair and Brown Years?
First and foremost, it will pronounce that New Labour was not just another administration of the traditional British kind -- but instead a regime.
For they came to power in 1997 with a mission to build an ever-more powerful state, whose interfering apparatchiks would stop individual citizens from having responsibility for their own lives.
They would also introduce endless bureaucratic diktats, or 'guidelines' -- with bossy instructions for everything, such as even telling families what they ought to eat.
History will note that the regime's totalitarian purpose was brilliantly served by Blair's close crony and director of communications -- a master of propaganda and media manipulation called Alastair Campbell.
Yet, eventually, a surfeit of staged photos, rigged interviews and re-heated policy announcements led to a deep distrust of what became known as spin.
The public came to know the truth about New Labour: Whitehall's mismanagement of the NHS and of state education, the ballooning of the national debt, the uncontrolled borders that led to record levels of immigration and the insidious encroachments of the Nanny State.
The contrast between the spin and gloss and the self-evident truth of what was really happening to this country shook the public's faith in their political system, breeding cynicism and apathy.
History will therefore pronounce that the New Labour regime was culpable of institutionalised falsity.
This was manifested on the regime's very first day in power in May 1997. In a PR stunt masterminded by Campbell for the benefit of the TV cameras, Tony Blair entered Downing Street amid the adulation of countless well-wishers -- who were, in fact, a mob of bussed-in New Labour 'groupies'. The new Prime Minister then delivered a few inspiring 'catch-inthe-throat' words from the steps of No 10.
And what, indeed, could have been more symbolic of New Labour's falsity than the charismatic Fuhrer of the new regime himself, actor Blair -- then as pretty as a pop star and almost as youthful?
Nevertheless, tragically, it would take years before the nation saw through the sham and the shallowness.
Yes, shallowness. For history will find that New Labour's idea of a well-devised policy was one which led to headlines on that night's TV news and the next day's news-papers' front pages.
For example, recorded in history's footnotes will be such headline-grabbers as Blair's brilliant wheeze that litterbugs would be marched off to the nearest cash-point to withdraw money in order to pay a fine.
But, typically, this idea lasted no longer than it takes a cigarette butt to fall from a lout's fingertips to the pavement.
The truth is, however, that history will arraign the New Labour regime on much more serious charges than mere shallow opportunism.
It will find them guilty of adopting a novel kind of moral code, in which what was judged as moral was simply that which best served the interests of the Party and the regime.
Under New Labour, from No10 downwards, it was no sin to dissemble or unscrupulously manipulate statistics -- or even to tell flat-out lies.
For these people, the sin lay in being found out.
Only last month, Gordon Brown had to apologise to the Commons for falsely claiming to the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war that, when he was Chancellor, defence expenditure had increased every year.
In fact, as he had to admit after being found …