Comment: Blair Winning War to Woo the City

Article excerpt

"Flexibility Plus" sounds more like an advertisement for a credit card than Tony Blair's conversion to the cause of flexible labour markets but it was the latter Mr Blair was referring to in his speech to City and business leaders yesterday. We have come to expect lectures from Mr Blair on the merits of free market economics, but that shouldn't take away from the significance of his latest sayings on the subject, for he seems to have gone further than ever in accepting the underlying merit of everything that's happened over the past 18 years.

The free market reforms of the 1980s, you will be pleased to know, were not really anything to do the Tories as such; Mrs Thatcher was a mere tool in the onward march of history, Mr Blair implied - or nearly, anyway - and if Labour had been in power it might have done the same. To prove his point Mr Blair cites Jim Callaghan speaking to the Labour Party conference in 1976. "In all candour, the option of spending our way out of recession no longer exists," Mr Callaghan said.

Today Mr Blair asserts that "progressive economic thinking at that time, on both sides of the political divide, was beginning to assert that markets, not governments, had the main responsibility for creating full employment". That is, of course, nonsense, and if Mr Blair wasn't aware of his rewriting of history, his audience certainly was. …