Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Politics Is Not a Parlour Game: Roy Hattersley Responds to Anthony Barnett's Essay "Hang' Em"

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Politics Is Not a Parlour Game: Roy Hattersley Responds to Anthony Barnett's Essay "Hang' Em"

Article excerpt

Much of Anthony Barnett's "Hang 'em" (NS Essay, 22 March) is so absurd that it is hard to believe that the author--usually a thoughtful man--regarded it as anything but a way of provoking other radicals into expressing more creative and realistic judgements on what sort of government should follow the general election. Like him, I want to see the creation of a progressive alliance--co-operation between social democrats in the Liberal and the Labour parties. That is why I now support an electoral system based on proportional representation. But I cannot see the new dawn of radical politics following an "increase in the number of independent and third-party MPs". It is hard to believe that redemption depends on the election of Esther Rantzen and Terry Waite.

I have spent a good deal of time, during the past 13 years, publicly criticising the group that chose to call itself New Labour--both its policies and its philosophy. Barnett's description of its record swings wildly between caricature and fantasy. We are told that the government "embraced globalisation", as if it could have been disowned and ignored. The challenge was to harness and tame--through international action--a force more powerful than most national governments. Too often, New Labour regarded the power of the global economy as irresistible. But to write as if it could have been abolished by a conference resolution contributes very little to serious debate.

The paragraph in "Hang 'em" that I've most enjoyed begins: "We are entering a new kind of constitution, one overseen not by judges, but by the Association of Chief Police Officers, organised as a private company . …

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