Magazine article Management Today

Labour's Lack of Lustre

Magazine article Management Today

Labour's Lack of Lustre

Article excerpt

With revolutionary changes sweeping through eastern Europe, the release of Nelson Mandela and the mounting crisis in the Soviet Union, it is easy to underestimate the significance of what is going on in the UK. Yet the crowds which last year breached the Berlin Wall probably did not in that moment realise the immensity of their act. just as we are swept along by the weekly crises of politics the Strangeways riot, the Iraqi gun plot, the record trade deficit it is easy to be diverted from what is going on. It is the end of an era, the era of triumphant Thatcherism. Thatcherism was never replicated anywhere in the world, although some east European states may follow its strictures quite closely. But it has been regarded internationally as a symbol of right wing liberalism. Have no doubt that if the Tories are defeated in the next election it will have ramifications among White House advisers, in the boardrooms of Japanese companies considering investment in the UK, and along the corridors of the European Commission. The most intriguing question it raises is what would a victorious Labour government do? It is likely that over the next few months city analysts, corporate executives, foreign ministries and political commentators will be rushing around in search of an answer to this question. It is quite probable they will run into a second group involved in the same quest - Labour politicians and their advisers, it will be a political version of the Keystone Cops, as they all converge on small group of companies in Baden Wurtemburg, in West Germany to try to establish what Labour's industrial policy would be. There will be a booming market in making sense of the modem, European-style social democratic Labour party.

At the moment the party' theme tune should be the Simon and Garfunkel song, the Sound of Silence. It is succeeding through a mixture of smiling at the camera in a disciplined polite, respectful way and capitalising on Tory mishaps. The party's new discipline and McKinnock's tenacity in instilling it, after a severe bout of depression following the 1987 defeat, are not superficial. The party's internal structures are being reformed. The union block vote will diminish in importance, although the famed mass membership campaign has failed to deliver. Policy is also being reformed. With the Policy reviews of 1989 to fall back on if necessary, party spokesmen are busily developing policies for the manifesto. The manifesto and the policy review will probably differ considerably on some issues, such as trade union reform. Policy making is becoming more controlled and disciplined. The leadership is fulfilling its limited ambitions. The party is united or at least dissent has been marginalised. In virtually every are of policy it attempts to strike European pose, whether it industrial policy, membership of the exchange rate mechanism or the environment.

And if interest rates and inflation remain high well into next year Labour may be judge no less competent than the Conservatives in running the economy. Voters may well choose between the parties on other issues like the NHS and the poll tax. Yet if interest rates do come down it will be like an enormous tax cut. The poll tax will remain a running sore but it could salVed if more money wa thrown at it. …

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