When he addressed the Labour Party pressure group Progress on 19 July, Tony Blair seemed to gain satisfaction from the centre ground having not “shifted to the left in the wake of the financial crash”. His point may be curiously true but is still outrageous, for that is what should have happened.
Tony Blair’s warnings against collectivism – that the state should only “help the individual to help themselves, to gain control over their own lives and enrich their opportunity and their choices in life” – echo the language of the right, elevating the ‘self’ above everything else and leaving the market as the only solution.
But it was the deregulated international markets that plunged the western world into the financial crisis. Most markets are now more about speculation than genuine trade. And most people cannot indulge in the markets for their most important “choices in life”. The prices of private education, health and housing, are beyond their means.
The true remedy lies in community. Democratic local institutions that can balance the competing demands of individuals against the realities of public revenues. And responsible and competent trade unions to re-establish fairer wages.
I do not pretend the UK currently has the policies required, but that should be the ambition. We should not give more power to disreputable markets and disastrous privatisations.
At least Ed Miliband is showing signs that Labour will challenge the supremacy of the markets and the dominance of corrupt corporations throughout the world.
Note: You can read the full text of Tony Blair’s speech on the Progress website.