Proof From 2006 of How Out Touch Graun Hacks Were Even Then

I found this fine quote from the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee in the ‘Pseud’s Corner’ section of Private Eye, 20th January – 2 February 2006. It’s an rosily optimistic paragraph in which she raves about how much better everything is now. She said

Let’s get one thing clear. This is the golden age – so far. There has never been a better time to be alive in Britain than today, no generation more blessed, never such opportunity for so many. And things are getting better all the time, horizons widening, education spreading, everyone living longer, healthier, safer lives. Unimaginable luxuries are now standard – mobile phones sending pictures everywhere, accessing the universe on the internet and iPods with all the world’s music in your ear.

This obviously has aged terribly. Toybee was writing during the glow of the Blair administration, and was obviously fatally impressed with how his ‘centrism’ – by which he meant Thatcherism – was going to improve the country. She couldn’t be expected to have predicted the banker’s crash two years later, nor the austerity which has created mass poverty after the return of the Tories. But there were signs that all was not fine and dandy, even then.

At roughly the same time she was spouting this, Blair and Mandelson were introducing tuition fees, which has burdened Britain’s students with mountains of debt they can’t shake off. They were much lower than they are now, £3,000 per year as opposed to the £9,000 or over. But this was harming students and it was harming universities, as courses which relied on expensive technical equipment, like archaeology with its geophysics technology, suddenly found they had to make savings.

Blair also introduced the wretched ‘fitness for work’ tests, taken over at the advice of American health insurance fraudsters Unum, who had also been advising Peter Lilley. It was also under Blair that food banks were introduced. This was limited to illegal immigrants, who were denied welfare benefits due to their status. But under the Tories it has been massively expanded.

Blair was also a busy bee continuing the Tories piecemeal privatisation of the NHS. Again, his administration, like that of the Tories, was stuffed with advisors and senior staff from private healthcare companies. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wanted to reduce the NHS to a kitemark on services provided by the private sector. And in industry generally, privatisation and deregulation was in order, with private sector advisors, including company CEOs given important positions on the regulatory bodies. George Monbiot describes this highly pernicious influence in his book Captive State.

It was also under Blair that the Tories harsh ideology towards benefit claimants generally continued. The process of claiming benefit was to be made so humiliating in order to deliberately deter people from signing on. And it worked. I personally know people, who didn’t sign on despite the fact that they were jobless, because of the degradation they experience in the Jobcentre.

As for the endless opportunities she saw, Adam Curtis provided ample evidence in one of his documentaries – I think it was All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace – that thanks to Blair’s embrace of tick box questionnaires and general social policies, social mobility had actually stopped.

Things weren’t getting better for ordinary people. And ordinary people knew it, that’s why they started leaving the Labour party in droves. The Labour vote actually went down under Blair’s leadership. He still won over the Tories, because people despised them even more. But in terms of popularity, he was much less popular than Corbyn, although the latter’s was destroyed at the last election by the massive press smear campaign. Of which the Guardian was an enthusiastic participant.

But I dare say everything was looking grand for highly paid media types like Toynbee, living in the metropolitan bubble. And her views expressed above show how it is that the Guardian is full of right-wing Thatchers backing Starmer’s purges, all in the name of continuing the Thatcherite project introduced by Blair.

She raves about Blair’s reign as a golden age. But as the writers of the Roman empire knew, the golden age gave way to that iron and rust. Just as it has done in England, due partly to Blair.

Toynbee and the rest of the Guardian were out of touch even then, and their views have become even more divergent from reality. The rag’s in crisis. And as I wrote the other day, I have no sympathy.

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6 Responses to “Proof From 2006 of How Out Touch Graun Hacks Were Even Then”

  1. con Says:

    I never understood how Blair got away with calling it new Labour. He was Thatchers love child in many respects.

    • beastrabban Says:

      Very much so, especially as the first thing he did was to invite her round to No. 10 the day after he got in. She called him her greatest triumph. He based New Labour on Bill Clinton’s New Democrats, which did the same trick of taking over Republican policies and demanding more privatisation and the end of the welfare state, just as Blair took them over from the Tories over here.

      • con Says:

        I didn’t know he invited Thatcher. Strange coincidence that what they do in US they also do here. Reverse colonialism?
        It seemed to me that Blair’s greatest achievement was conning a huge swathe of the middle classes that they were lefties, so that they could pursue their usual advantaging of the middle classes under a halo of virtue. Disillusionment set in with university fees so many decamped to the liberals.
        It was about then I realised we had in effect a one party state. No-one was representing the working class.

      • beastrabban Says:

        A lot of people felt like that. It seemed to me that he was able to present himself as a liberal only by championing feminism and anti-racism. Which has left many working class Whites, who have been left behind by neoliberalism, feeling that Labour no longer represents them. Hence the rise of UKIP, and the Tories breaking the working class wall in the north and midlands.

  2. trev Says:

    Blair also set the ball rolling with Benefit Sanctions as part of the infamous ‘New Deal’, though Sanctions might have been on the Statute for decades before that I had certainly never heard of them and it was unknown to hear of anyone having their dole stopped. Until New Deal that is. I was forced to do New Deal several times, something which I found to be very stressful and pointless. It never helped me to get a job. It consisted of attending a “Training Centre” from 9 – 5, 5 days a week for 3 months. It was effectively a daytime prison for the unemployed. I remember the last time I did it, we were all sat in an induction room, an obese woman wobbled in and introduced herself as the “Training Manager”, before saying “welcome to the Training Centre. This course contains no Training. You are here to get a job”. It was 3 months of sheer hell, sat in an overcrowded stinking classroom, getting bitten by fleas, whilst a very depressed Training Officer attempted to control all the rowdy and unruly 18 year olds in the group. It was a long time before I voted Labour again after that experience.

    • beastrabban Says:

      Sorry you had that experience, Trev. And you’re not unique, by any means. I’ve read so many stories like yours, by people who found the whole experience pointless and demeaning. I think you’re right about it being Blair, who brought in the sanctions system. It may well have been mooted under the Tories, as workfare was under Thatcher, but it does seem like it was Blair who actually put it in place. It was about that time that I had to appeal against the decision by Atos, who had unfairly decided that I was fit for work despite the state of my mental health. This was definitely a sign of the way things were going. Unfortunately, you really don’t know how bad the jobcentre does treat people unless you’ve experienced it yourself or know someone who has. It’s how the Tories have been getting away with it for so long.

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