Middle of Nowhere Productions

Middle of Nowhere Productions

Bagehot. Hug'em close


Hug ‘em close. 01 10 09.




Next year’s General Election has already started numerous debates, and it will probably be Bagehot’s main topic in the months to come. This column, drawing on what seems admitted by everybody, namely the defeat of New Labour and the consequent victory of the Conservatives, neither of whom actually appeal to both voters and political analysts, examines the attitude of New Labour on the eve of the defeat and focusses on the paradoxical identity that exists between the two main parties. It is also, more generally, a reflection on today’s political strategies, somehow blurred by the economic situation and a global narrowing of ideological margins.



The columnist, in the subtitle, focusses on what Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, has chosen as watchword for the campaign to come: the big choice. No wonder if this slogan (the word sloganeering, a coinage, is used in the column) serves as a target for the journalist, since the aim is to demonstrate that there is little choice indeed. The theme of the choice is pedagogically developed further, by stating that the choice is between New Labour and the Conservatives.

Both parties are criticised; New Labour is libelled for its propensity to act as an opposition party even though they are the majority, a flaw that has existed since they took power in 1997 and that consists in violent ideological attacks against the opponent in order to drive them to extreme positions and make them stumble. The Conservatives, on the other hand, are depicted as actual hard-core conservatives, both ideologically and logistically,  and the columnist blames New Labour as much for the nature and contents of their attacks as for their pertinence. Yet, and it is specific of the way Bagehot draws from the history of British politics, the past proves that both parties used this same strategy: Labour in 1997 against John Major and the Tories in 2001 against Tony Blair.

The columnist also insists on the extremely ideological positions of New Labour, the description of a future led by defenders of the unfettered market and the spectre of a bankrupt ideology in order to give more weight to the resemblances that will be described further.


In fact, what happened at New Labour’s last conference is a narrowing of the chasm between the two parties, even though it was presented as wide by most speakers. Both parties capitalize on the changes they propose, but the changes are surprisingly similar. In the columnist’s opinion, mainly because of the fallout of the financial crisis, what is at stake for both parties is budget cuts, nothing more. Of course, there are a few ideological discrepancies in the priorities, but it all boils down to cuts.

Another similarity is about fiscal honesty: The government passed an act about it, and the Tories set up a quango to monitor it, but for the columnist, both strategies are only  bragging show-offs.

Equally similar are the two parties’ concern for social problems; the columnist plays on denominations, antisocial behaviour, chaotic families, broken society, but whether one tends to be more politically correct than the other, their aims are the same.

If there exist some authentic political or ideological differences, they are dwarfed by the economic situation, and their expression sounds, as the columnist puts it, overblown.


In the columnist’s opinion, it is not good for a majority to behave as an opposition, especially by using standard opposition strategies. Once again, the two parties are placed on an equal footing by the columnist, because both have used those worn-out strategies in the past. Yet he result, at least for Labour,  because they are the incumbents, is in the column’s conclusion absolutely inescapable: defeat.



A survey of British politics: the Thatcherite era, then New Labour, but what next?

Bagehot’s skepticism about the Conservatives.

The fashion of budget cuts, and the previous excesses (in the article, the cost of quangos.)


The global failure of ideologies, weakened by economics.

The hypocritical strategies of modern oppositions.

The necessity of a political renewal, in the light of the global downturn.

The fate of broken families and the future of social policies.

Bankers and their bonuses vs the states.


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