23 June 2010

Talkin' 'bout my generation

I concentrate my fire on the bureaucratic oligarchies in Whitehall and Brussels because we in Britain have endured the most sustained power-grab, by both, since - umm - damn; I can't think of another generation that has bent over and spread 'em for the thrust of big government with quite the enthusiasm mine has shown over the last 20-odd years.

The shocking abdication of personal responsibility by my post-war British cohort - certainly the most cossetted there ever has been, or ever will be - is an enduring puzzle to me. Granted unprecedented freedom of choice and a more meritocratic employment environment than any previous generation, the legacy my generation leaves to posterity is in no significant way superior to what we inherited.

In many ways it is inferior: there was a natural, if fundamentally misguided, belief that widespread regulation had helped Britain come out on the winning side of World War II, and that the same would 'win the peace'. Given the dreary succession of social and economic failures that followed, and the squalid collapse of the 'progressive' Soviet Union, it has been disheartening to see the same tired nostrums exhumed over the past twenty years.

Compounding what would be, on the surface, merely a reiteration of mankind's inability to learn from history, is the demonstrable fact that the 'New Labour Project', which won the stubborn support of a majority of my age-group, was bereft of any ideal save the winning and retention of power. Its architects, Blair, Brown, Mandelson and Campbell, bear comparison only with the amoral Lloyd George clique that destroyed the Liberal Party after World War I.

Emblematically, they erected a statue in Parliament Square to Lloyd George, who made a fortune from kick-backs as Minister for Munitions during the war, stole money donated by the Carnegie Foundation for the post-war rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, and sold honours according to a set tariff. So much money that he was able to buy a newspaper and attract a sufficient following to create a new political party devoted to himself.

To which, alas, Winston Churchill belonged until it became apparent that he could not ride it back to power. He, at least, redeemed himself by his leadership of a national coalition during World War II, which Lloyd George refused to join because he aspired to becoming the British equivalent of Marshal Pétain in France following defeat by Nazi Germany. A fit hero, indeed, for the New Labour Project.

Returning to Britain in 1999 after 25 years abroad, I was staggered to find the evidently meretricious Blair still enjoying a honeymoon with the media, led by the BBC, that bordered on sycophancy. And people whose judgement I respected were saying things like 'I don't mind paying more taxes if it will lead to a fairer society'.

Well, they got the taxes, sure enough - but it went to feed the voracious appetite of the bureaucratic oligarchy, which was New Labour's core constituency. Blair's media halo did not really tarnish until he and his accomplice Campbell lied us into joining the US invasion of Iraq; yet during his administration the state apparat mounted the most sustained attack on civil liberties since Charles I.

Someday I may arrive at a hypothesis to explain it all; for the time being all I can do is apologize to my sons and to my grandchildren for the sordid and contumacious hole they have been put in by the 'best and the brightest' of my generation.     

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