Ever since the death of Margaret Thatcher, the media has been awash with politicians, former politicians, journalists and columnists alike lamenting the demise of ‘conviction politics’ (see here, here, here and here … and here, here, here, ad nauseam).
Thatcher, they say, was the last, and so she must be respected. She changed Britain, nay – the world – with her hard line neoliberal stance. She stood strong against the unions: she stood by her beliefs that she was right, and they were wrong, and did not care for consensus. Marvel! What a lady!
Today’s politicians are, by contrast, always seeking consensus. Weak, wet, and lily-livered. They battle for the middle ground, those influential fence sitters, who can’t decide between the Tories or Labour. They spend too much time with opinion polls, focus groups and whatnot. They are only vaguely ideological – the Tories are pushing for cuts; Labour slightly slower cuts.
This is nonsense. None of them are ‘realists’ – this is a damnable idea that means nothing. All politics are ideological, it is just the arguments that happen that make it clear. When it was socialism vs capitalism, clear lines could be drawn. In contrast, today’s lot are are all ideological politicians with a strong conviction, and one they seldom acknowledge. They all adhere to the central tenants of neoliberal – of rolling back the state, increase in competition, belief that the market will show us the way.
George Osborne refuses to listen to even the IMF (purveyors of neoliberalism). He refuses to back down on the stance that austerity is what we need even when those who were otherwise on his side say he’s wrong. What’s more, even the academic math behind his cuts don’t make sense in its own calculation. Yet Both he and Cameron stay true to their neoliberal convictions.
Miliband is not much better. A major criticism of him by the left is that mainstream Labour is are neoliberal in economic policy, too. They argue for the slowing down of cuts, not that cuts are bad. They have not taken one hard-line left wing stance against the damage being done to the NHS or any other part of the welfare state. It is if Miliband is rebelling against growing up in an academic Marxist household by refusing to listen to the reason his parents may have set forth. He and his cohorts hold to the market.
Ideology has never gone away. It is living and it is strong within both the Conversatives and Labour. The major difference between yesterday’s ideological war and today’s is that today’s war is fought over the management of neoliberalism. The only debate they have is how fast the cuts happen, not whether they are happening at all. They remain silent on this. If they acknowledged it is an ideology, TINA dies.