I'm worried, not because the Government is departing from New Labour's legacy, but because it's sticking to it. Here, I believe, both Government and Opposition are engaged in a phony war. Despite all the furious charges and counter-charges that echo through the Westminster air, they are both on the same side. They both want to return to business as usual as quickly as they can. They disagree furiously about the route, but they agree about the destination. They want to get back to the sunlit uplands of ever-rising material prosperity, fuelling and fuelled by ever-rising consumption, both public and private. Both are dominated by short-term policy wonkery. Neither seems to have grasped the need for a new politico-economic paradigm, post-Keynesian, post-socialist, post-Thatcherite, post-national and above all post-affluence. I don't carry such a paradigm in my knapsack, I hasten to add. But I feel in my bones that this is what used to be called the left should now be working on.Now, ignoring for a moment the rather impressive number of usages of the prefix 'post' in that, er, post, isn't this interesting? We have the primary academic representative of the line that runs from Crosland to New Labour (via the SDP) saying the game is now up, and the current froth of politics represents little more than a churning of outdated verities.
I think he's right. I just don't think that prefixing the word 'post' before every previous paradigm is particularly helpful. Challenging the inherited meaning of 'affluence', for instance, seems to me to be pretty vital - re-defining it as meaning something different: an 'affluence' of equality, resource sustainability and greenery springs to mind as the objective. &, of course, I'm not willing to concede we're in a world that is, by definition, post socialist.
Famously - and I can recall getting a lot of stick for this 25 years ago - Marquand, despite being then in the SDP, wrote regularly for Marxism Today. Quite who was trying to exercise hegemony over whom might still provoke a pub argument or two with friends to my Left. But if the would-be generals of the -so far - imaginary armies that are supposed to resist the coming cuts are to put flesh on their 'strategic' posturings, they must find a language which calls people who conceive of themselves as 'centrist' to the banner, as well as the thin ranks of the more committed Left. So it is always worth maintaining that dialogue with people like Marquand in my view.