14 May 2007

Economist Leads On Blair

I haven't said much about Blair's departure because I prefer to look to the future, but this week's leader in the Economist (which costs about £4 in Czech money) provoked me into responding. I couldn't fail to fisk the following extract from their front article.


...On most measures, Mr Blair has left Britain a better place than it was in 1997. Uninterrupted economic growth has made the average Britain substantially better off, even if the tax burden has risen.

Research by the Centre for Policy Studies shows that double-income families with two children have seen their disposable weekly income fall in real terms from £709 to £706 a week between 2002 and 2006. It’s also worth noting the change in average household debt. In 1997 it was £16,155. In 2007 it is £54,318.
There are fewer tatty schools and run-down hospitals.
Indeed, there are substantially fewer schools and hospitals. There are 5% less state primaries now than in 1997, 6% less state secondaries, 10% less special schools and 17% less LEA nurseries and the government is running a mass hospital closure programme. In an event without precedent, in 2001, an independent MP unseated a Labour MP on a platform of protecting public health services.

And as for rundown hospitals, the chances of picking up preventable infections in a hospital has ballooned under Labour.
Although many exams lack rigour, more children are getting respectable grades
And you write this in support of Blair?
and going on to universities.
To what end? Meanwhile people are needing to work for longer than ever as the pension industry has collapsed under Labour.
Thanks to the minimum wage and tax credits for poor working families, the forces relentlessly pushing up income inequality under Margaret Thatcher have been blunted.
Neither of those policies help the very poorest – the eight million economically inactive British adults. Inequality has continued to rise under Labour.
These things are measurable
So why does it seem that you didn’t bother?
Less easy to prove, but just as valuable, are the ways in which Mr Blair has helped make Britain a more tolerant,
There are few signs that Labour has created a “safer, more tolerant society” as the Home Office mantra goes. I wished they had just concentrated on making it safer.
more cosmopolitan place.
Like much of this article this is very ambiguous. Whilst there may be more cultures that co-exist there is also strong evidence that there is less mixing between them – one aspect of which was described in the report Sleep-walking towards segregation. A clearer way of making this point would be that Blair has undermined national identity and institutions.
There is a human rights act now;
Which is in total disrepute and allowed plane hijackers to claim asylum in the UK. This is not the Economist that I’ve been reading for over 15 years. Why the acceptance of the damaging left-wing touchstone of unconditional human rights?
civil partnerships for homosexuals are recognised.
But has this made the country more tolerant? Much as I am loath to invoke them, check the hate crime figures.
Self-government for Scotland,
At an enormous cost
Also at great cost but with an assembly with very few powers.
and now even Northern Ireland
whose Parliament has been suspended for most of its existence.
has extended democracy:
But has reduced democracy in England
peace in Ulster must rank amongst Mr Blair’s greatest successes.
Despite other factors such as the change in mood after 9/11 and the Republic’s economic success and disinterest in a united Ireland being more powerful factors.
Class matters less:
Social mobility is at an all time low.
the fact that the Tories are led by an Old Etonian is, strangely, a sign of progress.
Under Mr Blair, fusty old Britain has become an international exemplar of openness.
Didn’t realise you hated pre 1997 Britain so much? We’ve always been an open nation by any standard.
Large scale immigration,
Oh that’s what you mean. For large scale, read uncontrolled.
especially from the former communist countries of Eastern Europe, has boosted the economy
Are you sure? GDP may have risen, but has GDP per capita? Have you quantified the impact on public expenditure and standards of living (e.g. higher residential rental costs)
without triggering a serious backlash of resentment.
40% of voters name immigration as their number one issue – and they aren’t calling for more.
Embracing globalisation, London has become one of the most dynamic cities in the world.
I believe what you are talking about is the continued success of financial services? If you’re happy with the government’s handling of that sector, you have low standards.
Mr Blair has changed the debate in Europe (Nicolas Sarkozy is a another right-winger in his debt – see next leader)
Blair is not a right-winger.
and he has done more than any other Western leader to force people to pay attention to climate change and poverty in Africa.
I must agree with that assessment re climate change, but when action has been needed on the African continent such as in Zimbabwe or Sudan what has Blair achieved?
You can go through this list, adding asterisks and footnotes:
I’m glad you realise the limitations of this piece.
On the economy, not enough credit goes to the Tories who came before Mr Blair
E.g. - the average annual GDP growth from 1992 – 1997 exceeds 1997 to date.
On immigration, for every happy Czech waitress in Covent Garden there are several angry Muslim in Leeds
What is your point?
He has helped gays but not prisoners or young louts.
HELPING PRISONERS & LOUTS!!! Is this a criticism? By the way, did you miss this story?
Still, Blair has improved Britain, on balance, and he has usually stood on the side of liberal progress. This newspaper, for one, has no regrets in having supported him...
Firstly, you’re a magazine not a newspaper. Secondly, where is the mention of the cronyism, spin and sheer incompetence that have marked his tenure in most people’s minds? In conclusion, like many others seduced by Blair, you are unable to admit that you made a mistake.

Footnote - Gordon Brown makes an appearance on their website.


Anonymous said...

You've missed so much and been far too lenient PT...but never mind, in months to come I'll put that right and magazines like this will get the shaft because people know the truth.

i spy strangers said...

Good fisk PT. Nice to be reminded why I never buy this rag. If that level of intellectual rigour is typical ...

Tom Paine said...

The Economist *is* a newspaper. It always has been. A magazine is a themed periodical. The Economist reports all aspects of the news on a weekly basis in an intelligent style.

Generally it's utterly sound, even "dry." I can't account for this weird aberration (my copy hasn't reached Moscow yet). On the face of it, I don't have a problem with your fisk, but I would encourage those denouncing the Economist in the comments as a "rag" etc. to give it a try.

It's one of the few stand-outs from the usual soft-left "meedja."

Praguetory said...

I used to be a subscriber, but only pick it up once a month or so these days. I have to admit calling it a rag back in October when it had some terrible advice for the Tories.

Ed said...

In 1997 it was £16,155. In 2007 it is £54,318.

Isn't that a rather better measure of inflation than CPI?

Anonymous said...

The price of everything I buy goes up and up... apart from crack of course there the price is falling. Even I can't help but think that this is not a good idea..