IAIN WATSON: The industrial revolution
is firmly part of Britain's past. And now, some in Labour's ranks want
to see another revolution go the same way, the Blair revolution - a book
penned in nineteen-ninety-six by Peter Mandelson. But he just won't take
the advice of a fellow revolutionary, Chairman Mao. He said 'When the enemy
advances, withdraw'. Instead, Peter Mandelson has reissued and revised
his book with the stated aim of recharging Blair's revolutionaries. But
would the prime minister want to be associated with this latest call to
IAN DAVIDSON MP: I think you have to remember
that Peter Mandelson's position inside the party depends very much upon
the patronage of the leader. Peter remember, got defeated for elections
to the National Executive by Ken Livingstone and nowadays we've just seen
his candidate in his own constituency being defeated by a monkey, which
hardly tends to indicate that his approach to politics is achieving widespread
WATSON: In his revised version
of the Blair revolution, Peter Mandelson calls for the creation of 'new'
New Labour, but his critics may be surprised to find that in manufacturing
an updated ideology for his Party, he's taking some components from the
left. Not only does Peter Mandelson defend the tax increases in the budget,
he says more may be necessary - especially to achieve his ambition of increasing
education spending in line with health. But some of his former supporters
say he's diluting the original New Labour brand. A small group of modernisers,
called Labour 2000, were at their zenith at the time of the original Blair
revolution. Their leader, Phil Woodford, thinks Tony Blair should avoid
his close confidant's advice on taxation.
PHIL WOODFORD: I'm surprised that Peter
Mandelson is now saying that we should be prepared to tax more and spend
more, after all we went into the nineteen-ninety-seven and two-thousand-and-one
elections saying something very different indeed. Every time you give an
inch to the old left they're in danger of taking a mile and we do all have
to be conscious as Labour modernisers within the Party that the way we
express our ideas can allow people whose views, to be quite honest, will
always be rejected by the electorate, to gain an unnecessary and worrying
stronghold within the party once again.
WATSON: And there are those
in the mainstream of the Labour Party who want to see the New Labour brand
dispatched. The leader of Peter Mandelson's own union, the GMB, wants to
turn round attitudes at the very top and is now funding the left-wing think-tank
Catalyst, to help create a more traditional social democratic image of
Labour. Even the Chancellor attended last week's re-launch. Significant
sections of the party now want the Prime Minister to see the recent budget
as just the first step towards a European-style higher spending, higher
JOHN EDMONDS: We need to re-build
our public services, there is a big constituency in Britain for doing that,
and not just the Health Service, that was a very good start, but also public
transport, also housing, also our municipal services. Now that type of
approach has considerable resonance in modern Europe, but it does mean
higher taxation, it does mean paying for public services out of higher
taxation, and it does mean talking about the common good.
WATSON: Peter Mandelson is
no doubt aware of the counter revolutionary stirrings in Labour's ranks
against the Blairite elite, so while he defends the government's tax increases,
in other respects, he thinks it's necessary to have a head-on clash with
those who want to see a return to old Labour ways. When it comes to the
public services, his vision of 'new' New Labour is as radical as ever,
and his critics say that his ideas simply don't represent practical politics
for a centre-left government that wants to stay in power
wants his leader to spill more political blood in a battle to challenge
trade union power; he says the private sector should be involved even more
deeply in the delivery of public services. But the South American revolutionary
Che Guevara once warned that no battle, combat or skirmish should be fought
unless it can be won. So if Tony Blair begins to turn his close colleague's
ideas into action, he'll also have to steel himself against an assault
from dissident forces in his own ranks.
DAVIDSON: The campaigns that
have been run on keeping the public services in the public sector have
been overwhelmingly popular and I do think that the Prime Minister and
those around him do need to take some recognition of what the country feels
on issues like this, particularly when there's no absolute overriding economic
imperative that makes us have to privatise.
WATSON: Peter Mandelson has
retained two key demands from his original nineteen-ninety-six Blair revolution.
He says Britain can't be a leading player in Europe until his dear leader
wins a referendum on the single currency. He also has a grand plan to create
a progressive century, involving closer links with the Lib Dems but they're
wondering just what's in it for them.
CHARLES KENNEDY MP: You've got to have items
on the agenda, where is proportional representation from local government?
What's happened to the Roy Jenkins Commission about fair votes for Westminster?
How much are we going to move forward the regional government identity
and issues as they manifest themselves within England. Now, you know,
I listen carefully and the sound I hear is the sound of silence.
WATSON: But if Tony Blair
does what's necessary to renew links with the Liberal Democrats, there
are those in the recently revived Tribune group of centre left MPs who
would oppose what they'd see as a political stitch-up
DAVIDSON: I would like to
see the New Labour experiment as a sort of blip, an aberration. Peter
really wants to have the working class, the left, the trade unions driven
out of politics and an alliance of the centre with the nice Tories, those
that he's prepared to mix with, the Liberals who are soft and soggy and
him and his chums. Now that's a different sort of politics to the politics
of the Labour party at the moment and the more that's flushed out the better
the chance there is of defeating it.
WATSON: Peter Mandelson says
his new book will help Blair's revolutionaries find new allies; but even
though he's tacking to the left on tax, his critics in the Party will say
that, deep down, he hasn't shed enough symbols of New Labour Mark One.
Karl Marx once said the meaning of peace was the absence of opposition;
on that basis, Tony Blair could face a significant struggle if he confronts
a less compliant rank and file by trying to put some of Peter Mandelson's
latest ideas into action.