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Monday, June 21, 2004
A reason to vote Labour

Roy Hattersley is right about one thing: by standing as an obstacle to choice in the key elements of Britain's public sector, the Labour Party does offer one clear left-wing reason for its activists to remain on board. Even though a rising tide lifts all boats, allowing all to rise to a level merited by their effort and ability does mean some doing better than others. So if your gut envy - or your ideological sympathy for the gut envy of others - means that is a prospect you just cannot bear, then Labour is the party for you.

Indeed, there's a sense in which Hattersley's Guardian article today was written two years ago, albeit in a much wittier and more revealing format, by one Telegraph columnist. The right-wing Alan Judd and the left-wing Roy Hattersley are both correct in saying that Labour is either the party of holding the line on the frontiers of the state, of saying that when it comes to education and healthcare the bureaucrats know best - or it is nothing at all. Once one accepts that the man who is having an operation may be better placed than a civil servant in another city to decide when and where his tax money should pay for it, and once one accepts that parents have their kids' best interests closer to heart than do government ministers for whom those children are simple statistics to be massaged and manipulated, one has given up on the last reason for voting Labour. That is the piece of land where Labour has pitched its tent and continues to fly the flag of uniformity and mediocrity. What a sad and reactionary principle on which to stake one's ground, and what a feeble foundation it will prove to be.

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