Two bald men fighting over a comb.

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comb.jpgNeal Lawson and Robert Philpot still believe Labour is the answer to this country's questions. But what kind of Labour? A Blairite sort, with Choice? Or a more leftwing version, with Windfall Taxes? 

Their debate in today's Guardian is illuminating, but not in the way they may have hoped. Philpot thinks letting poorer parents, jobseekers and even truant schoolchildren manage budgets for their own improvement will work. Actually, the childcare one isn't nonsense to exactly the same degree, but the others show he's drunk so much of the Blairite Kool-Aid that there's no hope for him.

Conversely, Lawson argues for the following policies:

"... we could start building council houses, mandate a living wage, create a national well being index, provide fee school meals for all primary kids, stop taxing people earning under £10,000, place a ban on advertising to children, introduce a fair voting system, drop ID cards, elect local health boards, introduce a graduate solidarity tax instead of fees and phase out our reliance on oil."

In other words, a 95% Green agenda. A living wage is less radical and effective than a citizens' income, sure, but it's a step in the right direction. We wouldn't add a new tax on graduates - they pay more already, see, because they earn more. 

Equally, I'm not sure how you'd prevent children seeing any advertising. Ban all billboards, commercial television, and bus-stop ads? Actually, that sounds quite appealing. Overall, though, PR, no ID cards, end reliance on oil? Sure, about time.

But what an odd debate. One of these two numb-skulls thinks that a Labour party enmired in marketisation and resisting change will win the next election. And the other thinks that a Labour party which has been hollowed out from the inside by Blairism is ready to become more or less the Green Party. 

My advice to them both? Mr Philpot, congratulations, you're on the very left of the Conservative Party. Mr Cameron will be delighted to have you because you'd prove he was "progressive", and you'll find it's better than opposition. Mr Lawson, you've not got the best political antennae, but please do nevertheless join your local Green Party. 

This Labour Party you're squabbling over, it's finished. 

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This page was published on August 11, 2008 9:20 AM.

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