How times change
Peter Mandelson’s speech (YouTube) is undoubtedly the talk of Labour conference here in Brighton. It was of course an extraordinary performance but that should not obscure its policy content.
The Government’s decisiveness in dealing with the financial crash is much admired around the world, as could be seen at the G20 last week. But so far it has not brought the same flair to rethinking a new post-crash politics. This has allowed the right to frame the economic challenge as all about the deficit – even though it’s an inevitable symptom of recession. Even when ministers have taken good imaginative steps – such as higher rate taxes and interventionist industrial policy- they seemed to have lacked the language and arguments to make them agenda setters.
But perhaps this changed with Peter Mandelson’s speech. Much of its policy content could have been made at the TUC two weeks ago. And in some ways it is an unexceptional restatement of what every other social democratic party – not to mention European governments of the centre right – is saying.
But it is a message that so far has mainly been carried by unions and some academics – (see David Blanchflower’s forceful article in the impressively relaunched new Statesman this week).
Whether it will shift the polls reamins to be seen, but there is at least some sense of renewal here in Brighton.