Monday, February 25, 2008

Butskellite Barometers



‘It took some 400 bureaucrats to ‘run’ the railway in the public sector. It takes more than 4000 in the pseudo-private one (and needs at least five times the subsidy).

Although his views on architecture should be ridiculed and attacked at any given opportunity, Simon Jenkins definitely has his moments. He’s interesting for much the same reason as Roy Hattersley, as some kind of accidental barometer. It’s acknowledged much less often than reason would suggest it should, but ‘liberals’ today, whether Martin Kettle or indeed any given government of the ‘centre-left’ outside Latin America (and even a couple there) find themselves on what was once not only the Right, but the intractable, head-banging, extremist Right that was once ridiculed by treasuries and governments the world over. I don’t share Jenkins’ politics, or Hattersley’s for that matter (and I still have a huge grudge against the latter for all the primary school mispronouncings of my surname), but the way that both have stood still makes them rather fascinating figures – measures of where Butskellite orthodoxy once was, and the contempt their respective parties hold them in a reminder of how far we’ve been dragged from the ‘centre’.

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