Responsible approach to radical politics

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Was New Labour a chimera produced, as George Kerevan suggests, “by the dangerous 
financial boom of the late 1990s and early Noughties” (Perspective, 22 October)?

In fact, it was the relatively favourable economic conditions of the time that spurred New Labour on.

But the idea, the philosophy, had taken root well before then.

A change to the party’s constitution, making the totemic “Clause Four” redundant in 1995, had helped 
Labour come to terms with the realities of the modern world.

It came to terms, too, with a basic point that was essential to understand if it were to win power.

That was to commit itself to helping the disadvantaged without damaging the material conditions, the relative affluence, of the majority.

The abandonment of a commitment to tax-and-spend helped reassure middle-income voters – the most crucial part of the electorate – that it was serious about accepting fiscal responsibility.

The argument is still relevant today.

The results of the independence referendum did show up a ­social divide in Scotland.

They showed a certain wariness of the professional and middle classes, the homeowners, the savers and the small investors about too radical a change.

The dilemma for both the SNP and Labour is whether to side with these people, or to place themselves firmly in the camp of the young unemployed, the poorer pensioners, the benefit claimants – the areas where poverty and despair has taken a firm grip.

A commitment to home rule will certainly help both parties. But it will not in itself solve the basic conundrum about which section of voters they should back.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court