By the same token, it has no wish to undo the relentless hollowing out of the public domain or to halt the increasing casualisation of labour-white collar as well as blue collar-that marked the Thatcher and Major years.
The notion that public goods should be provided by public authorities, animated by an ethic of public service to which market norms are alien, appears to be as strange to it as to its predecessors.
Like the New Democrats, New Labour takes globalisation as a given and seeks to run with what it believes to be the grain of the global marketplace.
That is why it is suspicious of the European social model, why it shares its predecessor’s commitment to flexible labour markets and low social costs and why it sees the French socialists and German social democrats as suspect deviationists rather than as fraternal exemplars.
In practice, they assumed that centralisation was the only possible vehicle for marketisation; that if they were to hobble or crush the manifold institutional and cultural obstacles to their free-market utopia, they would have to make the maximum possible use of the powers which the ancient British doctrine of absolute and inalienable parliamentary sovereignty confers on the government of the day.
This, of course, was the great paradox of Thatcherism.By the same token, part of the purpose of monetary union is to defend that model against the pressures of the global marketplace, to create a supranational space in which to protect the European social market from creeping Americanisation. How it will behave if and when it enters the space remains a mystery. The central theme of the Thatcher revolution lay in a combination of market freedom and state power-with the second as the necessary condition of the first.In theory the Thatcherites were for a minimal state.Like the Thatcher governments before it, New Labour espouses a version of the entrepreneurial ideal of the early 19th century.It disdains traditional elites and glorifies self-made meritocrats, but it sees no reason why successful meritocrats should not enjoy the full fruits of their success: it is for widening opportunity, not for redistributing reward.Margaret Thatcher was a warrior; Tony Blair is a healer. Where she spoke of “enemies within,” he speaks of “the people.” The Thatcherites saw themselves as a beleaguered minority, surrounded by insidious, relentless and powerful enemies.There were always new battles to fight, new obstacles to uproot, new heresies to stamp out.A meritocratic society is one in which the state takes action to raise the level of the talents-particularly the talents of the disadvantaged-which the market proceeds to reward. That leads on to a third, more paradoxical, difference.Like the Thatcher and Major governments, the Blair government looks across the Atlantic for inspiration, not across the Channel.Its contempt for the French socialists is palpable; it believes it has nothing to learn from the German SPD and it seems more at home with Clinton’s suburbanised New Democrats than with any left-of-centre European party.More significantly still, it is manifestly unshocked by the huge and growing disparities of income engendered by the late 20th century capitalist renaissance.