The British Election: Who is Winning the Battle of Ideas?

An article in the New Statesman (May 5) discusses the positions of the main parties. This is how it begins:

Elections determine who holds office but they only partly determine who holds power. The struggle for intellectual and political supremacy is waged over decades, not years. Truly successful leaders govern from beyond the grave by forcing their successors to retain their reforms. In recent British history, two prime ministers, Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher, have achieved this distinction. Both changed the political culture in ways that their opponents, even with triple-figure majorities, were unwilling or unable to reverse.

The welfare state and the NHS established by Attlee survived successive Conservative prime ministers; not one of Thatcher’s privatisations was overturned by Labour. Asked at a dinner in Hampshire in 2002 what she considered to be her greatest achievement, the former Tory PM replied: “Tony Blair and New Labour. We forced our opponents to change their minds.”

This is the last paragraph:

Just as no leader will be able to claim arithmetical victory after the election, no leader will be able to claim intellectual victory. The state is advancing in some areas as it retreats in others. Should this new era of hung politics endure, the UK may never again be led by figures in the mould of Attlee and Thatcher, those who enact a pure union of policy and philosophy. The true test for the next government will not be whether it retains office but whether it forces its opponents to change.

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One response to “The British Election: Who is Winning the Battle of Ideas?

  1. Michael Gundy

    Sometimes, a minority government is a good thing. It allows the participants to sit back and reflect on what went wrong and gives them time to ponder the future in a meaningful way. A collective time out in the penalty box.

    Messrs. Harper, Trudeau and Muclair, are you listening?