Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blair, the constitutional sorceror's apprentice

"Blair was always a reluctant constitutional reformer. He acted as he did because he had to, not because he wanted to. He had to because the Thatcherite counter-revolutionaries had imposed intolerable strain on the structures they had inherited. The British state had been in disarray long before Thatcher crossed the threshold of No 10; the passionate elan with which she set about untaming capitalism unleashed a torrent of impatient individualism that threatened to sweep the house away. But because his heart was not in it, Blair's attempt to repair the damage did not succeed. Asymmetric devolution backfired. It did not satisfy the Scots or Welsh. Albeit very slowly and gradually, it merely led the English to rediscover their own nationality in the way the non-English peoples of the United Kingdom had started to do 30 years earlier. The Human Rights Act backfired, too. Because ministers would not accept the logic of their own statute, and persisted in forcing through legislation that violated the human rights they said they wanted to protect, it hastened the drain of legitimacy which it had been designed to halt.

"This bleak landscape is Brown's inheritance. I hope he realises how bleak it is, but, to put it at its mildest, the omens are mixed." —David Marquand

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