David Blunkett wonders why there is no 1980s-style “revolutionary fervour” in the face of the current deluge of cuts to local government and services (The hidden truth of local cuts will soon be revealed, 28 December). The answer is staring him in the face. New Labour’s determination to collude with the neoliberal experiment begun under Margaret Thatcher (Thatcher’s role in plan to dismantle welfare state revealed, 28 December) progressively deprived mainstream politics of the language and experience of non-marketised provision for the public good. One result is the cuts to local authority funding that Blunkett bemoans – but in whose ideological underpinning he and his colleagues colluded.
Where was the New Labour equivalent of the cabinet “riot” that apparently put a temporary brake on welfare state dismantling in the early days of the Thatcher government? If recent pronouncements are anything to go by, “one nation” Labour seems equally unlikely to change the political weather. Ed Miliband wants to head a party “as much of the private sector as the public sector” (Report, 28 December). The order of words is important – Labour is still on the defensive in the face of the market assault initiated by Thatcher. The signs are that the persuasive counter-commentary you ask for (Editorial, 28 December) will have to come from outside the political mainstream.
• David Blunkett asks: “So why isn’t there the revolutionary fervour that there was back in the 1980s?” One could extend his question to cover the general lack of resistance to the stream of ideological hatred spewed out by the government. Does it occur to the former home secretary that 13 years of a privatising Labour administration that laid the foundations of academy schools and PFI in the NHS may be part of the answer?
• David Blunkett bemoans the plight of local authorities as far worse than when he was a leading municipal socialist 30 years ago. He’s right, of course, but it seems we need to travel back in time if we are to find Labour local government leaders to protect local services. It is not enough for Labour politicians in our town halls simply to tell the truth that the cuts are the fault of the government, while waiting for a Labour government that won’t reverse the cuts anyway. Lives are being ruined right now.
Blunkett deplores the prospect of discontent, but that is precisely what Labour councils should be fomenting if they are to keep faith with their voters. The current approach of the Labour party in local government is simply to despair – that is a betrayal of Labour supporters.
• Zoe Williams speaks for a lot of people in her excellent article (All this doom and gloom plays into the Tories’ hands, 27 December). This recession is catnip to the Conservatives, as they have been allowed to conduct an experiment that even Thatcher shied away from, all under the guise of “necessary austerity”. They have successfully set the working poor against the non-working poor and gleefully sat back to watch the results, while letting those with the broadest shoulders get away with making hardly any additional financial contribution at all. The opposition must present an alternative agenda – the general election is at most only two and a half years away.
• So here we have it: hospital “units must be closed to save the NHS” (Report, 28 December). Moreover “many of the older people who account for 70% of hospital bed days could be looked after elsewhere if more community-based services were available”. “Elsewhere” too often means tested, privatised, partial and inadequate. This seems to be another Tory attempt to soften us up to accept cuts as they did with the vicious campaign on welfare benefits. This is Labour’s chance to argue for income tax rises (over £80,000 pa) – or how about “Beds not Bombs”?