The Axeman’s Jazz

by Richard Seymour

In the face of the deepest cuts to public spending for a generation, New Left Project is hosting a debate on how the left should respond. We open with a contribution from writer and blogger Richard Seymour of Lenin's Tomb.

First published: 03 August, 2010 | Category: Politics

In the face of the deepest cuts to public spending for a generation, New Left Project is hosting a debate on the cuts and how the left should respond. We open with a deep and searching analysis of the economic, ideological and strategic dimensions of this issue from the writer and blogger Richard Seymour, author of The Liberal Defence of Murder and The Meaning of David Cameron. It will be followed in the coming days with a series of responses from a diverse range of others on the left, and rounded off with a response by Richard.


This article takes the view that there is no urgent need to pay off Britain’s debts, and that the cuts agenda of the Conservative-Liberal coalition must be interpreted as being driven by the interests of the constituencies (large manufacture, service industries and high finance) that lie behind especially the Conservative Party leadership, as well as by the neoliberal doctrines that have enjoyed hegemony within the British state for a generation. The cuts agenda constitutes: 1) an attempt to cover the costs incurred by the economic crisis by redistributing wealth from the working class to the financial elite; 2) an attack on the remaining institutions of the post-war welfarist consensus; and 3) the further entrenchment of a profoundly anti-democratic praxis at the level of the state. Labour has been unable to offer an alternative to this, because it is committed to the same growth formula, if in a slightly altered admixture. But there is an urgent need for an alternative.  The once-in-a-lifetime magnitude of the capitalist crisis, and the ambition of the ConDem agenda for welfare downsizing, demands a thoroughgoing attack on the politics and propaganda of the cuts. A proportionate response would involve breaking with neoliberal ideology, moving beyond the traditional policies of the trade union leadership, and forging unity in practise among those most affected by the cuts, and strategically best placed to resist them.

Placebo democracy: how the cuts agenda was imposed.

The Lib-Con government is proposing cuts of up to 25% in public spending. Lately, ministers have been warned to expect cuts as high as 40% in some departments.i This is not happening because the electorate demanded it. In fact, voting behaviour in the 2010 general election seems to have been intended to restrain the cuts agenda, as the majority of the electorate chose parties that promised no immediate cuts, in contrast to the Tories’ hawkish agenda of faster, deeper spending cuts.

Lamentably, none of the three major parties was prepared to oppose cuts in principle - the difference was over timing and scale. The fact that these were the only choices on offer is partially the result of a propaganda master-stroke. When public anger was directed at the bankers for causing another Great Depression and then crawling to the public teat, the bankers and ratings agencies started to moan about irresponsible spending, and the need to bring down the deficit. The Tories echoed this faithfully. The MPs expenses scandal helped greatly in diverting attention from the profligate consumption of public funds by the financial sector, and encouraged the idea that the main problem was a Westminster gravy train.

The hegemony of neoliberalism meant that any government would respond to the crisis by bailing out the financial sector at all costs, then balancing the budget by reducing working class consumption. But there was no urgency about the deficit. Only 20% of Britain’s debt matures in the next three years, and the yield - ie, the cost of borrowing for the government - is relatively low.ii But the shrill alarum from the Tories and their friendly media insisted that fiscal consolidation would be an urgent objective from here on in, and there would simply be no money for much else. Labour, committed as it was to cuts and further privatization, did not have a persuasive counter-narrative with which to oppose this, and were carried along by the tidal wave of hawkish sentiment. As Ronnie Campbell put it, while standing for re-election as the Labour MP for Blyth Valley, the only difference was that Labour would “cut your throat slowly”, while the Conservatives would “cut your head off”.iii Unsurprisingly, the majority voted against instant decapitation.

However, as soon as the signs were clear that the Conservatives would be deprived of an outright parliamentary majority, the higher echelons of the civil service moved very quickly to produce a plan to deal with any hung parliament. And within a week of the election result, a constitutional lash-up had resulted in a Liberal-Conservative alliance which was committed to accelerating the reduction of Britain’s structural deficit faster than Labour, and thus to deep and rapid cuts.

The speed and alacrity with which each new round of spending cuts has been announced has been shocking and awful. An Institute of Fiscal Studies analysis discovered that even the previous government’s lesser budget cuts would leave the average family £2840 worse off every year.iv Now, a Financial Times analysis of the measures announced in the emergency budget found that, while the government was attempting to retail its cuts as ‘progressive’, putting more of the burden on the rich than the poor, the bottom quintile of income earners would see their income reduced by almost 8%, approximately three times that of the top quintile.v Businesses applauded the budget, as did bankers (a wunch of whom are always on permanent standby for media interviews), while trade unions and anti-poverty campaigners condemned it.

Not to be entirely outflanked on ‘progressive’ territory, the government has at least sought to share around the responsibility for its cuts. In June, Chancellor Gideon announced that his cuts programme would be prefaced by a consultation process. Public sector workers in particular were to be canvassed for their views as to where the axe ought to fall. No one was terribly impressed. Polls found that most of the public thought it would make little or no difference. Public sector unions were outraged - the government was asking public sector workers to help point the axe at their colleagues. Meanwhile, Tories such as Nigel Lawson and less venerable figures such as Tim Montgomerie, wrote the consultation process off as at best a public relations ploy and at worst a potential hindrance to the necessary surgery to be performed on the body

The Tories’ consultation procedure is, of course, a shop-soiled decoy. Such a tired imitation of democratic inclusivity, introduced at just the time that the public are being stampeded into an agenda that they have never been properly informed about, enthuses no one. It is all too predictable that, as parliamentary democracy has entered a particular nadir at the turn of the millennium, with the ranks of politicised non-voters swelling, and dissatisfaction with the state of representative government at an all-time high, parties should compete by offering alternative simulations of democracy.

Even the very neoliberal procedures of marketizing, downsizing and outsourcing public service delivery, which have eroded the representative capacity of the state from within - about which more later - are offered as democracy-enhancing measures. For example, Gideon’s pitch to public sector workers before the election promised to ‘liberate’ them from centralised bureaucracy. Higher spending and pay, he claimed, had not empowered them, or made them any happier. Only giving them the freedom to meet targets in whatever ways they deemed fit, and rewarding superior performance with higher pay, would free the workers and restore their creative capacity.vii

This odd idea of freedom and empowerment owes much to ‘public choice’ economics, a tributary of neoliberal ideology which has built into it a myopic - not to say misanthropic - account of knowledge and motivation. According to this view, actors in the public sector are rationally self-interested actors who respond to incentives to improve their own situation. They do not and cannot, by dint of the limits of their knowledge, pursue anything like the “public good”. The best way to deal with this is to free them from the hypocrisy of the public service ethos, reward efficient, productive behaviour, cap spending, disincentivise interest groups and ‘dependency’ (such as welfare dependency), introduce internal competition, and make the public sector as much like the market as possible.viii Such reforms are offered as democratising and empowering, which was a much more credible claim to make when the early Thatcherites could assail an imperial model of public service delivery inherited from the Indian Civil Service. In fact, their logic is to remove as much as possible from the sphere of democratic accountability, as we will see later.

The promise of the franchise was surely greater than this. From the corresponding societies that sprang up in response to the French revolution, through the Chartists, the Reform League, the suffragettes, to the labour movement and the Labour Party, the fight for political representation for the working men and women in society – most of whom were excluded until 1928 – contained a promise that the majority would have a say in the distribution of the wealth which they largely produced, as well as in the conditions under which it would be produced. This was the basic promise of universal adult suffrage. The reputation of parliamentary democracy has hinged greatly on the institutions and compromises accomplished in the period from 1945 to 1975. The achievement of a welfare state encompassing health, education, an income in old age, and some basic protection from market failure, is one of the greatest bulwarks against inequality and poverty in this society. In 1945, you could vote for a welfare state, free healthcare and the nationalisation of industry. If you wanted to, so it seemed, you could vote against capitalism. Now, you get to vote for one or other brand not merely of capitalism, but of neoliberal capitalism. Now you get to vote for how fast and deep the axe falls, but not whether it falls. Now you get ‘consulted’.

The ‘pluralist party-state’, welfare and neoliberalism

According to the Conservative Party, the cuts are unavoidable. The current deficit exists, they say, because of profligate spending by a Labour government determined to build up an overbearing nanny state, groaning with public sector employees and welfare recipients who would tend to vote Labour. This, they say, compromised the efficiency of the state by entangling it in a mesh of interest groups - people who had an interest in high public spending, even where the tax base was insufficient to support it. This led to Gordon Brown borrowing at unsustainable rates during the period of boom. The solution is to scale back the state and restore sustainable spending as a golden rule of fiscal policy. This will not only establish Britain’s credibility with the financial markets, it will permit the resumption of private sector investment and growth (even if the private sector looks signally incapable of tacking up the slack), stimulate speculation, raise house prices and allow people to start borrowing to consume again. Even if hundreds of thousands of jobs are shed in the public sector, even more jobs will be created in the private sector as a result. In line with this brief, they will pay off the deficit mainly by cutting back the state, consulting only on exactly how this task is to be accomplished.ix

The first thing that strikes one about this narrative is how familiar it is. The cri de coeur of neoliberalism has always been that the welfare state is an onerous, oppressive entity that saps revenue from the economy, reducing investment and growth, while re-deploying it in wasteful, inefficient ways for the benefit of a network of competing interest groups. By strengthening the bargaining power of labour and artificially raising employment, it also drives up wage claims and acts as an inflationary force. This school of thought has its origins in radical right-wing political theory, and neo-classical economic theory. Friedrich A Hayek, the paladin of neoliberalism, combined the ideas of the Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt with the economic theory of William Stanley Jevons, Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises, to produce a radical new political economy that is profoundly hostile to collective decision-making.

In this view, parliamentary democracy itself is suspect, because it tends to lead to redistributive taxation, welfare spending, and a bloated public sector. Such was the Schmittian critique of the “pluralist party-state”, taken up by Hayek and his successors. The best response to this is to take such matters as far out of the sphere of democratic contention as possible. If possible, public services should be modelled on market transactions, with spending caps and internal competition, and important decisions devolved to technocratic bodies. The basic structures of society should not be up for regular re-negotiation. Hayek himself believed that fundamental decisions should be taken by an upper house that would be elected only every fifteen years, and then only by electors of a certain (older) age, who would vote only once.x No one standing for election is likely to give such public expression to the anti-democratic animus of neoliberal doctrine. But it is the ideology that has underpinned the neoliberal phase of accumulation since the first primitive and bloody experiments in Santiago, and it is how those wielding the axe see their remit. It is what lay behind the Thatcherite mantra that “There Is No Alternative”, and it is the attitude that is constantly on display when neoliberal ideologues express policy options reflecting definite socio-economic interests as inescapable, compulsory priorities resulting from ‘natural’ laws as reflected in ‘the market’.

So, how accurate is the Tory-Liberal narrative? Unless you exist in a permanent fug of Daily Mail distemper, it is hard to see New Labour as the recklessly over-spending, high-taxing, welfarist party of the current government’s fabulations. New Labour came to power with a chancellor committed to what he called “post-monetarist economics”. This entailed a rejection of Keynesian demand-management techniques, and an acceptance of the doctrine of the ‘non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment’ (NAIRU), according to which spending to create jobs was likely to drive up inflation to unsustainable levels. The only way to reduce unemployment was to make hiring more attractive to employers. This could be done by reducing taxes on profits, cutting taxes on employment and even subsidising employment in certain conditions; by maintaining strong anti-union laws to reduce the bargaining power of labour; and by increasing the skills and productivity of workers. Gordon Brown committed himself to all three, but emphasised the latter. Thus, New Labour reduced corporation taxes and small business taxes, kept most of the anti-union laws in place, and introduced various schemes such as the ‘New Deal’ which were intended to skill up workers and pay employers to give them work experience. Spending was constrained by the promise that taxes on higher income earners and company profits would be kept low, and borrowing was contained by the government’s commitment only to borrow to support investment rather than current spending, and only to borrow as much relative to GDP as would be sustainable in the long run.

In New Labour’s first term, a priority was to establish credibility with financial markets by reducing the public debt. The debt was reduced by a total of £34bn in the last year of the first time - a larger total reduction than all the cumulative debt reduction of previous governments for fifty years. Capital expenditure in most departments of government fell precipitously for the first years of the New Labour administration, and overall public spending fell from over 40% of GDP in 1997 to 38.1% in 2001. Even with successive fiscal problems in the ensuing years and a subsequent need to borrow to plug black holes, by 2004 Gordon Brown had reduced the debt from 44% of national income to 34%. By 2005, the combined spending on debt interest and unemployment benefits had fallen by a half. In the latter half of the 2000s, public spending rose to above 40% again, reaching 41.1% in 2007-08. Only with the credit crunch and following recession did it return to levels last seen in Thatcher’s first two terms, rising to 47.5% of GDP for 2009-10. This has been the result of a combination of two factors: stimulus spending, and the sudden contraction in the private sector. The deficit that arose resulted from the reduction in the tax base as unemployment soared and the economy shrank, and the massive bail-outs for the financial sector.xi

So, we can dispense with the fairy-tale that the deficit has been caused by profligate expenditure. New Labour adhered closely to neoliberal doctrines and policy nostrums. Some of its most damaging encounters with its base in the organised labour movement have concerned precisely this cleaving to tight fiscal discipline, low-spending, low taxes and a weak labour market - the FBU disaffiliated with Labour after a bitter fight in 2002, the PCS union has been in constant war with the government over its downsizing of the civil service, and postal workers have had several bitter confrontations with the government over revised pay and conditions. Patricia Hewitt’s crackdown on health spending, caused by the spiralling costs of New Labour’s favoured PFI projects, led to a rift with health workers, and actually saw Hewitt get heckled by the impeccably non-militant Royal College of Nursing. These are the soured relationships that the Labour leadership contenders are aware of having to fix, though it is questionable whether they have much to offer besides tea and sympathy.

Labour was, as we have said, committed to rectifying the temporary surge in Britain’s debts by implementing cuts almost as deep as those proposed by its opponents in 2010 - a programme that would have resulted in an even deeper rift with the public sector unions that bailed the party out in the 2010 elections as businesses abandoned Labour for the Tories. This brings us to the issue of why Labour couldn’t offer a real alternative and what implications the current leadership battle has for the future struggles over cuts.

Paid the cost to be the boss? Or, Why Labour couldn’t offer a real alternative

Ronnie Campbell MP was right. Labour’s unique selling point in 2010 in comparison with the Conservatives was that it would be more gradual, and less thoroughgoing, in its application of the same deadly blade. The voters of Blyth Valley, like those of many Labour constituencies, understandably opted for throat-slitting. But their choices should not have been so narrow. The question is why Labour couldn’t offer a real alternative and what, if anything, can be done about it.

The answer to the first question is, in part, that Labour is New Labour - a party committed to market liberalism, deregulation, and privatization. But this demands explanation more than it explains. Orthodoxy has it that New Labour emerged as a belated recognition of obdurate psephological realities after the left-wing had successfully obstructed such an adaptation for more than a decade. In fact, the story of Labour’s adaptation to neoliberalism is more complicated than simply a response to unfavourable polls. The answer has to be found in Labour’s struggle to adapt to the collapse of the post-war social democratic compromise that had underpinned its electoral support for three decades.

That decline of the consensus, beginning in the late 1960s, did initially produce a leftist critique which took aim at mainstream Labourism for, among other things, its imperialist streak, its paucity of ambition, and its bureaucratism. This critique was not matched by powerful forces outwith the Labour Party, so did not result in a challenge to Labour’s hegemony over the working class vote. Instead, the Labour Left adopted elements of this critique and tried to find ways to transcend traditional models of social democracy. This led to Tony Benn, for example, calling for workers’ control of industry as a more democratic alternative to simple nationalisation. In response to the growing economic crisis and the wave of union militancy accompanying it, the Labour Party moved to the left. It contested the 1974 general elections on its most radical manifesto yet, pledging far-reaching redistribution and a workers’ share of control in industry. It won, twice, but in government it found its radical reforms foundering against the hostility of the capitalist state, particularly senior civil servants, and the obstinate hostility of its right-wing. It ended up embracing monetarism and fiscal austerity, and spent its last miserable years in office battling the unions and trying to maintain a pact with the Liberal Party.xii

The prominence of the Labour Left in the early 1980s has usually been over-stated. In truth, after the right-wing took control of the Labour NEC in 1981, it had little difficulty in containing the influence of the Left. Benn and his supporters certainly had the ability to kid themselves about how much support they really had, but there is no reason to get it wrong in retrospect - they represented a minority at every level of the Labour Party, from the trade unions to the constituency branches to the Parliamentary party. It is unlikely that at that time, they would have been able to command an electoral plurality either. But what the Bennites were right about, and understood better than either the Labour mainstream or the SDP/Liberal Alliance, was that the consensus of the post-war period was over, and that the Labour Party either had to find a radical alternative or the Thatcherites would impose their own solution. We know how that worked out.

The changes that Thatcher wrought, in defeating one battalion of the labour movement after another, in destroying manufacturing jobs, in creating a debt/speculation economy, in selling off council housing and de-regulating finance, and in privatizing public enterprises, fundamentally changed the character of British society. Thatcher never won a majority of people over to her ideas, but it wasn’t necessary that she should. It was only necessary that she should force Labour to adapt to the new order, the neoliberal settlement. She did that mainly by hammering those constituencies, specifically organised labour, which were capable of pressuring Labour from the Left, and therefore preventing it from adapting to neoliberalism.

By the late 1980s, the young power couple Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were being sent by Kinnock on junkets to Australia and the US, to see how Labor and the Democrats were coping. In the US the failure of the old New Deal Centre, and the inability of the radical left – as represented by people like Jesse Jackson - to supersede the New Deal, meant that a space was being opened for the neoliberal faction of the Democrats in alliance with southern reactionaries to take control of the party. They would be low-tax, low-spend Democrats, militarists with a hard line on social security: instead of peace and welfare, they offered warfare and workfare. Blair and Brown, suffice to say, got the message. They decided, following Labour’s defeat in the 1992 election, that the party had to fundamentally change. They blamed the close relationship with the unions for the defeat - quite unfairly - and set about changing the party’s internal structures to weaken the unions’ voice and attract a new class of membership with no interest in socialism. They believed that the old electoral coalition centred on the organised working class wasn’t viable any more, and that no Labour Party could win elections and govern if it did not first get the support of business, and particularly the Murdoch media. That meant, in essence, throwing out social democratic ideas and adapting to free market liberalism.xiii

In doing so, Blair and Brown created the party that cut public spending to lower levels than it had been under Major, turned the City of London into Wall Street’s ‘Guantanamo’xiv, consistently baited welfare recipients as scroungers and frauds, and - with its social authoritarianism and moral panics - provided much of the material for Cameron’s ‘broken Britain’ schtick that is now being used to justify cuts in provision for the poorest. New Labour has few resources with which to criticise the Con-Lib cuts project, because it accepts the growth formula underpinning it and its own plans were based on stimulating growth through further financialization, privatization and debt-fuelled consumption.

The current leadership election is interesting in this regard. Everyone wants to distance themselves from the disastrous Blair-Brown era. Diane Abbott is the only candidate with a principled opposition to the cuts agenda, but there is some evidence that the other candidates are having to adapt to her presence. The ultra-Blairite Mattel creation Andy Burnham now dares to say the ‘s’ word, pledges modest redistributive taxes, and is attacking Peter Mandelson for having helped to sideline members in the previous fifteen years or so. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have also tried to draw some of the appeal from Abbott’s campaign by belatedly coming out as opponents of the Iraq war.xv

But aside from that, most of the candidates and all significant forces within the Labour Party higher ranks are in favour of cuts, because they have not broken with the neoliberal ideology underpinning the cuts agenda. Inasmuch as they do acknowledge the need to reconnect with “core voters”, they seem determined to do so by scapegoating the poor and immigrants. On the poor, they intend to take a harder line on welfare recipients and ‘antisocial’ behaviour, thus playing right into the Tories’ hands on welfare cuts. On immigrants, they differ only in how much to grovel to the racist right. Ed Balls’ expostulations on this question, particularly his attempt to outflank Cameron to his right, led to the Tory leader satirising Balls as “Labour’s Alf Garnett”.xvi We can therefore have little hope that Labour will resist the Tory-Liberal cuts, though it will try to capitalise on any anger as the effects of the cuts filter into public awareness. But this does not mean, as I will explain in a moment, that the Labour Party can be written off.

Conclusion: Solutions, in the short and long run

The capitalist crisis unleashed by the credit crunch in 2007 will define the next generation. Nothing in the field of politics and economics will be like it was before. Mainstream centre-left economists like Paul Krugman anticipate a prolonged crisis, a third great depression comparable to the protracted stagnation after 1870.xvii There is talk of a “double-dip” recession, as the cuts undermine demand so severely that investment and growth collapses again. Even if politicians can’t yet give up on neoliberal remedies, there is little sign that they will work. Unlike in 1982, or 1991, there is no dynamic economic area, geographically or sectorally, that is capable of leading a private sector growth boom.xviii This being the case, the Tories are taking a huge risk with these cuts, as the Financial Times and the Economist have acknowledged, while both call for deeper cuts, particularly in welfare.

It is not as if there are no alternatives to the neoliberal policy mix. On the right and centre, I expect that national protectionists will increasingly come to the fore, not as outright opponents of neoliberalism, but as a faction wanting to contain some of the effects of ‘globalisation’ both by managing financial flows and further restricting immigration. On the centre-left, solutions offered by critics of neoliberalism like Krugman and Stiglitz, who vehemently oppose the cuts agenda, will have more influence, especially if the cuts backfire as drastically as they are predicting. They offer what Andrew Gamble calls a ‘regulatory liberalism’, with free markets checked by regulation of the banking sector and some modest redistribution. The more radical left will be interested in the left-wing Keynesian solutions offered by the likes of Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson, not to mention Tim Bending in this very forum.

This author is more sympathetic to the anticapitalists, such as David Harvey and Alex Callinicos, who argue that in the long run it will be necessary to transcend capitalist social relations. However, I would modestly suggest that the debate on the Left as to the best long-term alternative is not likely to be resolved in time for us to face up to the immediate task of stopping the cuts. It should be enough for us to agree that the cuts aren’t necessary, that they are being imposed as part of a political project to reduce the size of the welfare state, and that the only reason why the plethora of alternatives are not being explored is because of a lack of political will among the groups dominant in the British state.

As I see it, the Left has no choice but to look to and work in the trade unions for the agencies that will resist the cuts agenda. This poses some difficulties. It has taken a while for the traditional institutions of the labour movement to grasp the severity of the situation. Inertia, tactical conservatism, loyalty to the Parliamentary Labour Party’s leadership, and the fear of risk-taking after years of declining union density, will tend to restrain the trade union leadership from reacting in a proportionate fashion to the scale of the assault. It is the job of the Left to alert people to the exigencies of the cuts agenda, and to the urgent need for militancy beyond the traditional policies of the trade union leadership. This does not involve treating trade union leaders as an ‘enemy’ to be ritually denounced. We should seek to work with them where possible. But we should not be constrained by their limits.

The Left should also seek to unite those constituencies - centrally public sector workers - who are best placed to resist the cuts into some form of united organisation. There should be no sectarianism about this. Many on the Left are justly disgusted by New Labour, and understandably want nothing to do with the Labour Party. But the people who will be most affected by these cuts will be Labour voters, and affiliates. The industrial battles that ensue in the coming year will play out inside the Labour Party because, for all that the Blairites may have wished otherwise, the party remains rooted in the organised working class. Those links have been weakening for more than a decade, but in the 2010 election, many working class voters in flooded back to the Labour Party, and this deprived the Tories of an outright majority. So it is important not to under-estimate the party’s ability to renew its working class support, especially as the Liberals sink to 15% in the polls. What is needed, I would suggest, is a multi-party, multi-organisation, trade union-based united front, the sole criterion for unity within it being agreement on the objective of preventing the cuts and advancing alternatives. If we can achieve this much unity, and obstruct the cuts agenda, we will also create a crisis for the government that will throw wide open the debate about the real alternatives to the defunct policies of the last thirty years.

Richard Seymour is the author of ‘The Liberal Defence of Murder’ and ‘The Meaning of David Cameron’. He blogs at Lenin’s Tomb.


i Toby Helm, Jamie Doward & Anushka Asthana, ‘Treasury orders cabinet ministers to brace themselves for 40% cuts’, The Guardian, 3 July 2010
ii Danny Blanchflower & Elias Papaioannou, ‘David Cameron invites a ‘double-dip recession’ if he insists on Greek medicine for Britain’s deficit’, Daily Telegraph, 8 June 2010
iii William Green, ‘Ronnie Campbell calls for honesty over public sector job cuts’, The Journal, 15 April 2010
iv Sean O’Grady, ‘£2,840 - cost to every family of filling public finance black hole’, The Independent, 17 September 2009
v Chris Giles, ‘Poor to be hit most by service cuts’, Financial Times, 23 June 2010
vi See ‘Voters sceptical of government consultation on cuts’,, 29 June 2010; ‘Unions slam budget cut consultation’,, 9 July 2010; Polly Curtis & Patrick Wintour, ‘Spending cuts consultation is a PR ploy, says Nigel Lawson’, The Guardian, 8 June 2010; ‘Cuts by referendum’, CentreRight blog,, 7 June 2010
vii George Osborne, ‘My pledge to public sector workers’, The Guardian, 16 April 2010
viii See James M Buchanan & Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, University of Michigan Press, 1962; William A Niskanen Jr., Bureaucracy and Representative Government, Transaction Books, 1971
ix Hélène Mulholland, ‘Budget 2010: George Osborne defends plans to shrink state’, The Guardian, 23 June 2010; Benedict Brogan, ‘Gordon Brown has voters in a trance - it’s time for a wake-up call’, Daily Telegraph, 10 March 2010; ‘Tories ‘can fight poverty best’‘, BBC News, 10 November 2009; ‘Iain Duncan Smith vows to tackle ‘absurd’ welfare dependency’, Press Association, 27 May 2010; David Cameron MP ‘Transforming the British economy: Coalition strategy for economic growth’,, 28 May 2010
x See William E Scheuerman, ‘The Unholy Alliance of Carl Schmitt and Friedrich A Hayek’, in Carl Schmitt: The End of Law, Rowman & Littlefield, 1999
xi See David Coates, Prolonged Labour: The Slow Birth of New Labour, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, pp. 64-65; Simon Rogers, ‘UK public spending since 1963’, The Guardian, 26 June 2010; for some background on New Labour policy on spending and employment, see Richard Seymour, The Meaning of David Cameron, Zero Books, 2010, pp. 57-58
xii For background on the New Left critique of Labourism, see David Coates, ed., Paving The Third Way: The Critique of Parliamentary Socialism, Merlin Press, London, 2003; Ralph Miliband, The State in Capitalist Society: The Analysis of the Western System of Power, Open University, 1969; on the upshot of Labour’s travails in the 1970s, an excellent source is Gregory Elliott, Labourism and the English Genius: The Strange Death of Labour England?, Verso, London and New York, 1993; on Labour ministers’ confrontations with civil servants, see Stuart Weir and David Beetham, Political Power and Democratic Control in Britain, Routledge, 1998; and Anthony Seldon and Kevin Hickson, New Labour, old Labour: the Wilson and Callaghan governments, 1974-79, Routledge, 2004; for an overall view of Labour’s relationship to the crisis of the post-war consensus and the emergence of a ‘New Capitalism’, see Jeremy Gilbert, ‘After ‘68: Narratives of the New Capitalism”, New Formations, 2008
xiii More details on Labour’s adaptation to neoliberalism can be found in Richard Seymour, The Meaning of David Cameron, Zero Books, 2010, pp. 35-42 & 67-70
xivAs Tony Wood explains, this description was applied because the City’s lax regulatory regime allowed US stockbrokers to get away with behaviour in London that would they could never get away with in New York.  See Tony Wood, ‘Good Riddance to New Labour’, New Left Review 62, March-April 2010
xv On Burnham’s flirtation with the ‘s’ word, see Allegra Stratton & Patrick Wintour, ‘Andy Burnham’s Labour leadership bid based on a return to socialist values’, The Guardian, 1 July 2010; see also ‘Labour candidates Balls and Miliband criticise Iraq war’, BBC News, 22 May 2010; ‘Labour leader bid: Diane Abbott pledges to fight cuts’, BBC News, 28 May 2010; Balls has attempted to soften his position on spending cuts, stating that New Labour’s aim of reducing the structural deficit by half through public spending cuts was a ‘mistake’ due to the rapidity of the reduction aimed at, but he remains committed to deep cuts. ‘Labour leadership: Cuts pledge was a mistake - Ed Balls’, BBC News, 12 July 2010
xvi See ‘Prime Minister’s questions: The Full Story’, BBC News, 9 June 2010
xvii Paul Krugman, ‘The Third Depression’, New York Times, 27 June 2010
xviii On this alarming point, see David McNally, ‘From Financial Crisis to World-Slump: Accumulation, Financialisation, and the Global Slowdown’, Historical Materialism, 17, 2009; and David McNally, ‘The Mutating Crisis of Global Capitalism’, Socialism 2010, Chicago, 2010

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