George Walford: Togetherness

When the left began to take part in British municipal government the enthusiasm of its supporters for setting up communal services earned its activities the title of ‘gas and water socialism.’ The Labour Party, during its periods of office, moved national life in the same direction. Education, sanitation, medicine, fuel, transport and, for a great many people, housing too, were placed under state or municipal control. The socialists in the Labour Party, and the other movements and organisations which tend to take their side against conservatism, value co-operation above competition in the provision of goods and services.

Mrs. Thatcher and her government have been dismantling the structure of state or municipal ownership established over generations, and the undertaking has aroused bitter protest from the Labour side. In moving from municipal to private housing, encouraging private health insurance in place of some NHS services, bringing private firms in to take over municipal activities and returning the nationalised industries to private ownership the present government, in the Labour view, are taking the country back into the dark ages, exposing the young, the old, the unemployed, the poor, the sick and the disabled to risks and sufferings from which they ought to be protected. According to the left the government ought to be developing mutual support and co-operation, not breaking down the economy into competitive fragments.

Taking high moral ground on this issue, the Labour socialists and their associates see nothing wrong in their own tendency towards fragmentation and competition in political matters. Critical of national institutions, often hostile to the monarchy, the House of Lords, the police, the military and the security services, they also fight politically among themselves. with a ferocity that led Norman Tebbit, in the run-up to the 1987 General Election, to describe them as ‘firmly united in fraternal hatred of each other’s guts.’ The disunity and combativeness of the left in political matters arouse among their opponents the revulsion they themselves feel for competitive individualism when it appears in the provision of goods and services

from Ideological Commentary 33, May 1988.