- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

Britain is in serious danger of becoming a de facto one-party state following the unmitigated defeat of the Conservatives in last Thursdays elections. It also faces the loss of its national independence and the reversal of most of Margaret Thatchers free market reforms. Yet the left-wing political and economic revolution now under way in London goes largely unnoticed abroad, and has so far experienced little serious opposition at home.
This is the great achievement of Anthony Blair, the accomplished actor and television performer whose conservative appearance and private-school accents have persuaded millions at home and abroad that he is in some way Lady Thatchers natural successor. In reality, he seeks to be the gravedigger of Thatcherism and is close to achieving that goal.
Simple economic good luck, combined with wily calculation, have obscured or postponed the effects of the Labor Partys return to tax and spend policies. The Tory decision to quit the European Unions Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in 1992 triggered an economic recovery whose benefits are still being felt and for which Mr. Blair has unjustifiably taken the credit.
In truth, since Labor won the 1997 election, Britains economic performance has deteriorated despite improved global conditions, with the growth rate falling from an average 3.1 percent to an average 2.6 percent. Still more arresting is the colossal rise in taxation during the same period. The Inland Revenue, Britains IRS, collected less than $144 billion in 1997. In the current year it expects receipts of $215 billion, an increase far greater than the 8 percent inflation in the same period. Much of this money has been raised by stealthy methods, including damaging taxes on retirement savings, as well as by heavy duties on gasoline. Mr. Blair postponed direct rises in income tax, but now that he is safe in office these are threatening to fall heavily on the middle class, with an effective 50 percent rate (already 40 percent) likely to be imposed on middle-ranking professionals on annual earnings above $47,000. The money raised will be poured into the sink holes of a National Health Service so bad that a leading British doctor recently declared that he would not want his own family to be treated by it, and a school system among the worst in the industrialized world. There it will be used to employ supporters of the Labor Party.
Most of these policies did not really begin to take effect until about two years ago to ensure that their full impact would not be felt until after this years elections, which, significantly, were held 11 months earlier than necessary under law.
In its early years, Labor concentrated on constitutional reforms which began the break-up of the United Kingdom and weakened what it called "the forces of conservatism." These changes were accompanied by a deliberate politicization of the previously neutral civil service and by a presidential style which encroached on the equally neutral monarchy. They were the culmination of a long cultural revolution, in which undeterred by a Conservative government in office liberal thinkers warred successfully against conservative ideas in the schools, the churches, the universities, the arts, broadcasting and much of the national press. They did their work well. When Mr. Blair appointed a "Minister of Culture" in 1997 nobody laughed. When he declared "New Labor is the political arm of none other than the British people as a whole," and adopted as his slogan the words "For the many, not the few," only an observant minority were perturbed.
Last Tuesday, days before the election, I was present when Mr. Blair chided reporters for asking him questions he did not approve of (about alleged impropriety by his government colleagues) and when he made the following amazing statement: "At this election we ask the British people to speak out and say the public services are Britains priority, to say clearly and unequivocally that no party should ever again attempt to lead this country by proposing to cut Britains schools, Britains hospitals and Britains public services. Never again a return to the agenda of the 80s."
Here was a supposedly democratic head of government dictating the opposition Conservative Partys policies, declaring that it could never again seek to reduce the role and size of the state. When I suggested that he might be acting in a high-handed and undemocratic fashion, he appeared not to understand, and deflected the question, as he and his party generally do when subjected to any kind of critical interrogation.
The culmination of Mr. Blairs program is to be British membership of the European single currency, which will cede control of the British economy to an unaccountable Central Bank in Frankfurt, and so enfold Britain in a new European socialist superstate which will wipe out any remaining traces of Thatcherism and, incidentally, place Britains armed forces under a European command and so end 60 years of Anglo-American defense and intelligence co-operation. Americans should hope for a Conservative recovery, but it has to be said that it looks most unlikely to come about.

Peter Hitchens is a commentator for the London Mail on Sunday and author of "The Abolition of Britain, from Winston Churchill to Princess Diana."

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