Michael Gove: Deep red is the new black as Labour reverts to its old ways

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The Independent Online

What is striking about today's Labour Party is that it hasn't evolved along the path set by Tony Blair, absorbing its more progressive characteristics and developing them further. Instead, under the guise of "moving on" from Blair, the Labour Party has in fact regressed. Under Gordon Brown, Labour has retreated into its traditional comfort zones, ditching the most modernising aspects of the Blair years and going back to many of the failed dogmas of the 1970s and 1980s. The spirit of Seventies socialist nostalgia has re-captured the Labour Party, and it can be found in all those key areas that Blair first recognised had to change.

First, the issues Labour speak about. Class warfare has not only been resurrected; it has been elevated to holy principle, used in every possible circumstance including, most famously, in vicious, aggressive and direct attacks from a Prime Minister who purports to govern in the national interest.

You can't help but listen to Labour ministers speak today and get the impression they feel like men and women set free to campaign in a way they feared had gone out of fashion – but are delighted to find is now all the rage. Toff-bashing, the politics of envy, an assault on aspiration and a war on anyone getting above themselves. We can now see the Labour campaign in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election was not an aberration: it was a prototype.

Vintage Labour is back. Deep Red is the New Black. In place of Tony Blair's self-consciously unifying rhetoric, the politics of the dividing line is everywhere deployed. Tony Blair wanted the Labour Party to be the political arm not of the trade union movement but of the British people as a whole. But now Labour has become once more the party of division – them and us, partisans and enemies, strikers and bosses.

From such a divisive agenda, so policies naturally flow. Increasing the top-rate of tax. Cutting pension relief. Raising national insurance contributions on middle-income earners. Imposing higher costs on businesses. Freezing the inheritance tax threshold.

So Labour is today as Labour was just a few short decades ago: a movement against aspiration, against enterprise, against anyone who dares to make a better life for themselves or pass something on to their children.

This is an edited extract from a speech by the shadow Children's Secretary yesterday