Mr Blair is in a terrible mess. If only he had done as I am doing...

'A government that started with such high hopes is giving an impression of aimless flailing'
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The Independent Online

It has become transparently clear in recent weeks that the Government has lost its way. Elected in 1997 with the greatest goodwill of any administration for a generation, amid more favourable economic circumstances than any government since Britain enjoyed the bonus of North Sea oil combined with a sky-high oil price, it now appears to wish to do a public impression of succumbing to a series of purely self-inflicted wounds.

It has become transparently clear in recent weeks that the Government has lost its way. Elected in 1997 with the greatest goodwill of any administration for a generation, amid more favourable economic circumstances than any government since Britain enjoyed the bonus of North Sea oil combined with a sky-high oil price, it now appears to wish to do a public impression of succumbing to a series of purely self-inflicted wounds.

This is no small matter. William Hague appears intent on repositioning the Conservative Party as close as possible to Jörg Haider. His central policies, which consist of promising Labour's level of social spending while simultaneously slashing taxes, are economically illiterate. His policy toward Europe would confine Britain to the outer fringes of the most important economic developments affecting the country's future. His policies on race are an affront not only to Labour but to the whole spectrum of liberal, and even civilised, values.

Such a Tory party, which has now sunk into a sort of sub-Thatcherite twilight world in which only those to the right of Norman Tebbit feel thoroughly at home, should be a permanent butt of jokes. That the present government is actually threatened by a party spouting such political and economic nonsense is an indication of how deep a mess New Labour has got itself into.

Far from gloating over the spectacle of discomfiture of former colleagues, it is threatening to everyone. Against seemingly overwhelming odds, the members of the Millbank tendency responsible for creating the political débâcle of Labour in the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies, and the mayoral election in London, really may achieve the ultimate "triumph" by bringing to power the most obscurantist Conservative government this century. It is a tragedy that a government that started with such high hopes, and whose core, I know, is composed of people who are personally deeply concerned about the country, should give a present impression of aimless flailing.

I had, of course, wanted to argue about the direction of that government from within the Labour Party. I still hope to in the near future. But the fact that I am not able to do so at present does not mean that I am going to step back from being concerned with what is the most important party for political progress in this country and the core of any progressive coalition in British society.

My approach as Mayor, and via the Greater London Authority, is to do what New Labour should have done at a UK level when it came to office in 1997. That is, to put together a broad social coalition that will deliver a number of very real improvements in the quality of life of the population and economic development of the city.

That does not mean deliberately seeking enemies - as some have recently rather curiously suggested Labour should attempt at a national level. But it means, where entrenched or sectoral interests oppose these general improvements, being prepared to face down or defeat them. A big tent is not the same as a paralysed administration.

The media has paid a lot of attention to those who have agreed to join London's new administration. A cabinet that includes Judith Mayhew, of the Corporation of the City of London, John McDonnell, one of Labour's most radical MPs, and, I very much hope, Lord Rogers is scarcely anything other than broad. Susan Kramer, on the board of Transport for London, cannot be criticised for pulling punches during the election campaign. George Barlow, chairman of the London Development Agency (LDA), has a team that includes many existing pillars of London's business community and, I am proud to say, also some of London's outstanding business women, as well as those with a background in Asian and black business - Honor Chapman, Tamara Ingram, Mary Reilly, Judith Mayhew, Yvonne Thompson and Lord Paul.

There is not the slightest element of cabinet responsibility in London's administration. I expect not only to work with such colleagues but, on occasion, to be criticised by them - including for what I write in this column. All that I have asked of anyone is that they work for the next four years for London, and we will find out who has the best ideas to develop the capital. If, as has been suggested, I find myself fighting the next mayoral election against several members of the new administration, that will only mean that the best talents in London are included in it.

But it is not paralysing. While those who join the new bodies of the GLA thereby take no responsibility whatever for the mayor's actions, I have made clear what I intend to do. Outrageous though such a concept may seem in the new republic of spin doctors, I actually intend to carry out the manifesto I presented to the electorate, which they voted for.

I stated quite openly, for example, that I did not believe that London's transport problems could be solved without a large shift into public and social forms of transport. Attempts to solve London's traffic gridlock by expanding the use of private cars in the centre of London are unfinanceable and unworkable both for commuters and business. One paper commented last week that my appointments to the LDA's board indicated that I wanted to use hard-headed business efficiency to achieve social regeneration - a phrase I wish I had thought of for my manifesto. I want to help the City of London to remain Europe's financial capital, a cultural policy that reflects everything from Tate Modern to the most diverse communities in London, and a war on racism wherever it appears in employment, politics or business. Far from that being pie in the sky, I believe that the incredible talent that has agreed to work with the new administration will come up with many more goals, and during the next four years much of my time will be spent listening as well as talking.

I do not have the intention of deliberately seeking out a single enemy of such an agenda to "define" it against. But if any appears, I intend to use every democratic platform available to defeat them. That is what Labour should have done in 1997 - instead of accepting too much of the claustrophobic economic and social inheritance of the previous administration. The electorate has given me the privilege, at least in one city, to try to do what New Labour could be doing nationally. I intend to use it.

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