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New Left Review 9, May-June 2001


British politics under the wand of Redemption, as the new leitmotif of the party system. Similarities and contrasts between the ex-imperial states of UK and France, as New Labour shuffles towards listless re-election.

TOM NAIRN

MARIO AND THE MAGICIAN

The United Kingdom was promised a Heritage General Election from the very beginning of the year 2001. [1] This essay is excerpted from Pariah: Misfortunes of the British Kingdom, forthcoming from Verso. So determined was New Labour to stage it that nothing was to be allowed to get in its way. Until, that is, the virtual shut-down of the British countryside by the epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease, from March onwards. Even this was at first impatiently disregarded. But things got so bad, with so many indications of voter resentment and apathy, that Prime Minister Blair found himself unable to hold the show in May, as at first hoped. A short postponement to June was agreed, with extreme reluctance, and against great opposition from within his Party. Meanwhile, funeral pyres and pits notwithstanding, British voters found themselves ushered back into the old election-time Music Hall—obliged to take their seats for the traditional ‘swingometer’ Pantomime, as the orchestra tuned up, and the reassuring chink of glasses resounded from the interval bar. Although nobody thought New Labour would lose, the Magus declared war against ‘apathy’ early on, letting it be known he was impatient, and eager to consummate the Third Way. His entire court clearly feared that, in tune with New Labour’s general obeisance towards things American, British voting abstention might slump down to US levels, thus undermining his spell.

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