No real consensus on the old politics

April 19, 1996

Assumptions that there was a post-war, pre-Thatcher political settlement owe more to A. A. Milne than to Machiavelli, said Peter Kerr of Birmingham University. He compared the assumption to Winnie the Pooh's hunt for the Woozle. The footprints Pooh and Piglet were tracking turned out to be their own.

"It is very difficult to find a discernible literature on the subject," he said. "What we have are a series of references to a social democratic Keynesian consensus with very little attempt to explain empirically what it actually means in practice."

The apparent dominance of soc-ial democratic Keynesianism was misleading. Analysts had confused party rhetoric with the reality of state policies. Policies in the earlier period were closer to Thatcherism.

"We need to re-examine this period. A consistent note is that Keynesian social democratic interventionism was over-ridden by the consensus on exchange rates and the need to maintain sterling."

Political economists had drawn a different picture of the last 50 years.

"Books like Will Hutton's The State We're In present overwhelming evidence that a crucial element of British economic decline has been a lack of planned intervention or state action aimed at regenerating the economy."

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