Where does the "third way" lead, that political maxim which the New Labourites went to great lengths to exalt as their guiding star? During their election campaign it was presented as a recipe for bringing former Imperial Britain into closer line with modern political trends in Europe and America, and its acceptance by President Clinton demonstrated that there was something more substantial in his relationship with Mr Blair than their oft-mentioned superficial similarities.
The framework of what really lay concealed behind the respectable façade of the "third way" was unearthed recently in The Times, which attempted to present the true picture of Blair's conduct and actions as those of a highly ambitious autocrat. A comparative analysis of Blairism in the light of Professor Ian Kershaw's new biography of Adolf Hitler suggests that an examination of the success of the Labour Leader and that of the Nazi dictator provokes "justified fear".
Indeed, if we disregard the violence that facilitated Hitler's coming to power and the even greater violence that followed it, the resemblance between the methods of their respective acquisition of power could hardly be more striking.
Kershaw's book explains how Hitler, on coming to power, proceeded to lead his National Socialist Party to complete dominance in every sphere of German life and politics, which is also Blair's overriding ambition for New Labour. Hitler, unlike other 20th-century dictators, came to power through elections under a system of universal suffrage – the first crucial point in which, Kershaw says, British Labour resembles the early years of German Nazism. Both also took advantage of political sister parties rather than either completely assimilating or rejecting them outright.
Unlike Blair, Hitler did not have an immediate Parliamentary majority, a fact which necessitated the exploitation of allies for achieving absolute power, but Labour, according to Kershaw, began with the similar tactic of attacking Royal traditions one by one. In so doing, he "emulated" Hitler and "used" politicians and political parties in order to give his vision "a necessary constitutional legitimacy". Other acts mentioned as hostile to the Monarchy are the plan to weaken the Royal Ulster Constabulary through the Patten reforms, and Lord Wickham's risking his reputation to abolish the House of Lords. 'Reform' has been a favourite concept for Blair, just as it was for Hitler.
Blair obviously learned a lot from history, but the British people did not. Business circles failed to see the reason why a traditionally socialist and nationalisation-orientated Labour Party turned to them – that every party on its way to power needs money. Hitler got his required funding from big business in return for the promise that economic policy would not change too radically and the trade unions would keep their heads down. Blair's offensive against the City of London was basically the same as Hitler's against Berlin: the moment Labour gained power, power was transferred to the representatives of those companies which had financially contributed most to the election win.
In addition to money, however, Hitler had to gain the support of the political, military and cultural élite, a task which necessitated a certain moderation of National Socialist radicalism. Blair's equivalent tactic was to distance New Labour to such an extent from the radicalism of Old that its contrived moderation could act as a bait to traditional Conservative voters.
To push the analogy even further: The excessive centralisation policy of Nazi Germany, while ruling out independence for the old Provinces of the German Empire and its successor, the Weimar Republic, appointed Administrative District Heads (Gauleiter) in each. When Blair assumed power, the United Kingdom was still a unitary country, but the real aim and result of the so-called "devolution" principle which he so zealously supports has in fact been its opposite – the placement of Gauleiter equivalents to assure that certain parts of the country are brought under greater party control than they should be. One Gauleiter – Mo Mowlam – has already been active in Northern Ireland with disastrous results, and others were ready: Donald Dewar for Scotland, Alan Mitchell for Wales, and one to be chosen for Greater London. Meanwhile, the election rules for regional Parliaments – as well as for the European Parliament – are being suitably rigged to provide for New Labour to decide the appointments.