Article on late Senator Henry Jackson and his politics

This article explains Denis MacShane’s support for the pro-labour, pro-environment, and anti-Stalinism that helped form the late Senator Jackson’s politics.
The Hidden Conservatives

Political commentators are making a mistake when they assume the David Cameron is trying to borrow the tactics that propelled Labour to power in 1997. The superficial similarities between Tony Blair and David Cameron are obvious but Cameron has no Gordon Brown, nor Robin Cook, nor Mo Mowlam able either to think hard and strategically or to reach out empathetically to connect with British voters a decade ago in a way Labour had not done since 1945.
The real example Cameron wants to follow is that of George W Bush who invented "Compassionate Conservatism" as the only way to ease the Clinton New Democrats out of office.
In 1999, after a visit to Washington I wrote a memo for Tony Blair under the heading "Why George W Bush Will be the Next President." It was not rocket science. Bush the junior was touring America talking the language of blacks, women, the poor, Hispanics and making sure on every platform he was flanked by new Americans.
Even today, the presence of Condoleeza Rice sends out a powerful signal at a time when the idea of a woman foreign secretary or one with an ethnic background is unthinkable for European governments of left and right.
Even in office Bush has been more Keynsian than a true follower of Milton Friedman. The massive expansion in public spending and hiring of government employees under Bush is without precedent in American history.
Will the Tories go that far? Can they bury Thatcherism in the way Blair, Brown and Cook buried the Labourism that permitted short bursts in government followed by longer and longer periods in opposition?
As the Conservative seek inspiration from the United States they copy Republican cross-dressers in more and more ways.
One example is the effort to cast the former US Senator, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, as a kind of closet Cameronite. To be sure, Jackson was opposed to Soviet totalitarianism. He moved an important amendment which forced US trade policy towards the Soviet Union to negotiate the emigration of Jews and others who wanted to escape to freedom.
But Jackson’s most famous fight was with Henry Kissinger and the American conservative realists who believed in doing business with totalitarian regimes rather than confronting communism ideologically and politically.
Jackson was a big government Democratic Senator from one of the more liberal and progressive states in America, the north-east pacific state of Washington, home today to more left-wing bookshops in the US than any other state.
He was a strong supporter of American labour and worked closely with the manufacturing unions whose members produced Boeing planes in Seattle where he lived in a working class district.
Jackson’s biggest achievement was to force through legislation against President Nixon to set up the National Environment Agency and make environmental impact assessments a legal obligation on companies. US big business hates them as much as they hate Jackon’s beloved labour movement.
Jackson drew much of his ideological inspiration from the pro-labour, pro-environment, high-taxation, strong-government but anti-communist politics of Nordic social democracy. Nordic trade unions ousted or marginalised communist and shop steward militancy in the 1940s.
Today’s Tories are impoverished ahistorical creatures. They cast around for inspiration from the United States and alight on a figure like Jackson who was ready to intervene to promote democracy and use US power to that end. But he wanted government to intervene to promote green policy, to back workers and unions and to use its power to promote social justice.
If Cameron and his Notting Hill Tories really want to be followers of Scoop Jackson they have a long way to go. And of course they do not. Their secret bible is the new book by the young Tory ideologue, Douglas Murray, "Neoconservatism: why we need it." Murray makes the case for military intervention to defend democracy and freedom.
One of his heroines is the neo-con granny, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who was one of the main philosophers of neoconservatism after it took root in US policy circles 25 years ago. But when Professor Kirkpatrick faced her first big challenge as Ronald Reagan’s neo-con Ambassador to the United Nations, namely the invasion and occupation of the Falkland Islands her reaction was to side with the fascist junta not the people who suddenly lost their freedom.
She was to be seen in New York going to Argentinian diplomatic parties at the UN to support dictatorship provided it was a right-wing dictatorship. And this is the problem with neoconservatism. It is usually one-sided in turning a blind eye to dictators like the torturing thug who runs Uzbekistan if he offers support for some other crusade.
Douglas Murray wants a true muscular neoconservatism to take over today’s Tories. His book argues for the NHS to be privatised, Britain to quit the Council of Europe, massive cuts in public services and Britain to move to the exit door of the European Union. Other than on the last point, Cameron is leading the Tories, at least in formal declarations, in the opposite direction of seeking to get into the same Guardian-BBC bed as the Lib-Dems, and much of Labour.
Hence the Cameron conundrum or David’s dilemma. He wants to Americanise the Tories in the sense of making them more Jacksonite or able to imitate George W Bush’s compassionate conservatism as shaped to win in 2000. But Jackson was a greenish union-hugger whose anti-communism wanted the US tax-payer to pay ever higher taxes to promote freedom. Bush’s conservatism had led to deficits and public spending Labour dare not dream of. A new Toryism for Britain waits to be born. Despite the genuflections to Washington it is unlikely to find true inspiration from across the Atlantic.