Is New Labour an entirely new political force? Will a pro-European British government unintentionally stall the integration of Europe? British politics is the most open it has been for a generation. Six analysts try to make some sense of itby John Lloyd / June 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
John Lloyd: Are we seeing something entirely new in this Blairite government? A government which is no longer social democratic, but not Conservative or Thatcherite either. Does it represent some kind of post-social democratic third way?
Ralf Dahrendorf: I think we are seeing something uniquely British which cannot be translated into any other country, despite the interest of the centre left in some parts of continental Europe. That is to say we are seeing something indelibly marked by the Thatcher years. Is this the start of something new? I think it might be. Curiously, despite all the excitement of the first couple of weeks, what is striking is the lowering of the ideological temperature.
David Willetts: I can see why it is a good electoral strategy to claim to offer a third way. Labour is trying to have the best of both worlds. They are saying: look, you can have Tory fiscal and tax policy but we bring such a different emotional attitude towards the public sector that somehow it will all work out better. At root it is Owenite, you can be tough but caring too. I doubt it is sustainable, but we’ll have to see.
John Edmonds: There is certainly an intention to create a new approach. There is a phrase which echoes through the Smith and Blair years about social justice and efficiency being different sides of the same coin: it is efficient to invest in social justice. I think old Labour was always a bit apologetic about social justice, it conceded to the right that justice was inefficient. The policy implication of the new way is that your economic policy is your education policy.
Melanie Phillips: I think the situation is at the moment rather confused; that is to say, I am rather confused. The Blairite communitarian rhetoric is about addressing rampant liberal individualism-both the deformities of the Thatcherite market and the deformities of the libertine individualism of the left. It is confusing because on the one hand we appear to have an enthusiastic embrace of the market, on the other hand we have Jack Straw in the Home Office and Frank Field at Social Security who believe in reciprocal duties and responsibilities, which takes us back to the communitarian agenda.
Michael Ignatieff: Yes, we are, I think, seeing a new political force. Mainly because there is nowhere else to go. What is at stake…