Renewal was first published in 1993 in the wake of Labour's fourth successive general election defeat. Its goal was to contribute to the modernisation of the Labour Party necessary to win at the polls and begin the process of transforming British society. Three successive election victories made it appear that the task of renewing Labour was well and truly achieved, and in one sense it was. The Party changed itself and ended the dismal hegemony of right wing politics. To the extent that Renewal helped to create and sustain the climate for such changes it played an important and positive role.
While Renewal was never a 'Blairite' journal, it did genuinely think that Blair and New Labour would open up spaces to reshape and renew social democracy. That turned out to be wrong. There was progress on the democratic and equality agendas, but not enough. In too many areas the job was left unfinished or barely begun. New Labour was not the continuation of neo liberalism by other means, but it never escaped its shadow, nor fashioned a distinctive and confident governance project. Worse, in its largely cautious, top-down and occasionally downright reactionary approach, it undermined much of the energy and hope for a progressive politics that accompanied its first, historic victory.
In the ideas and policies the journal has sought to promote in recent years, Renewal has tried to develop a broader dialogue on the progressive left. This reflects its long standing view that the real project was only incidentally about modernising Labour. The wider goal was to revitalise the historic purpose of social democracy - to expand the scope of equality, democratic governance and social freedoms within regulated markets. Real modernisation is about the process of reconnecting and reshaping those goals in new social, economic and political contexts. It is against that template that we evaluate the policies and practices of Labour or indeed any organisation. …