Tony Blair and the Centre Left

By Rose, Paul B. | Contemporary Review, January 1995 | Go to article overview

Tony Blair and the Centre Left

Rose, Paul B., Contemporary Review

In his very relevant book published in 1981 Professor David Marquand finished on the following note: 'The new progressive coalition which the times demand cannot be contrived from the top ... what is needed ... is a marriage between the communitarian, decentralist, participatory radicalism to which the Liberal Democrats are heirs, and the communitarian, decentralist, participatory strands in the socialist inheritance: a marriage, if you like, between Thomas Paine and William Morris. Such a marriage hardly needs official blessing'.

The collectivism that characterised Labour in its early epic struggles are typified for me by a miniature miner's lamp from the General Strike of 1926, sold to raise funds. It was worn by my mother when heckling a fascist rally in the thirties, and torn from her but is now worn by my son. He is self-employed in the field of professional video equipment - significantly the kind of job that did not even exist during the formative years of the Labour Party and Trade Union movements. They created an ideology relevant to its time which grafted together the various strains of trade unionism and Socialist thought that made up the British Labour Party.

The individualist, radical, humane, socially conscious but sometimes eccentric values central to the remnants of the once great Liberal Party were by no means fully absorbed into the fairly broad church of the Labour Party. Indeed, the Labour Party posed as a class party and was often recognised and vilified by its enemies as a party with only sectional interests.

To most Labour supporters, Liberals were regarded as 'Tories with a conscience' or 'Wishy-washy'. Their apparently amorphous nature and occasional Liberal-Tory pacts obscured the underlying radical Liberal tradition that in some respects made the Labour Party appear as conservative and even reactionary. This was increasingly so in the post-1960 period of social, demographic and economic change which transformed the electorate and its aspirations. New technologies were steadily reducing the number of blue collar workers and creating a less cohesive labour force in which many of the old shibboleths needed to be reappraised. Labour was no longer necessarily the party for the young and idealistic.

To many persons who even voted Conservative but had become disillusioned, the idea of voting Labour at the last General Election was unacceptable. Nevertheless, a vote for the Liberal Democrats, particularly in the south, was an option that had become increasingly attractive. To many young people for whom the history of the Labour movement was as remote as the Peasant's Revolt of 1381, the radical liberalism of a party committed to electoral and constitutional reform, willingly rather than reluctantly embracing Europe, was an attractive contrast to the still lumbering Labour machine. The achievements of the Labour Government of 1945-51 were as remote as the post-1906 Liberal administration was to those who voted in Labour after the Second World War.

Those of my own generation born into the Labour Party were among the vanguard of the social democratic upheaval, frustrated by the failure of Labour to free itself from a once glorious but no longer relevant past.

In the industrial heartlands of Labour, tradition still held the party together but outside that ghetto, in the Celtic fringes, over vast areas of Southern England and even pockets within Labour's heartlands, an alternative non-Tory challenge was making headway. From Harrow to Hastings, from Deal to Devon within the very heartlands of Conservatism, that new challenge was making significant and even sensational inroads. Side by side, two parties of opposition to the radical Toryism of the 1980s separated by history and geography were grappling with the problem that permitted two left of centre traditions to allow a Conservative monopoly on the basis of about 42 per cent of the electorate.

That this occurred was due to the context of adversarial institutions enshrined in the very design of Parliament. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Tony Blair and the Centre Left


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.