The End of New Labour: Switching the Leader Will Be a Waste of Time If the Party Does Not Radically Change Direction, Argues Neal Lawson

By Lawson, Neal | New Statesman (1996), September 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

The End of New Labour: Switching the Leader Will Be a Waste of Time If the Party Does Not Radically Change Direction, Argues Neal Lawson


Lawson, Neal, New Statesman (1996)


The end of every summer marks a moment of potential political renewal. Pundits and commentators urge leaders to modernise, consolidate, shift left, move right or die. Reality rarely matches the hype. But the tail end of the wet summer of 2008 lives up to the hyperbole. Labour really must change or die.

Whatever Gordon Brown decides to do as he considers re-launches and reshuffles, something is glaringly apparent: the new Labour project, initiated, perhaps unwittingly, a quarter of a century ago by Neil Kinnock and accelerated to dramatic effect by Tony Blair after 1994, is finished. The center left needs a new paradigm in thinking and action, one as different from new Labour as this was from the creed it superseded. But a new left project that mixes commitment to principle with a lust for power in equal measure has to be built on an understanding of the rise and fall of new Labour.

For the century before new Labour, the centre left put all its hopes in the basket of the bureaucratic state. The combination of economic Fordism and the elitist politics of Fabianism and parliamentary Leninism created a bureaucratic model of top-down state reform. For the 30 years between 1948 and 1978, the bureaucratic state ruled supreme. It died as society became more complex, decentralisation became popular and we witnessed a welcome end to the age of deference.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The failure of the state was the most important cause of the right-wing response, a market state which ruled for an equivalent 30-year period from 1978 until now.

Servants of the market

Historians will bracket new Labour with this era and with Thatcherism. That does not make it the same as neoliberalism. New Labour was a contradictory and limited response to the free-market forces unleashed during the 1980s. But its failure to make a decisive break with Thatcherism meant new Labour's response to the crisis of the left and of the state was doomed, containing the seeds of its own destruction.

After four electoral defeats, new Labour inverted the principle of social democracy: Labour governments would no longer try to make society the master of the market; it would make society its servant. Social justice would become a product of economic efficiency. Globalisation would not be regulated in the interests of society but would be accommodated.

Unlike under Thatcherism, people would not be left totally alone in the face of open market competition. New Labour believed that, for Britain to compete effectively on the world stage, people had to be trained, educated and encouraged to become flexible and adaptable. So the state would be modernised. Labour would invest in people to help them become individually competitive.

Crucially, in the name of social justice, the private sector and market forces would be introduced into parts of the public sector Margaret Thatcher had not dreamed of.

As Lord Tebbit, of all people, said recently: "There are some things that just shouldn't be privatised."New Labour was better than Thatcherism, but not different in character.

The nature of the new Labour project was contradictory and it is vital that the positive aspects of its legacy be rescued. Its period of government cannot end up as 13 wasted years. There are three aspects of new Labour the centre left must hold on to: first, the will and ambition to modernise and win; second, the active use of the state to determine different social and economic outcomes (despite the now obvious limitations for motive and method); and, third, completion of the social liberalisation project started by Roy Jenkins in the 1960s.

But Labour's next stage should not be a modified form of Blairism, unable to deal with such market failures as the credit crunch because it doesn't have the belief, the will or the institutional mechanisms to do so.

For new Labour, the market must always come first. …

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
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
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

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The End of New Labour: Switching the Leader Will Be a Waste of Time If the Party Does Not Radically Change Direction, Argues Neal Lawson
Settings

Settings

Typeface
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

Style
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, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

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.