The Brown Government: A Policy Evaluation

The Brown Government: A Policy Evaluation

The Brown Government: A Policy Evaluation

The Brown Government: A Policy Evaluation

Synopsis

The Brown Government provides an interim evaluation of Gordon Brown's Labour administration through identifying continuities and discontinuities with the Blair governments from 1997. By focusing on key ideas and areas of public policy it presents an analysis of the first 18 months of Brown's government. This book is notable for its topicality particularly for the discussions of the credit crunch, the British banking crises and the interconnectedness of these events with the global economic downturn.

A study of Brown's handling of these crises in the economy is important as it is arguable that the present recession and credit crunch will reach unprecedented proportions and therefore define the character and content of British politics in the coming years. By conducting an examination of the Brown Government's public policy priorities one can begin to decipher its aims and values and, by so doing, begin to understand the next phase of the New Labour project. In this sense the book is a contribution to the ongoing study of contemporary British social democracy.

This book was published as a special issue of Policy Studies.

Excerpt

Matt Beech and Simon Lee

From its inception, the ideological complexion and public policy agenda of the Brown government has been of burgeoning academic interest to members of the Centre for British Politics at the University of Hull in the UK. Matt Beech’s research agenda has focused on studying New Labour in government (Beech 2006) and more broadly the ideas and values underpinning British social democracy (Beech and Hickson 2007). Simon Lee (2007) has recently published a monograph on the politics and ideas of Gordon Brown and in 2008 Beech and Lee (2008) co-edited a volume of essays which sought to assess the impact of Tony Blair’s New Labour government. At the same time associates of the centre such as Stephen Driver (2006) and Mark Evans (2004) have made other significant contributions to the study of New Labour in power. An interim study of the Brown government was therefore an obvious choice for the Centre’s next project.

For many of its members Gordon Brown was a most eagerly anticipated leader of the Labour Party and British prime minister. Indeed, he was a constant thorn in Tony Blair’s side because of his profound understanding of party history, his grip on policy, his popularity at Labour’s grassroots and his unconcealed desire to assume the office of prime minister. Those who believed that Brown was the much-required antidote to Blairite New Labour have been disappointed thus far. Although Brown’s approach to the premiership is different in style it remains similar in substance, or so it seems.

In the aftermath of a tumultuous 18 months dominated by ‘events’ academics, commentators and students of British politics can now begin to evaluate Brown’s social democracy in earnest. The interpretations vary, as is to be expected, but the prospects for the Labour Party in government seem increasingly bleak in electoral terms. The most notable issue on Brown’s watch is the ‘credit crunch’ or the banking crisis which, in turn, is a product of the global economic downturn; a downturn that is threatening to develop into a deep global recession. Thus, Brown’s era at the head of government is rapidly descending into a period of crisis management characterised by the politics of austerity. These are exceptional times in British politics which now require serious academic reflection by political scientists. This book hopes to bridge the gap.

Overview of the book

The chapters which follow provide an interim evaluation of the Brown government after 18 months in power. They are organised around four key themes: an assessment of the Blair legacy; an evaluation of continuities and discontinuities between the Blair and Brown administrations; the identification of Brown’s governing dilemmas . . .

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