A Socialist view of New Labour

Admittedly this post is not my handywork due to the pressure of exams, however I think that it is a very interesting point of debate. Just what do Labour members or former Labour members really feel about their party? How do the socialists, the bedrock of old Labour support, feel about their former party. I was alerted to this post by a friend of mine who is incidently a socialist and it does make interesting reading. I look forward to any comments BULS or other readers wish to express regarding the views articulated in this blog.

“The knives are out for Gordon Brown. New Labour ministers are writhing around trying to explain their party’s deep unpopularity.Some blame Brown’s personality. Others suggest a cabinet reshuffle. Some even suggest that all was well until the day Tony Blair quit Downing Street. But the problem is not one of Gordon Brown or his personality. The problem is New Labour. Since the day New Labour was elected, it has pushed free market policies that have hit the very people the Labour Party has traditionally represented.

New Labour was elected in 1997 on a wave of revulsion against the Tories. Yet instead of acting on that anger, Blair and Brown took up where the Tories left off. The policies implemented by New Labour can be summed up in four words – private good, public bad. It has massively expanded privatisation in health, education, housing, the post and every other public service. Now Brown is demanding that public sector workers accept below-inflation wage deals – at the very time that the cost of living is soaring.

Then, to cap it all, Brown increased taxes on some of the poorest people in Britain. That one act symbolised what New Labour has become – a party geared towards making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Brown and Blair will go down in history as the Labour leaders who took Britain into the most unpopular war in its history. Millions see the connection between New Labour’s arrogance over Iraq and its blind pursuit of unbridled free market policies.Brown and his policies have paved the way for the return of the right. And neither Brown nor any of his possible replacements in New Labour offer a way to halt that advance.

Instead, we must look to all those who oppose war and privatisation, who are active in the unions or in resisting racism. We need to build from the bottom up to fight for an agenda which offers hope to those who have been deserted by Brown and whom the Tories can never represent. That means fighting now for a living wage, for council homes, against war and privatisation. And it means dumping not just Brown, but all the right wing policies at the heart of New Labour.”

The article can be found here


23 thoughts on “A Socialist view of New Labour

  1. In parts this article is pure nonsense. To suggest that privatisation has been massively extended in health and education is a patent over-exaggeration. It neglects to mention the massive investment put into the public services since 2000.

    However, it is quite typical for a party which is failing to be forced back on to an agenda that is pleasing to their core voters. The Conservative Party experienced a similar trend between 1997 and 2005, where the party were forced onto a right-wing, core vote agenda. This sealed the Tory party’s fate until David Cameron ‘modernised’ the party and extended the party’s appeal to a broader electorate,

    Labour should read the advice of the Socialist Worker and do the exact opposite.

  2. Cameron has modernised but he is still pushing a right wing agenda… recent weeks in particular have shown cameron in his true colours and they are firmly blue.

  3. I agree that David Cameron has spread the agenda to a wider electorate Dan however I have to agree with James in the sense that the Tory party has been taking an increasingly right wing perspective on issues such as taxation, immigration etc and I think in the coming weeks and months we can expect much more of this. I do believe and have always believed Britain is a center right country, left wing politics just doesnt cut it with the British electorate as countless election defeates have shown! There is nothing wrong with persuing a right wing agenda as it is ‘what the people want’

    In regards to the article there are indeed some elements which I take issue with however I think the fundamental point is clear, Labour can’t rely on its traditional base of support as it once could and the Tories are creeping in on the middle ground again, this leaves Labour in a ‘1997’ situation if they don’t regain some lost ground… either with their core vote or with middle england.

  4. I have very little time for the socialist worker. I think the article is incredibly false on a number of points. New Labour couples a right to individual prosperity with a desire for that to be shared amonst all citizens. It certainly does not advocate making the rich richer, far from it, if that was New Labour’s outlook, how would the socialist worker explain the lifting of millions out of poverty.

    I agree more with what James said. I don’t believe we have seen hoards of voters turning to the Tories just yet, perhaps we did in Crewe but by-elections are a completely different beast. In the local elections here in Birmingham, Labour and the Tories are still neck and neck on overall share of the vote, it has consistently been Labour voters, simply not going out to support us rather than turning to the common conservative enemy.

  5. Cameron did in fact modernise the conservative party. This was and is still necessary to win the up-coming general election.


  6. … the modernising agenda has not gone either. It is still there. The local election campaign was at least half based on the ‘green’ agenda for example.

    The shift to issues that the public never expected the conservatives to talk about has given us room to take a centre-right view on certain areas of policy. This was always the aim of modernisation.

  7. Tom, if you really think the public are not moving towards the conservatives then you are completely deluded.

  8. In Bartley Green for instance, where I stood as a candidate this month, we saw turnout drop around 800 votes. 400 votes were taken off the Tories and 400 votes off of Labour. On the basis of this result then voters seem turned off by both parties.

    In Kingstanding where you came close to taking us our vote again didn’t come out, this happened in stockland green as well. In weoley, erdington and quinton we saw the last labour seats go, this has been a long expected occurence.

    My point is don’t get all excited too quickly, it’s not over yet.

  9. Tom I agree with you. The Conservatives should certainly not get too excited. But to infer from your key examples that there is no swing towards the Conservatives is wishful thinking. I think you should admit that Labour faces an increasingly strong opposition. It is absolutely essential for your party to admit this and then to guard against those on the left of labour who advocate a hand-brake turn to the left.

    It was important for the conservatives in 2005 to admit we had to change. Hence the shift in emphasis towards the public services, the environment, the ’causes’ of crime etc… Without this we would not have the scope to advocate a centre-right position on other issues.

    It was identical to Labour after at least 1994. New labour realised, to its credit, that it had to attract broader support. They did this by acknowledging some of the principles and policies of the right. This gave them scope to advocate a centre-left position on other issues. For example, centre-left supporters such as Polly Toynbee are correct to point out the re-distributive policies of the Blair government. But equally, New Labour’s original commitment to Conservative spending plans attracted voters who were still concerned about Labour’s economic competence.

    Above anything else, it is important for a political party to simply make some effort to engage with the wider public. Political parties which fail, temporarily or terminally, do so because they become less interested in broader public opinion and more interesting in themselves. This, I’m afraid, seem to the be fate of the current Labour party.

  10. i dont for one minute think that labour has it easy either, far from it. we need to wake up if we are to combat the tory threat, i just wanted to point out that this is going to be an incredibly contested election. you raised a good point about the left in my party, however, i think there is more a threat from members who will get scared by any prospect of opposition.

  11. Tom, the rich have certainly got richer. That’s beyond doubt. The poor have also got poorer.

    The difference between us and the conservatives is that under them, the difference would become more pronounced.

    Labour has redistributed equitably, but not as fast as capitalism has distributed inequitably. It gets a C+, in my books.

  12. Miller what justification do you have for your remarks? you are going on historical example and forgive me but that is exactly why labour will fail! if they continue to view the tory party as the party they faced in 1997 then they will lose. You have no recent example of the tory party increasing social inequality… we however do. The Labour party has presided over the greatest increase in social inequality known in British politics! To quote the Labour campaign slogan of 1997… ‘Things can only get better’… under the Tories!

  13. your saying taking away the 10% rate in exchange for tax credits etc and reducing childhood poverty and unemployment with record numbers of students from all backgrounds achieving internationally recognised degrees being
    ‘the greatest increase in social inequality known in British politics’

    sorry………….. are you serious?

  14. What I meant by that is inequality has got bigger… as in it is bigger than it ever has been. However this is not to say that progress hasnt been made. New Labour has taken poverty and social exclusion very seriously and made genuine progress in reducing disadvantage, especially among families with children however dispite their pledge in opposition to ‘change things’ Britain remains a very unequal society. As the London School of Economics has found, poverty among working-age adults without children has reached record levels and the soocial gap has reached unprecedented levels.

    Of course progress has been made… but nowhere near enough and certainly not as much as Labour pledged when in opposition. Also you focus on Labours child poverty record well it may interest you to know that the number of children living below the poverty line did fall from 4.4 million in 1996/97 when Labour came to power… but only to 3.9 million in 2000/01. Yes it is a reduction… but is it as great an achievement as you claim? I think not.

  15. labour has lifted millions out of poverty – fact. the gap has increased in wealth due to economic prosperity, but there are more millionaires than there were under thatcher, wealth has been spread out to a certain extent, thats a tory thing to do and we did it, so i agree with miller a bit. however, what’s not tory is the lifting people out of poverty, i don’t for one minute believe the tories would ever be half as successful at doing that as we have been.

    poverty is no easy thing to battle, it’s not like being rich. when you’re impoverished you are so for generations, your education, work prospects and social life are all effected, it is an unstoppable downward spiral. the fact that we even managed to lift one child or one pensioner out of absolute poverty makes me proud to carry my membership card. more does need to be done, we’re reversing centuries of neglect, but i know in my heart that it is only a labour government that can do that.

  16. 500,000 children lifted out of poverty in 4 years.

    yes i am impressed with that but i agree more still needs to be done.

  17. Labour is lucky that it has had such secure economic conditions in which to ‘lift children out of poverty’, the previous Conservative administrations, as countles Labour politicians would testify, need credit for ensuring that they inherited a strong economy with good prospects in 1997. The same cannot be said of the economy the Conservatives inherited in 1979. So yes Labour has made good advances, more needs to be done, but this advancement has been aided by the previous Conservative governments economic legacy.

  18. Guise, whatever theyve achieved theyve done it with blue policies, so ‘in your heart’ you are a little confused.

  19. Elmo, I actually prefer Tom. People usually only call me Guise because we have so many Toms in our labour club.

    I would recommend though a refresher A-level politics course. Please mention the blue policies. Minimum Wage, winter fuel allowance, warm front, sure start, literacy and numeracy hours? Don’t see a blue policy up there I’m afraid.

  20. Dan, the economic conditions over the last ten years have been far from perfect. A 250% rise in oil prices, recession in Germany and Japan, espescially in the wake of 9/11, and massive job losses in the US and yet inflation has been controlled, unemployment has been low and growth strong.

  21. Yea Guise, and top up fees rather than no fees is surely a help. And Iraq? Whats the point of lifting out of poverty here…how many children have died in Iraq?

  22. “how many children have died in Iraq?”

    What about the children on the Tory front bench who foolishly voted for the war in Iraq while 121 Labour MPs rebelled? And having heard Deirdre Alden on this issue I’d stay away from it if I were you.

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