Socialism in Practice

The Third Way and New Labour

  • Famous for saying that ideology was dead, claiming “What matters is what works”. He wanted voters to think he was a practical man, free from dogma.  Many on left argued he was swapping Labour for Thatcher’s full embrace of the free-market.
  • Socialist in that it had public sector investment with huge investment programs in building new schools and hospitals.
  • Blair also shared socialist values: 1997 minimum wages – clearly for the working to stop lowest paid getting exploited. EMA – allowing young people to carry on studying. HRA – protects people being exploited. Rebuilding schools – provision, equality of opportunity.
  • Conservative – Iraq war – liberal interventionism. Not raising 40% income tax band, encouraging private business to run schools: academies, private companies to have contracts with the NHS, tough on law and order and crime but also on CAUSES of crime.
  • Communitarianism – Giddens – more than just welfare, about empowering people. Civic pride – could be seen as collectivism – but individualistic also.
  • Equality of opportunity in order to promote social mobility mainly through broader access to education but inequality accepted with the state not expected to level the playing field..
  • Targeted welfare – no cradle-grave mentality. Equality of opportunity, not outcome.
  • Extra 1 billion on education, cutting class sizes, huge spending on hospital building programme.
  • Terrorist detention extended to 28 days.
  • 100 women MPs in first 100 days.
  • Ban on hand guns – law and order.
  • Devolution – not big, bossy government.
  • Social charter and child poverty targeted, minimum wage etc.  – social justice through provision.
  • Third Way – COMMUNITY – central concept. State should put a fresh focus on communal endeavour, which sustained individual liberty but also involved the state in new mutual relationships with civil society. Best combination or individualism and collectivism. Sought to achieve both economic efficiency and social justice.
  • This was not new, but part of an older project. Can be traced back to the revisionists of the 50s, whose ideas ironically influenced many of the policies adopted by ‘old Labour’ governments.
  • Social justice – even before Blair, Labour changed its drive of ‘equality’ to social justice as equality was hugely unpopular with the electorate. Helping the poor to help themselves – e.g. illiterate people taught to read.
  • Made the Bank of England independent as a symbol of its commitment to low inflation. Did not raise income tax and honoured the previous government’s plans for aggregate levels of public expenditure.
  • Obligation for the richest states to shoulder their responsibilities to the poorer states to develop a more inclusive world community. Liberal interventionism.
  • Distanced himself from traditional Trade Union ties with private-sector role but more importantly did not repeal any of Thatcher’s TU legislation or attempted any re-nationalisation of industry.
  • Party of business, not workers.
  • Autonomy at devolved levels through devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but perhaps more so with the initiative of devolving powers to regional assemblies that were rejected by the people through referendums.

Post-Thatcherite consensus

  • New Labour accused of following New Right in certain areas but can the same not be said for all three major political parties with the more centrist policies being the norm particularly post 2005?
  • Politics holds such a consensus that people want something different – this is why there is a rise of smaller, single issue parties.
  • Consensus on areas of welfare, equality, liberty (people’s rights need to be protected), free-market and how we should interact. Parties are now very similar on major issues: e.g. Miliband agrees with Cameron’s cap on welfare. Some Labour MPs even think it is too high.
  • Combine this with the emphasis on the individual and anti-dependency on Thatcher – politics respects that people are selfish and individualistic. Because of what Thatcher did, Labour changed from ideological left to centre.
  • Kept tax at 40%. Ultimately about individual drive – to become “filthy rich”.

Gordon Brown as Prime Minister

  • Initial success of Brown as he moved power from the executive to the legislature. Different to Blair – away from cabinet and back to representatives.
  • Allowed protests outside Westminster – liberal.
  • Emphasised the need for politicians to fight against sleaze and set up a ministerial code of conduct.
  • Saw public service as important.
  • Nationalised Northern Rock in order for people to retain their savings. Return to Old Labour? No. Pragmatism at its best. Bank failing and didn’t want people to lose their savings.
  • Alistair Darling brought in 50% tax band.

Policies running up to election: seen as ignoring the problems of the economy.

  • Ten hours of free childcare a week for 250,000 two-year-olds from families on “modest or middle incomes” – paid for by scrapping tax relief for better-off families.
  • A new National Care Service to “provide security for pensioners for generations to come”. More socialist but conservatives also doing similar.
  • Minimum wage, child tax credits and child benefit would continue to go up every year.
  • I.D. cards would not be made compulsory.
  • If 25% of constituents call for recall of MP there will be a by-election – 10% under tories.
  • A referendum on FPTP.
  • Coincides with economic meltdown and he is telling people to spend more – New Labour blamed with deregulation and previous lack of regulation.
  • Not left-wing, coalition adopts many of these ideas
  • Expected more economic policies from Brown – more of a balance between rich and poor – e.g. stopping excessive poor/excessive wages.

Ed Miliband – socialist?

  • Red Labour – After his election victory in 2010 it was clear that Ed owed the Trade Unions, as in the other 2 electoral colleges his brother David was successful. This allowed the Conservatives to claim that he would be “Red Ed”, a throw back to the 1970s. This was compounded with his open criticism of New Labour’s decision over Iraq, their dependency on the financial services sector and the continued disparities between the wealthiest and those at the bottom.
  • However the reality is that Old Labour are a very small group of left wing MPs who wish New Labour had never occurred and Ed Miliband knows he would be committing political suicide by endorsing some of their ideas on nationalisation and state redistribution of wealth.
  • Blue Labour was the brainchild of Lord Glasman whose “relational” politics, which redistributes not just wealth but also power back to local communities. Communities taking more responsibility for their own lives. Economically it was critical of New Labour and its obsession with the free market, but it is socially where it is controversial with its attempts to be conservative in defending traditional institutions and work ethic. There is also an attempt to deal with the issue of immigration, which has had a dramatic effect on Labour’s traditional heartlands. However just as Miliband was about to endorse this view he changed his mind, fearful of offending people.
  • Purple Labour – More New Labour in its views, it was first covered in The Purple Book: A Progressive Future for Labour. Detailed chapters on education, welfare and the economy were covered along with how their version compares with Blue Labour. The main issue concerns how to deal with the deficit, in order to regain economic credibility with the electorate. They are also critical of Blue Labour and its return to the old fashioned wide working class base of yesteryear.
  • However Ed Miliband is hard to pin down on policy at the moment apart from perhaps umbrella terms such as one nationism, which appear rather confused.
  • Definite policy includes a return to a 10% tax band and for this to be funded by a form of Mansion Tax. Perhaps this is paving the way for a coalition with the Lib Dems in 2015?
  • Attacked Cameron for his “cronyism” – capitalism cronyism – RBS bonus – Cameron refused to veto it. The RBS board rate on each other’s pay brackets. Working together in dubious ways – giving money out. The bank is NATIONALISED – making no profit yet huge bonuses.
  • Previously called on a High Pay Commission to look at the disparity between those at the top and those at the bottom.
  • Claimed that the coalition was not protecting NHS welfare – social justice – Labour would protect this budget but he has to be careful that his spending policies add up.
  • Supports the return for EMA – social justice/equality of opportunity.
  • Supports a graduate tax – doesn’t put people off as much. Fairer and enables greater social mobility.
  • Attacks big business and the coalition’s association with this after the No.10 scandal
  • Didn’t support the strikes by the students/teachers and has recently said that Labour would not overturn the pay freeze for the public sector if they won the next election. However, meant to be the party of workers? Does show he is responsible with the economy – need to prove they can be trusted after Labour’s overspending. Also, in the 70s, there was the winter of discontent. Attempting to prove that they can govern without great amounts of money
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