End of New Labour?

Stephen Pollard says New Labour formally ended last night. In the wake of a tiny majority (316 - 311) in the Commons on top-up fees, and coming only two months after the government's foundation hospital slim win (302-285), it seems that Blair style public sector reforms are getting harder to bring about.

New Labour, to me, represents a realistic take on politics; in our increasingly globalised and interdependent world it is simply no longer possible to ignore what everybody else is doing unless we retreat to become an isolationist outpost of ideology. Frankly it is pretty amazing that we manage to cling to a pseudo-socialist system of government control in, for example, health in the face of market pressures and international lobbying. One member one vote, rewording Clause IV sought to normalise the Labour Party - to free it from dogma and doctrine. Market reforms in the public sector seek to normalise the country, to free it from the excesses of both the market and state control and in so doing to deliver better lives for all of us.

With 408 MP's Labour has a 161 seat majority in the Commons and although the votes on both issues have been tight, each time the government has won. Should the Prime Minister abandon much needed public sector reform because it has been hijacked by a minority of his MP's? That would be crazy, such a retreat would signal the end of Labour. The Labour government is however not dead, far from it. On the most contentious issues, foundation hospitals and top-up fees, the government has won both the argument and the vote in the face of determined opposition from a minority of the Labour Parliamentary Party. The success of New Labour is implicit in these successes, for three quarters of the parliamentary party New Labour is business as usual, it represents the way things should be. That is a mighty accomplishment.

If, as Stephen Pollard says, New Labour is dead then it is not because it has lost support, rather the 'New' as a differentiator is simply now redundant.

Posted by Paul at January 28, 2004 05:57 PM |
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