Labour’s Path to Power: The New Revisionism

Comment on 'Revolution' by E.P.Thompson
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Labour candidate for Chippenham, , ; member of Fabian Society , ; chairman of Young Fabian Group, ; member of council of Policy Studies Institute, , European Movement, chairman, , Association for Central and Eastern Europe , chairman, —. Military service: British Army, Coldstream Guards, second lieutenant, Praeger New York , NY , An Economist reviewer wrote that the title of the book "makes a double point: the Germans are 'new' because they are reunified, and they are 'new' in the fundamental sense of having removed by their exemplary democratic record the Hitlerian stigma.

Radice is editor and author of the foreword of What Needs to Change: New Visions for Britain , in which journalists, academics, and politicians discuss an agenda for a Labour government. Friends and Rivals: Crosland, Jenkins, and Healey is Radice's study of the careers of three Labour MPs, their evolution as leaders over thirty years, and the petty rivalries that prevented any of them from reaching their potential and becoming prime minister.

Contemporary Review 's Jonathan Doering described Tony Crosland as "a mercurial intellectual," Denis Healey as "an articulate pragmatist," and Roy Jenkins as "the magisterial figure who left the party over Europe. Radice … states explicitly his admiration for each man's abilities, and his frustration that their mutual jealousy and antagonism over the party leadership and the premiership in the seventies split Labour's reformist vote, allowing the solid James Callaghan into Number ten. New Statesman reviewer Roy Hattersley wrote that Friends and Rivals "is far more than an examination of the relationships between complex and, in some ways, conflicting personalities. It is the best analysis I know of why the Labour Party, apparently so strong in the mids, had become unelectable by This book is an adventure story, because, despite their human failings, the three principal characters all have heroic qualities.

Top stories Labour's Path to Power: The New Revisionism (): Giles Radice: Books. Labour's Path to Power: The New Revisionism [Giles Radice] on * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.

Economist , May 27, , review of The New Germans , p. Morgan, review of Friends and Rivals. New Labour sought to identity the party with skills training, new ways of working, improved public services, greater rights for women and families, and protection of the environment. Butler and Kavanagh, The description of an embryonic New Labour agenda, later attributed to Patricia Hewitt then deputy director of the ippr , was fleshed out in Reinventing the Left, edited by David Miliband, a rather Scandinavian, greener, more feminised and pluralist model of s social democratic revisionism on the eve of New Labour Miliband, The political and policy choices of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were decisive in determining the form which New Labour took.

But this Blair-Brown duopoly was itself an amalgamation of centrist politics, liberal economics and social democratic redistribution.

The Politics of Marketing the Labour Party

Judged as much by its record as its rhetoric, New Labour was mostly more social democratic in power than it was usually prepared to admit, while observing a particular set of New Labour red lines and taboos about the explicit articulation of a social democratic agenda. The famous early promise to be tough on crime and its causes, suggested that even triangulation could combine reassurance with an ability to open up progressive space. The boundaries between New and Old Labour were often blurred.

New Labour pledged not to touch the top rate of tax, and took 3p off the basic rate. The New Labour domestic policy legacy, now underrated, is considerably more substantive than that of the Clinton administrations in the United States. Few continental competitors could claim a more substantive social democratic legacy in the last decade than the Blair-Brown governments.

Protest and power: Britain’s Labour Party from Blair to Corbyn - Part 2

These have also been the most significant social democratic advances in British politics since the Attlee era, albeit that the Labour governments of the sixties and seventies do not set the bar very high. If either account were accurate, it would be impossible to understand how New Labour became a majority argument within the party or managed to construct such a broad electoral coalition beyond it. This narrowing of New Labour is also reflected in the gradual fracturing of its public electoral coalition.

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After victory by popular acclamation in , the case that more time was needed secured the rather more apathetic landslide of In , the argument that the Tories had still not changed was still just enough to see an unpopular government home, though with just 36 per cent of the vote and 4 million fewer voters than In , Labour lost in the London Mayoral election, the Crewe by-election and the local elections because not being the Conservatives is no longer enough.

What New Labour did not attempt was any concerted effort to shift longer-term attitudes in a progressive direction. Labour has shifted the policy agenda significantly but has failed to emulate the realigning governments of Attlee or Thatcher, because it was largely a taker rather than a maker of the limits of the politically possible. There was a defensible case for social democracy by stealth: it is preferable to no social democracy at all. But New Labour has hit the limits of a strategy which enabled it to hold back the tide of rising inequality for which it is given no credit, on left or right but not to reverse it.

And the longer-term case against this Faustian pact is also that the New Labour era has seen the space for progressive change shrink. But the strategies and language by which New Labour sought to reassure and ensure it had public permission to act — on poverty, crime or immigration — have, over time, shrunk rather than expanded the environment for longer-term progressive change. Comparisons with or may be somewhat melodramatic but Labour faces a political challenge at least as steep as that faced in the s and in the late 80s and early 90s. This is the first time that the party has faced a crisis of this type while in government.

Labour will need to reconstruct a winning coalition to be able to govern again. But that does not mean that New Labour can or should be resuscitated in Any progressive governing project will require broad support, and economic credibility to sustain public confidence and support for public investment. But Labour will not be an agent of future change if it insists only on cleaving to the answers to these challenges which it came up with over a decade ago. Its once-modernising mantras have become stale from repetition and too often serve as a substitute for clear thought about the different political and policy context today.

So a new phase of revisionism is now required. This has left Labour apparently unable to construct a clear choice between the major parties in terms which the public can understand. The Labour government will be unable to launch a successful fightback on policy while the problem of a lack of clear public political definition remains.

Secondly, generating a progressive policy wish-list will not be enough without also building the coalitions to support them.


But this must also be combined with a decisively more open and pluralist approach to the way in which it does politics. It must again be the fairness party, or it is nothing. At the same time, Labour needs to retain swing voters attracted by David Cameron. But Labour will succeed only if it can find a coherent argument for fairness which can rebuild a broad coalition.

So Labour must also stand for doing something about it. The disagreement between the parties is primarily about the role and responsibility of government. But this argument about means is unlikely to resonate publicly and has not done so. As Chris Leslie has suggested, a fairness agenda could be used to make a New Labour case about rights and responsibilities among the top 1 per cent of earners Leslie, A handful of voices now advocate that Labour must enter an auction to cut spending and taxation.

But Labour would not win that argument, and it is striking that the Conservatives have not prospered by offering that, instead pledging to match Labour spending plans. Instead, Labour should be pressing that the Conservatives to recognise the logic of their recognition of climate change: will the Tory modernisers acknowledge that the era of minimal government is over?

British Labour’s Self-Inflicted Marginalization

Economic insecurity is difficult for any incumbent government. But there is also a clue about how to offer that clearer choice. The credit crunch has shown how citizens look to government to provide stability and insure them against the worst risks. In truth, we are torn between insisting on a consumerist individualism and wanting collective security. Labour needs to make the popular case for government on the side of citizens: voters should decide whether more free childcare and safer streets would be better for them than tax cuts.

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Campaigning too often becomes a simple shopping list of policy demands, with a call on government to show leadership and act. Labour opponents of electoral reform kicked the pledged referendum into the long grass. The party tribalism of British politics reasserted itself: cross-party cooperation would remain a matter of necessity, not choice.

But New Labour was never comfortable with internal pluralism. This is because it sets up false choices — our left wing critics would do this odd thing; our right wing critics would do this bad thing, so the only option is to do our reasonable thing. By definition, such false choices cannot be debated. Purnell, So what was striking was not how much Labour changed party politics but how little.

The New Labour coalition

In short, the revisionists deny the essence of all the working class lessons on the taking of state power. Apparently so strong in the mid s, radice, the idea that a bigger. The transition from capitalism to Communism certainly cannot but yield a tremendous abundance and variety of political forms, but the essence will inevitably be the same: the dictatorship of the proletariat. His highly influential and widely quoted Southern Discomfort pamphlet in also argued the case. Immediately after the quotation above with not a word omitted, they follow on:.