New Labour

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Interest ofMargaret McDonagh

New Labour is a period in the history of the British Labour Party from the mid-1990s until 2010 under the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The name dates from a conference slogan first used by the party in 1994, later seen in a draft manifesto which was published in 1996 and titled "New Labour, New Life for Britain". It was presented as the brand of a newly reformed party that had altered Clause IV and endorsed market economics. The branding was extensively used while the party was in government between 1997 and 2010. New Labour was influenced by the political thinking of Anthony Crosland and the leadership of Blair and Brown as well as Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell's media campaigning. The political philosophy of New Labour was influenced by the party's development of Anthony Giddens' "Third Way" which attempted to provide a synthesis between capitalism and socialism. Mark Bevir argues that another motivation for the creation of New Labour was as a response to the emergence of the New Right which had emerged in the preceding decades.[1] The party emphasised the importance of social justice, rather than equality, emphasising the need for equality of opportunity and believed in the use of markets to deliver economic efficiency and social justice.

The New Labour brand was developed to regain trust from the electorate and to portray a departure from their traditional socialist policies which was criticised for its breaking of election promises and its links between trade unions and the state, and to communicate the party's modernisation to the public. Calls for modernisation became prominent following Labour's heavy defeat in the 1983 General Election, with the new Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, who came from the party's soft left Tribune Group of Labour MPs, calling for a review of policies that led to the party's defeat, and for improvements to the party's public image to be made by Peter Mandelson, a former television producer. This was complemented by MPs such as Giles Radice calling for the systematic modernisation of the party, coupled with calls for the party to become more moderate in order to increase electability.[2] Modernisation intensified following Labour's narrow defeat in the 1992 General Election, which Dennis Kavanagh and David Butler argued was caused by the party still being viewed as traditional Labour, and they stated that a 'new' party was created to rectify this and Labour's "return to electability within months of the 1992 election defeat [was] remarkable".[3] Following the leadership of Neil Kinnock and John Smith, the party under the New Labour brand attempted to widen its electoral appeal and by the 1997 General Election it had made significant gains in the upper and middle-classes, effectively giving the party a landslide victory. Labour maintained this wider support at the 2001 General Election and won a third consecutive victory in the 2005 General Election for the first time ever in the history of the Labour Party.

In 2007, Blair resigned from the party leadership after thirteen years and was succeeded by his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown. Labour lost the 2010 General Election which resulted in the first hung parliament in thirty-six years and led to the creation of a ConservativeLiberal Democrat CameronClegg coalition government. Brown resigned as Prime Minister and as Labour Party leader shortly thereafter. He was succeeded as party leader by Ed Miliband, who abandoned the New Labour branding and moved the Labour Party's political stance further to the left under the branding One Nation Labour. Ed Miliband resigned in 2015 and was replaced by self-described democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn, leading some to comment that New Labour is "dead and buried".[4][5][6]


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  1. "New Labour: A Critique", Mark Bevir, 2005, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-35924-4
  2. "Labour's Path to Power: The New Revisionism" Giles Radice, 1989, Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-48071-6
  3. "The British General Election of 1997", David Butler, MacMillan Press, ISBN 0-312-21079-5
  4. "How a Socialist Prime Minister Might Govern Britain"
  5. "Death of New Labour as Jeremy Corbyn's socialist party begins a period of civil war"
  6. "New Labour is dead. Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet must stay as it is"
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