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What Are The Main Characteristics Of New Labour?

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In answering this question it is first necessary to define what is meant by the term Ð''New Labour.' With respect to the history of politics, Ð''New Labour' is a fairly recent description of a change or shift in the Labour party ideology occurring within the last 12 years. It refers to a gradual shift of Labour from political left to a more conservative right wing approach to various issues and in terms of the political spectrum, Labour now occupy the middle-to-right area, rather than the middle-to-left of the previous Old Labour.

The phrase was first coined in a 1994 Labour Party conference and later used as the heading for Labour's new manifesto entitled: New Labour, New Life For Britain. It is used to evoke a sense of change within the party and to show that it is moving forward and improving. A step towards the reform was taken in the rejection of Clause IV, something which had long been at the root of Labour ideology. It was previously believed that Clause IV was confusingly worded and didn't clearly set out the aims of the party. Tony Blair, therefore, created a new statement of aims and values that would underpin the workings of New Labour. It was defined thereafter as a Ð''democratic socialist' party although New Labours adoption of various market policies lead some to believe it is a social democratic party at the centre of politics, rather than its left. This view is something I will concentrate on later however.

The redevelopment of Clause IV in 1995 also contained a set of principles and beliefs that were the beginnings of New Labour. It mentions that Labour want to achieve a dynamic economy and wish for the private sector to begin thriving, something which is quite Conservative in nature. They also outline the pursuit of a just society in which people are guarded from fear and can enjoy justice in the work place. It advocates an open democracy in which it is simple to hold people to account and promotes a healthy environment, something which is relatively new in politics since the advent of climate change.

The beliefs and values of New Labour can more accurately display at which point in the political spectrum Labour now stand. They advocate social justice, meaning they believe people in society should all share the same benefits and be fairly treated, which is a fairly liberal point of view. Labour also believes in a strong community which is linked somewhat to the above. All people within the community have a part to play and each is as valued as the last. As well as this, Labour also promotes a meritocratic society in which people are rewarded for their work. This ensures that each member of society is striving to better themselves and this Ð''carrot and stick' policy encourages people to do so. Finally, one of the Labour beliefs is that a person's right should reflect their responsibilities and the more responsibilities you command, the more rights you are entitled to. This is also linked to the previous belief as it shows reward for hard work and is in line with Labour's meritocratic ideals.

The aims of New Labour and the Labour party also help to determine their characteristics. The appointment of Tony Blair as head of the party following the death of John Smith saw the Labour party begin to take new direction as Blair sought to redefine their beliefs, values and aims in an effort to defeat the Conservatives in the 1997 elections.

According to the 1997 manifesto, what made New Labour new was the fact that it had a distinctively different approach to policies than the old left and the Conservative party. Blair sought a party for the future and the new millennium and changed the Labour party in order to appeal to a public that had been failed under the Conservatives following their brake of a promise not to raise taxes.

One of the questions surrounding the dramatic change in Labour policy was why it was now that it was done and the reasons for this. Panebianco cites the major change of party policies occurs for both exogenous and endogenous reasons, concerning the environment and internal desires from party members respectively. The fact that Labour had suffered an increasing number of electoral defeats was one of the main reasons the party itself sought change. They needed to change in an effort to regain power, since it was evident that their old approach would not be able to achieve this.

The New Labour government of 1997 had very clear aims. Labour wanted a global economy rather than isolating themselves from the economic world. Mortgage rates were to be as low as possible and the rates on income tax were to remain stagnant. Labour also placed a great emphasis on education, coining the phrase Ð''Education, education, education' to instill their message. In the manifesto they promise to cut class sizes to 30 and improve the lower performing schools, as well as increasing the emphasis on technology and computing skills within schools. They also aimed to improve the NHS service, one which they had started by getting 100,000 people off the waiting list and removing a waiting time for operations concerning cancer. Labour also developed a different approach to crime and wanted to be Ð''tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime' in an effort to prevent the problem, rather than have to deal with it. New Labour wanted to introduce a fast-track punishment program for persistent young offenders and have more police on the beat. As well as this, Labour sought to devolve the power of government throughout Britain in a bid to clean up politics by installing Welsh and Scottish governing bodies such as the Welsh assembly and Scottish parliament.

In their 2005 manifesto Labour outlined their achievements and developments over their years in office in an effort to display the benefits and successes of New Labour. In it they cite some of their achievements to display the promises upheld since the 1997 election victory. New Labour achieved the first stable economy since the 1960's and followed up on the promise to get people off benefits and into work by increasing the number of people with jobs by two million and having the lowest unemployment rating for 30 years. They also delivered by creating the lowest mortgage rates in 40 years and created another one million homeowners. There are also two million fewer children and two million fewer pensioners living in poverty since the 1997 election. In a sense this shows that New Labour is working and also aids in highlighting a few of their characteristics through what they have achieved and hope to achieve. New Labour advocates education, crime prevention, improvement of the economy and improvement in living standards. This is not overly dissimilar to the Labour of the past, which leads

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