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Paolo Donadio » 10.New Labour: new means, new ends. New language?

Lesson plan

  • Introduction
  • The end of the class struggle
  • Labour Manifesto 1997: The (New) Labour Party identity
  • From “low paid workers” to “workers with a modest income”
  • 1997: The many, not the workers…
  • New Labour, new means: from public ownership to public/private partnership
  • New Labour, new means: from public ownership to public/private partnership (2)
  • Partnership is everywhere…
  • New Labour, new ends ?
  • Efficiency…
  • …quality
  • …and performance


Reading the following slides, focused on the New Labour manifesto in 1997, we can notice that the identities of the party and its traditional electoral target are constructed in a way which is radically different from the past.
The party overtly moves to centre of the political spectrum and the electoral appeal is addressed to an undefinite “majority” of the British people, to the “many”. The old categories based on social and economic criteria (workers, women, disabled, pensioners, lone parent etc.) are mainly replaced with several quantifying and ambiguous devices, such as all, many, few, people, inclusive “we/us” etc.
The ‘old’ socialist principle of  “common/public ownership” becomes New Labour’s partnership principle between public and private forces.
Accordingly, the “old” Labour ends of an equal distribution of wealth and a classless society are translated into a corporate-like approach, where efficiency, quality and performance seem to be new keywords to evaluate political action.

1997: The end of the class struggle

“Many of these conflicts have no relevance whatsoever to the modern world – public versus private, bosses versus workers, middle class versus working class. It is time for this country to move on and move forward”.
(from Labour Manifesto 1997)

Labour Manifesto 1997: The (New) Labour Party identity

In each area of policy a new and distinctive approach has been mapped out, one that differs both from the solutions of the old left and those of the Conservative right. This is why new Labour is new. We believe in the strength of our values, but we recognise also that the policies of 1997 cannot be those of 1947 or 1967.

Our values are the same: the equal worth of all, with no one cast aside; fairness and justice within strong communities. But we have liberated these values from outdated dogma or doctrine, and we have applied these values to the modern world.

We will be a radical government. But the definition of radicalism will not be that of doctrine, whether of left or right, but of achievement. New Labour is a party of ideas and ideals but not of outdated ideology.

The old left would have sought state control of industry. The Conservative right is content to leave all to the market. We reject both approaches.

From “low paid workers” to “workers with a modest income”…

“If low pay at present is defined as less than two-thirds of average male manual earnings, there were 3 million full-time low-paid workers in 1982, of whom over 2 million were women workers”.
(Labour Manifesto 1983).

“We will end the scandal of poverty pay and bring Britain into line with the rest of Europe by introducing a statutory minimum wage of £3.40 an hour. This is a major but long overdue reform which will benefit around four million low-paid people, 80 per cent of whom are women”.
(Labour Manifesto 1992).

Too many people in work, particularly those on low and modest incomes and with changing patterns of employment, cannot join good-value second pension schemes”.

(Labour Manifesto 1997)

1997: The many, not the workers…

A  government that will govern in the interest of the many, the broad majority of people who work hard, play by the rules, pay their dues and feel let down by a political system that gives the breaks to the few, to an élite at the top increasingly out of touch with the rest of us (Labour Manifesto 1997).

I pledge to Britain a government which shares their hopes, which understands their fears, and which will work as partners with and for all our people, not just the privileged few (Labour Manifesto 1997).

New Labour’s objective is to improve living standards for the many, not just the few (Labour Manifesto 1997).

Our long-term objective is a lower starting rate of income tax of ten pence in the pound. Reducing the high marginal rates at the bottom end of the earning scale – often 70 or 80 per cent – is not only fair but desirable to encourage employment. This goal will benefit the many, not the few.

(Labour Manifesto 1997)

New Labour, new means: from public ownership to public/private partnership

We wish to build bridges wherever we can across education divides. The educational apartheid created by the public/private divide diminishes the whole education system. Public/private partnerships will improve the condition of school buildings.
The University for Industry will be a public/private partnership, commissioning software and developing the links to extend lifelong learning.

For the Internet we plan a National Grid for Learning, franchised as a public/private partnership, which will bring to teachers up-to-date materials to enhance their skills, and to children high-quality educational materials.

[Public Spending]
New Labour will be wise spenders, not big spenders. We will work in partnership with the private sector to achieve our goals. We will ask about…

[Local Authorities]
Labour pioneered the idea of public/private partnerships. It is Labour local authorities which have done most to create these partnerships at local level.

Labour will overcome the problems that have plagued the Private Finance Initiative, end the delays, sort out the confusion and develop new forms of public/private partnership that work better and protect the interests of the NHS.

New Labour, new means: from public ownership to public/private partnership (2)

The rented housing sector
We support a three-way partnership between the public, private and housing association sectors to promote good social housing.

Instead of privatisation, we propose a partnership between public and private provision, and a balance between income sourced from tax and invested savings. The basic state pension will be retained as the foundation of pension provision.

[Means of transport]
Labour plans a new public/private partnership to improve the Underground, safeguard its commitment to the public interest and guarantee value for money to taxpayers and passengers.
We will conduct an overall strategic review of the roads programme against the criteria of accessibility, safety, economy and environmental impact, using public/private partnerships to improve road maintenance and exploiting new technology to improve journey information.

[Media ]
We will ensure that the BBC continues to be a flagship for British creativity and public service broadcasting, but we believe that the combination of public and private sectors in competition is a key spur to innovation and high standards (Labour Manifesto 1997).

Partnership is everywhere…

The United Kingdom is a partnership enriched by distinct national identities and traditions. Scotland has its own systems of education, law and local government. Wales has its language and cultural traditions. We will meet the demand for decentralisation of power to Scotland and Wales”.
(Labour Manifesto 1997)

New Labour, new ends ?

“We will be a radical government. But the definition of radicalism will not be that of doctrine, whether of left or right, but of achievement“.
(Labour Manifesto 1997).

“New Labour is a party of ideas and ideals but not of outdated ideology. What counts is what works. The objectives are radical. The means will be modern”. (Labour Manifesto 1997)

“Addressing the nations’ problems not through dogma or outdated doctrine of left or right but on the basis of what works“.
(Blair’s campaign speech, 7 March 1997)


The costs of student maintenance should be repaid by graduates on an income-related basis, from the career success to which higher education has contributed. The current system is badly administered and payback periods are too short. We will provide efficient administration, with fairness ensured by longer payback periods where required (Labour Manifesto 1997).

[Public spending]
We will ask about public spending the first question that a manager in any company would ask – can existing resources be used more effectively to meet our priorities? And because efficiency and value for money are central, ministers will be required to save before they spend. (Labour Manifesto 1997)

We are committed to an energy policy designed to promote cleaner, more efficient energy use and production, including a new and strong drive to develop renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy, and combined heat and power. (Labour Manifesto 1997)

The Tories’ so-called ‘Efficiency Index’ counts the number of patient ‘episodes’, not the quality or success of treatment. With Labour, the measure will be quality of outcome, itself an incentive for effectiveness. As part of our concern to ensure quality, we will work towards the elimination of mixed-sex wards. (Labour Manifesto 1997)


We need to win on higher quality, skill, innovation and reliability. With Labour, British and inward investors will find this country an attractive and profitable place to do business. (Labour Manifesto 1997)

Quality nursery education guaranteed for all four-year-olds Nursery vouchers have been proven not to work. They are costly and do not generate more quality nursery places. We will use the money saved by scrapping nursery vouchers to guarantee places for four-year-olds.
(Labour Manifesto 1997)

Higher-quality services for patients Hospitals will retain their autonomy over day-to-day administrative functions, but, as part of the NHS, they will be required to meet high-quality standards in the provision of care. (Labour Manifesto 1997)

…and performance

Zero tolerance of underperformance
Every school has the capacity to succeed. All Local Education Authorities (LEAs) must demonstrate that every school is improving. For those failing schools unable to improve, ministers will order a ‘fresh start’ – close the school and start afresh on the same site. Where good schools and bad schools coexist side by side we will authorise LEAs to allow one school to take over the other to set the underperforming school on a new path. (Labour Manifesto 1997)
The judge and jury of LEA performance will be their contribution to raising standards.
LEAs are closer to schools than central government, and have the authority of being locally elected. But they will be required to devolve power, and more of their budgets, to heads and governors. LEA performance will be inspected by Ofsted and the Audit Commission. Where authorities are deemed to be failing, the secretary of state may suspend the relevant powers of the LEA and send in an improvement team (Labour Manifesto 1997).

…and performance (2)

[Local authorities]
Every council will be required to publish a local performance plan with targets for service improvement, and be expected to achieve them. The Audit Commission will be given additional powers to monitor performance and promote efficiency. On its advice, government will where necessary send in a management team with full powers to remedy failure (Labour Manifesto 1997).

Hospitals will retain their autonomy over day-to-day administrative functions, but, as part of the NHS, they will be required to meet high-quality standards in the provision of care. Management will be held to account for performance levels. (Labour Manifesto 1997)

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Progetto "Campus Virtuale" dell'Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, realizzato con il cofinanziamento dell'Unione europea. Asse V - Società dell'informazione - Obiettivo Operativo 5.1 e-Government ed e-Inclusion

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