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To What extent was 'New Labour' a continuation of Thatcherism?

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Introduction

To What extent was 'New Labour' a continuation of Thatcherism In 1997 the Labour Party fought the General Election with a fresh approach. Their latest leader, Tony Blair, came with a reformed party, known as 'New Labour'. Tony Blair was a pioneer of New Labour; "Policies and direction, appeal and cohesion, would simply disintegrate if Tony wasn't there"1 and from the start he was geared up to be the lead figure of the Labour Party. This gave the party a personality and naturally the media focused on that personality, likening him to a presidential character; "observers have been compelled to employ a term that is especially alien to the British system of government"2. There have been numerous connections made between Thatcherism and 'New Labour' (which is basically Blairism) and Blair's style has certainly brought a fresh approach to politics for the Labour party. From the start he aimed to use different methods in order to appeal to the public. He looked "to create a new approach, setting the national mood and policy agenda via the media, rather than through the conventional channels of Westminster politics"3. There is no doubt that Blair's style of running the Labour government was similar to that of Margaret Thatcher's in certain ways such as preferring to run business in a more centralised manner coupled with making decisions by means of things such as bilateral meetings instead of traditional Cabinet Government methods. ...read more.

Middle

as the need to be an international statesman and the media's focus on personalities rather than parties as a whole; "the media demand presidential leader and crucified John Major for not being presidential enough"8. Even though some could argue this was as a result of tactics by politicians such as Blair and Thatcher to exert more control, it is also important to remember that modern situations may prove to be easier to deal with when there is a strong and clear leader. There are people who believe that "Blair's efforts to reshape the British premiership have certainly been radical"9, so it is important to establish exactly how Blair intended to rule. Using his owns words; "people will have to know that we will run from the centre and govern from the centre"10. This involves using the Prime Minister's Office as the centre of the executive, (the PMs staff doubled in the first two years of his premiership). This can be seen as similar to how Thatcher organised her government, except he went a step further. "The biggest centralisation of power in Whitehall in peacetime"11. This points to a move towards a government that does not use the Cabinet in the way it was originally designed. "The idea that the heads of department have an independent standing has been torn up"12. Blair likes to use bilateral meetings to consult with the relevant minister on policy, much like Thatcher, but everything is run from No.10 "all the threads, all the leads, all come back to 10 Downing Street"13. ...read more.

Conclusion

The centralisation of the executive is probably going to be permanent because the election campaigns have been geared towards focusing on certain characters and this can be attributed, mostly, to Blair's style. It is also hard to imagine another prime minister changing this set up, although it is possible that the cabinet could be used more in the way it is supposed to be. All this can be seen as a continuation of Thatcherism and because it is done by different party to which Thatcher was affiliated, 'New Labour' have just inserted their principles and ideologies into the structural model of Thatcherism. In conclusion one can argue that New Labour has no connection and is definitely not a continuation of Thatcherism, but they would be wrong. There are clear structural similarities coupled with comparable methods in forming policies, however there are clear differences in the actual policy content and ideology of the two different parties. Most notably, in areas such as laissez-faire politics, individualism and privatisation. There were, however, certain similarities in regards to policies concerning the economy, with the need for a supple market couple with the spread of capitalism, but this can be connected to the idea that 'New Labour' were just continuing solid policies by the last government. It is also important to remember that there is no point in reversing or scraping policies, even by a different government because otherwise nothing would get done if everything had the potential to change every four years. Word Count: 1,451. ...read more.

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