Assess the effectiveness of Tony Blair as a domestic policy maker. We have got ‘New Labour’ now, but to what extent have we really got ‘New Britain’?
It could be argued that Tony Blair’s New Labour movement was successful due to his expertise in policy making. Blair, Labour leader from 1994 – 2007, made large reforms in domestic policy, concerning social, economic and constitutional factors. Whether this effective policy-making actually produced a ‘New Britain’, is a debatable subject. After the Thatcher and Major governments, one could argue that this change was radical enough to produce a relative ‘New Britain’, one differing from the more conservative policies of the previous years, and the more ideologically driven parties of the past. This pragmatism shown in Blair’s third way movement benefited the Labour party greatly and such benefits can still be seen resonating. Through policy creation, Blair succeeded to move the whole party to a more central position on the political spectrum, increasingly pro-market and radical enough to attempt constitutional reform. However Blair wanted to move politics beyond left and right, and create versatility within the House of Commons. The proof that such reforms changed the politics of Britain for good can be seen in the challenging major parties of today, whose policy interests vary daily. The transition from ideology to this pragmatic form of government was due to convincing and shrewd policy creation from Blair, which defined New Labour and created ‘New Britain’.
One main aspect of Blair’s policy making that was particularly successful was his welfare and social policy. Blair, some fifty years after the post-war Labour government, spoke about the triumphs of Atlee’s agenda; the creation of the National Health Service, the implementation of Beveridge’s National Insurance scheme and an aim for full, nationwide employment. After commenting that this administration was the ‘best peacetime government this century’, Blair announced his aim for new welfare for the new age. The party was working on a change of image in this sense. No increase on income tax for the first term was an initial pledge, which began a smart spending regime as opposed to big spending. Healthcare and Education were two main factors that were a success to New Labour. In terms of education, Blair was motivated, as his vision for a ‘New Britain’ began as a well-qualified population. The introduction of tuition fees was successful for institutions to improve facilities and teaching over a short space of time, without bombarding the tax-payer. The ‘education, education, education’ slogan that Blair and his party used, created a new, more motivated Britain, with energy and the re-assurance that the government that was doing all it could to reform on a grass-roots level. Healthcare was also improved greatly, with the white paper published in 1997: The New NHS. This was aimed at reintegrating the service, without reorganising, and this was a great success for a number of years when properly legislated. As well as reforming healthcare and education infrastructure, Blair sought to reform social issues, especially the ongoing conflict between Homosexual/Heterosexual rights. As a result, the age of legal consent for a homosexual was levelled at sixteen with heterosexual practices. Secondly, the Civil Partnership act was passed in 2004, and there was a successful lift on the ban of homosexuals from the armed forces. This, not only put Blair in the limelight in a social context, but also created social cohesion that was and is still valuable for a ‘New Britain’. All of these welfare and social policy reforms were effective for New Labour, as they showcased how committed the government was to the public, and when such trust is entrenched, the government can be seen as succeeding. As opposed to the previous two governments, that had seen much less intervention in social and welfare issues, this was a breathe of fresh air...
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