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Has Welfare Reform in the Uk Since 1997, Been Determined More by Ideology or Pragmatism?

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Has Welfare Reform in the Uk Since 1997, Been Determined More by Ideology or Pragmatism?
The purpose of this essay is to determine whether welfare reform since 1997 has been determined more by ideology or pragmatism. This essay offers a summary of public pronouncements made by some of New Labour’s leading thinkers in the years before they took office in order to then delve into the motivations behind them. While the focus on welfare reforms undertaken since 1997 rests with the Labour government’s policy toward the NHS, the essay establishes that there is a great deal of evidence to support the view that Labour have acted out of pragmatic considerations. Nevertheless, it is argued that policy toward reforming one of the key elements of welfare in Britain, the National health Service, in the main, has been driven by ideology.

Applauding the Attlee administration’s implementation and success of welfare policies such as the implementation of Beveridge’s National Insurance scheme, the National Health Service’s birth and a commitment to full employment, the newly elected Labour leader of 1995 posited a central strand of thinking within the ranks of the party’s modernisers. The party would ‘think the unthinkable on welfare’. ‘We need a new settlement on welfare for a new age, where opportunity and responsibility go together’ and the social policies of a future Labour government ‘should and will cross the old boundaries between left and right, progressive and conservative’ (Blair, 1995). Welfare’s new remit was/is to ‘equip citizens with the skills and aspirations they need to succeed’ which accordingly meant bestowing the ‘core skill’ of ‘entrepreneurship’ (Blair, 1998: 10-11) on welfare recipients in the context of what Brown described as an ‘information age’. The value of knowledge acquisition and it’s creative use necessitates that all workers be ‘educated, responsive to change and involved’ (Brown, 1996; Fielding, 2003: 183). Also, the ideas of modernisers in thinking about how best to promote equality with regard to welfare services



References: Beck, U. Giddens, A. Lash, S. (1994). Reflexive Modernisation: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order. Cambridge: Polity Press. Blair, T. (1995). Let Us Face The Future: The 1945 Anniversary Lecture. London: Fabian Society. Blair, T. (1998). ‘The Third Way’. Fabian Pamphlet. 588. Brown, G. (1996). ‘Tough Decisions’. Fabian Review. 108 (3). Brown, G. (1997). ‘The Anthony Crosland Memorial Lecture’. London: Labour Party. Bulpitt, J Denham, A. ‘Public Services’ Chpt. Fifteen; Kelly, P. ‘Ideas and Policy Agendas in Contemporary Politics’ Chpt. Thirteen, in Dunleavy et al. (2003). Developments in British Politics (7). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Chpt. 15 Driver, S Fielding, S. (2003). The Labour Party: continuity and change in the making of ‘New’ Labour. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Giddens, A. (1994). ‘Brave New World: the new context of politics’, in Miliband, R. (1994). Reinventing the Left; Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Left and Right. Cambridge: Polity Press. Giddens, A. (1994). Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Radical Politics. Cambridge. Polity Press. Hay, C. (1994). ‘Labour’s Thatcherite Revisionism: Playing the “Politics of Catch-Up”’, in Political Studies 42 (4). Hutton, W Kavanagh, D. (1997). The Reordering of British Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Le Grande, J. (1982). The Strategy of Equality. London: Allen & Unwin. Le Grande, J. (1997). ‘Knights, knaves or pawns? Human behaviour and social policy’, in Journal of Social Policy. 26 (2), pp. 149-169. Lund, B Mandelson, P. (1997). Labour’s Next Steps: Tackling Social Exclusion. London: Fabian Society. Miliband, D. (ed.). (1994). Reinventing The Left. Cambridge: Polity Press. ‘Report of the Commission on Social Justice’. (1994). Social Justice: Strategies for National Renewal. London: Vintage. Wilding, P

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