For my examination into the changes in ideology, I have decided to look at the Labour Party. The Labour Party was formed in 1900, after the industrial revolution, by trade unions and socialist societies (such as the Fabians). The idea of the Labour party was to represent the working class in parliament and bring about social equality. In the beginning the Labour Party started as a left wing party, and we shall see that this has changed over recent years.
Labour is connected with the term socialism, which a dictionary describes as: "a theory, principle, or scheme of social organisation which places means of production and distribution in the hands of the community" (Chambers Dictionary). Since the Labour Parties beginnings, they have tried to bring social equality into Britain. Most of their most important policies are fair deals for workers and unemployed people.
In 1979, the Labour Party put forward in their manifesto that they wanted three way talks between trade unions, management and ministers to examine the best ways for the country to grow as an economy, which would have involved many talks about the worker's pay if they had come into office. From Labour's 1979 manifesto, it is visible that this may well of been when Labour were changing there views to a more central, as opposed to left wing, stance.
They still show hostility to the wealthier section, i. e. introduction of a wealth tax aimed at people earning over i?? 150,000 a year, as it is the wealthier section of the population in which Labour dislikes the most, as these people are what socialism intends to 'get rid of', as the wealthier people are the ones which 'bring about' this social inequality. They also intended to work closely with the TUC to achieve inflation targets.
Throughout Tory dominance in the eighties, in which many national industries were privatised, there socialist views showed in their opposition to this privatisation, as they believe that private companies minimise costs by cutting their staff, resulting in job losses. During the Tory reign, the Labour Party believed in the nationalization of many industries (such as BT and energy companies), to save these workers. Socialists believe that the nationalization of industries is important as it helps to create a sense of equality in the community, i. e. people have the same services as others.
This is shown again in their 1979 manifesto when Labour opposed Tory plans to create two health services, one privately run for wealthier people, and a free health service for the poorer people, as Labour thought that this would make inequality worse and widen the gap between the rich and the poor (such as the rich getting better treatment). Labour traditionally, and still, believe in increasing state benefits to help make the poorer and the unemployed better off, and providing the unemployed or unskilled with training facilities, to help them become employed.
This makes Labour better than the Conservatives for providing work for unskilled people. Though Labour were seen to give in to union demands, which the Conservatives took advantage of, especially Margaret Thatcher, and have been a basis on the Tories propaganda on the Labour Party (i. e. 'Puppets of the Trade Unions'). Labour was very much against Europe at this time, as they believed the EU (then EEC) was putting British workers out of jobs and effecting business, again, thinking more of workers than the economy.
Socialists have strong support for unilateralism, which is one country disarming its nuclear warheads without the need to sign a treaty with any country. The idea is that this would lead to Britain not being seen as a threat to other countries, and so will point their missiles away from us. This and nationalization are what Neil Kinnock believed very strongly in. Neil Kinnock, though never Prime Minister, has contributed greatly to Tony Blair's 'New Labour'. When some coal miners were asked about him, they replied that they felt that he did not have the guts to implement socialist views if he had succeeded in gaining power.
Kinnock is perhaps the best example of a Socialist who has changed his ideas. He believes that capitalism should not be 'destroyed', but that it should be run well and efficiently. He now believes that the EU is the way forward for Britain, as he wants Britain to succeed in Europe. When asked about Neil Kinnock's new beliefs, businessmen feel that it is exciting that he is no longer as left wing as he was, but now more central. It is possible that Kinnock has influenced middle class votes in Labour's favour because of this, but the middle class votes going more in Labour's favour are probably due to Conservative mishaps (Black Wednesday).
Nowadays, 'New Labour', under Tony Blair, has changed many of their views, whilst still maintaining some of their traditional views. Labour still maintain their views on a fair society, as they are currently in the process of setting up centres to hand out money to children living in poverty, and are advertising heavily on new tax credits for families. They also created thousands of jobs for unskilled people, and in vested heavily in public services (the NHS). Yet there are clear signs that Labour is more of a centre party now.
For starters, they now speak more like Conservatives, using language like opportunities, chance and achievement, more associated with the Conservatives. They have become more American in their thinking, such as emphasising the importance of responsibilities as well as rights. They have also taken some Tory values, such as staying in the EU, and supporting the single currency (which the Tories do not support), in which both are supported by middle classes and businesses.
More recently, they have stood up to trade unions, such as the FBU (Fire Brigade Union), in which took a stance on the strike much like Thatcher did to the coal miners. Yet Tony Blair has carefully driven New Labour away from what it used to be. Unlike old Labour, new Labour is now trying to cut the amount of benefits that are given out, to encourage people into work. They also believe that it is a right to have the opportunity to succeed, but some may work harder and therefore deserve to be well off, which has helped result in Labour's much more relaxed attitude toward the better off people.
Political commentators feel that they are now a meritocratic party due to this view. Tony Blair has also changed Labour so that it accepts the need for free markets and capitalism. Labour has also done quite well since being elected. They have run the economy well, which has gained them more support, apart from the slight recession after the September 11th attacks, and unemployment has decreased. Martin Jacques and Stuart Hall have criticised Tony Blair, saying, "… His principal concern is to reassure everybody that practically nothing will change under New Labour.
" Basically saying that New Labour is more like the Conservatives than old Labour. It is mentioned by some political commentators that the changes are just so that Labour can get into office, as there policies are now aimed at everyone, and not just the working class. Many commentators also believe that Old Labour and the trade unions are the enemies, and eventually bring down, New Labour. It remains to be seen if they go back to their more left wing views, such as unilateralism, and nationalization.