Third Way policies

To what extent are Third Way policies different to those pursued by Old Labour? The Third Way defines New Labour following the modernisation of the party from 1983, when Kinnock (1983-92) was party leader. He did much to modernise his party, but it was left for his successors to reap the rewards after his public image was damaged by Mrs Thatcher's allies in the press from which he never recovered. He recognised the electorates' move to the right under Thatcher (1979-90) and began to reform the party.

He saw that the socialist principles of the Labour Party made it unelectable; socialism just did not fit into a modern capitalist economy. From this ideological abandonment, the party has shifted from the left to the centre-left. New Labour, representing Blairism, embraces the concept of a 'Third Way'. The old antagonism between classes has faded. New Labour has taken this to its advantage, now appealing to middle England; not just the working class as Old Labour used to.

The new name that Blair felt necessary to find for a representation of his beliefs, has formed and brought along with it a presentational change to the Labour Party, as well as and ideological change. Ideologically, The Third Way is a mixture of the first way (social democracy) and the second way (new right ideology). The first way, Old Labour, stressed collectivism. This involves the nationalisation of industry- as with Clause IV, an extensive welfare state, strong trade unions and workers' rights, and government regulation of the economy (full employment, taxation).

The second way, Thatcherism stressed individualism. The key concepts to this belied are: free market capitalism, individual self-interest, roll back of the state and low taxation to encourage an enterprise culture. The Third Way is unlike Thatcherism as it believes in a large role for the government and unlike social democracy; it stresses the responsibilities of individuals for their own welfare. This means the government will help the people to help themselves. However, New Labour has adopted (what it thinks are the best and most appealing) beliefs from both 'ways' to give a Third Way.

There have been a number of landmarks on the road to New Labour. Most significantly, Kinnock dropped the party's commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament and he also purged the party of 'militant' socialists. Therefore, New Labour has found and moved to the ideological centre ground, which Blair has much aided. The new stance is embodied in the phrase 'New Labour' and the concept of the Third Way. These Blairite phrases are an amalgamation of socialist and neo-right policies (as explained earlier).

These principles include a mix of social democratic (communitarianism) with Thatcherite economics. Hall suggests the Third Way is nothing more than 'an authoritarian and populist regime based on Thatcherism'. This significant change can be seen in the switch from Keynesian economics- that is management of the economy, investing to avoid unemployment, to Monetarism- completely rejecting the aims and techniques of economic management proposed by Keynes. The primary goal of Monetarism is to keep inflation under control-even if it means high unemployment.

The government's only role should be to control the money supply. However, the Third Way differs from both Thatcherism and traditional socialism, in that it advocates a new mixed economy between private and public sectors. A practical example of this new stance is the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). This helps private companies build, maintain and own welfare institutions like hospitals and schools with the government paying the rent. The deregulation of the bank of England in 1997 also demonstrates how the Third Way differs from New Labour in economic terms.

Where the Third Way differs from Old Labour is that there is a far greater stress on the responsibility of the individual, rather than the collective. In 1995, Blair managed to cajole his party into giving up its historic commitment to state ownership- the policy known as Clause IV. This meant throwing away the ideal of nationalising industry. Old Labour believed that it is better to lose elections than abandon fundamental principles, whereas New Labour believes that politics is ultimately about winning elections.

However, like Old Labour, New Labour has maintained its links with trade unions- even if they are now 'at arms length'. To conclude, the Third Way differs from Old Labour in a number of ways. These include appealing to middle England (not just the working class), presentational & ideological changes, a move forward from the dogma of Clause IV and a new mixed economy. Blair argues that there is ideological continuity, but to what extent is questionable.