To what extent has the labour party abandoned its core values?

The core values of a political party are their ideological ideas in which they strive to promote, if elected the privilege to control government. However some of the core values cannot always be fully implemented as is it all depends on the citizenry and what they want in society. This means that policies have to be changed to keep them modernized and innovative in order to be socially acceptable, a good example of this having to happen could be with the old Labour party.

Throughout the 1980s the Labour party found itself completely divided with how to deal with the challenge of Thatcherism and the new right, the party’s position looked even more harrowing when the support for the Labour party was at a meager 27. 6% of the popular vote in 1983. However the Labour leader of the 1990s, Neil Kinnock and other groups of reformers realized that change was needed for the Labour party to survive, the traditional socialist policies were no longer appropriate due to the changing nature of British society.

Predominately the Labour party was failing because they mainly focused on the working class; they needed to expand their horizons on policies so that equality could be given to all social groups. To overcome these obstacles new policies had to be introduced, and eventually the “Third Way” was announced. The Third way refers to the idea that New Labour as it was called were to distinct from one way, which was traditional socialism and another way, which was Thatcherism and the New Right.

Labour should not pursue traditional socialism because it made the party unelectable. The Third Way could be said to have triangulated Labour policy and possibly strayed it away from traditional core values of the Labour party, the policies are more reflective of the conservative’s new right to a point where they could be hard to distinguish. Social justice is one of the main core principles of the Labour party. Social justice should always be exercised within society it influences principles such as equality and solidarity.

Social justice is based upon the concepts of human rights and a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through taxation, property and income distribution. The policies aim to emphasize an equality of opportunity and equality of outcome within society which is a major Labour principle which they refer to greatly in their manifesto. An example to show the idea of equality of outcome in practice could be shown via the NHS. The NHS emphasizes that everyone is entitled to the protection of the state (Cradle to grave).

In the year 2000 Labour announced their massive plans to reorganize the NHS to make it more accessible and beneficial to everyone. They focused on spending large amounts of money to see improvements within the health service as a body. Some of the improvements listed were things such as reducing waiting times to be reduced from 18 to 6 months by 2004, 7000 extra beds to be provided over the next four years (the first increase in nearly 30 years), and an extra 7,500 consultant, who will work exclusively for the NHS during their first seven years of practice.

These were some of the improvements listed in the 170 page blueprint proposed by Tony Blair. This example shows Labour being reflective of their traditional core values by reinforcing their dedication to social justice within society. However the basic concept of a centrally planned “socialized” health service has gradually been challenged through a series of Labour inspired reforms. Decentralization and “internet market” competition driven by target setting, these concepts are large aspirations of the New Right.

Social justice also requires a commitment to the socialist principle of a redistribution of wealth through taxation. Despite cuts in income tax, the so called stealth taxes redistributed wealth, mainly to the middle class’s to the working class. Old Labour policies can also be seen in the adoption of the EU and the introduction of the minimum wage, showing the Labour party has not forgotten its social democratic roots with supporting the poorer sections of society. An example of redistribution of wealth can be shown through Gordon Brown’s tax credits to help low income families.

Tax credits could have increased work incentives for those at the margin of employment and unemployment, the IFS estimated that the reforms brought at least 50,000 single mothers to part-time work. This example shows that the Labour party was being reflective of their core values by providing for all classes of society and more specifically the working class. Another example could be the “sure start” program devised by Labour to help struggling families with parenting, this shows an emphasis on equality for all and reinforces Labour’s traditional social justice concepts.

However the concept of things such as universal benefits has been questioned, they are predominately aimed at the most needy in society (“deserving and undeserving poor”) then rather to the whole citizenry, there have also been raised concerns that welfare benefits create dependency culture and are a disincentive to work and enterprise, if universal benefits were to be scrapped then it would go against the Labour core values of social justice.