How does New Labour differ from Old Labour?
Although it draws upon socialism, the word socialism did not appear it the Party’s 1900 Constitution. The
Party has never been wholly socialist, or Marxist, but has made significant shifts to the left from time to
time – e.g 1983 under the leadership of Michael Foot.
(1979 = 269 seats of 635, Con=339) 1979-1983 – Social democracy to democratic socialism.
Party felt that Keynesian economics had failed, and was annoyed that public expenditure had to be cut in
order secure a huge loan from the IMF. Strongly influenced by Tony Benn among others, the Party swung
to the left, aiming at giving more influence to non-parliamentary aspects of the Party. Roy Jenkins left the
Party, and formed the Social Democrat Party. Throughout the rest of 1979 20-30 MPs, including Bill
Rogers, and Shirley Williams defected to the SDP.
(1983= 209 of 650, Con=397) 1983 Manifesto (under leadership of Michael Foot) – Committed to:
State ownership, re-nationalisation of recently privatised industries, & public stake in electronics,
Provide support for steel, aerospace, ship building industries.
Full employment, and Conservative monetarism rejected.
Import controls to protect British industry.
Close partnership with the trade unions.
Increase in public expenditure (NHS, Schools, etc).
Withdrawal from EEC, NATO.
Unilateral nuclear disarmament.
Abolition of the House of Lords.
(1987= 229 of 650, Con = 376) 1983-1994 –
By 1987 an ideological transformation had begun. No major extension of public ownership, no withdrawal
from the EEC or NATO, House of Lords to remain.
(1992 = 271 of 651, Con= 336) 1992 Manifesto – Neil Kinnock - ‘Meet the Challenge, Make the Change’, 1989.
Conservative TU reforms were widely accepted, and the Party only supported a vague commitment to
nationalisation, and return to public ownership of privatised industries ‘if circumstances allowed’. The Party
supported a mixed economy, free markets and the need for competition. Nuclear disarmament abandoned.
A more positive stance toward the EEC developed. – (Party secured 34.4% of vote, and 271 seats of 651 –
Con = 336). – ‘One More Heave’ – it was possible, under the leadership of Smith, that Labour could win the
(1997 = 418 of 659, Con = 165) 1994 - +
Blair, Mandelson, Brown = new modernisers of the Party. The remodelling of the Party as ‘New Labour’
made it much more electable. 1995, the Party abandoned Clause IV (public ownership as a Party policy).
Blair is not a socialist, although it is possible to describe his policies as deriving from Christian, or Ethical
“It could be said that after 1983, what Labour leaderships essentially did was pick among the wreckage of British post-war
socialism attempting to assemble from bits of the embers an electorally pleasing pattern. But Blair was something new…
Blair wanted to abandon the wreckage.” - Adams