In May 1997 the British Labour Party swept into power with a majority which exceeded all expectations. Many ommentators in the 1980s had written off Labour's chances of governing again. Yet they were elected with more votes and more seats than they had ever won before. Nearly four million more people voted Labour than Conservative. Labour won 418 seats as against 165 for the outgoing Conservative government. On the left and centre of the political spectrum there was euphoria. An eighteen year era of neo-liberal government had come to an end. Many ordinary people were glad to see a divided, scandal-ridden, incompetent and out of touch Conservative government removed. A new government promising a more compassionate communitarianism and radical constitutional reform, a high priority for education and health, with a young, modern dynamic leader and realistic, achievable policies had arrived1. In government New Labour, in its own words, 'hit the ground running'. It was wellprepared and quickly introduced a packed programme of measures. Throughout Europe politicians were closely examining Blair's revisionist 'Third Way' to see what could be learned. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, elected weeks after Blair, and the Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alemo, were seen not as Blairites but as more traditionally social democratic or Left-wing. Schröder, elected nearly 18 months after New Labour, used Blair's ideas a lot more and was keener to be associated with him, although Oskar Lafontaine is, like Jospin, more traditionally social democratic in his rhetoric. The Dutch Social Democrats were seen by many as forerunners to New Labour. In the 1998 Swedish elections politicians from different parties competed to compare themselves with Tony Blair. By 1998 there were social democrats or others on the Left in government throughout Europe - in countries such as Britain, Germany, France, most of Scandinavia, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Holland and the Czech Republic. After two years in government and the opening up of debate on the ideology, policies and practices of Britain's New Labour government, what does New Labour amount to and what do the critics have to say? As a fairly traditional socialist who believes in redistribution and greater equality I started a few years ago to examine New Labour expecting to be sympathetic to many of Blair's critics. A number of them do have strong, insightful things to say and there are limits to Labour's politics. Yet closer examination of New Labour led me to conclude that many of those criticisms also misunderstand New Labour or miss its merits
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.