Chapter

Social Change and the Future of the Left

Anthony F. Heath, Roger M. Jowell and John K. Curtice

in The Rise of New Labour

Published in print April 2001 | ISBN: 9780199245116
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599453 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199245118.003.0002
 Social Change and the Future of the Left

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The authors discuss the political implications of the social changes that took place over the 18 years of Conservative government from 1979–97 and assess two rival lines of argument about the contemporary potential for radical policies. The authors agree with the New Labour thesis (defended by reformist Labour writers such as G. Radice and S. Pollard) according to which the decline in the size of the working class and the changes in its composition have made the ‘broad mass in the middle’ the key target for Labour recruitment. However, they emphasize the fact that the working class has never been homogeneous in its identities, aspirations, and voting behaviour, and that the New Labour analysis was simply catching up with social patterns that had held true for a long time. As far as the second thesis put forward by Will Hutton is concerned, Heath, Jowell, and Curtice do not find enough evidence that a sense of personal insecurity had infected the broad mass of middle‐income Britain, rendering them marginal and insecure and thereby leading them to support radical policies. However, they agree with Hutton's conclusion that in the 1990s, there was a general trend of growing support for redistributive policies and government intervention, which probably reflects the disillusionment of the electorate with the Thatcherite project and the rejection of some of its principle articles. The analysis supports the thesis that changes in attitudes and values in society should not be mechanically inferred from structural changes.

Keywords: attitudes and values; insecurity; New Labour; redistributive policy; social change; Thatcherite project

Chapter.  10205 words. 

Subjects: UK Politics

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