Labour's Long Road Back

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:
 Labour's Long Road Back

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The authors analyse the long process of modernization of the Labour party that had its origins in Neil Kinnock's period as a leader of the party between 1983 and 1992 and that culminated in Labour's victory in the 1997 general election. Heath, Jowell, and Curtice draw the conclusion that on the non‐economic issues such as disarmament, Europe, and devolution, Tony Blair's New Labour was merely a continuation of Neil Kinnock's policy. It was Neil Kinnock not Tony Blair who had made the radical break with Labour's recent past. However, on economic issues New Labour made a clearer break with its Old Labour inheritance—on nationalization, unions, government spending, and taxation, New Labour adopted many Thatcherite precepts. The decisive move of New Labour towards the centre on the economic issues, did have major electoral benefits because it squeezed the Liberal Democrats’ share of the vote on the centre‐left, but it also captured ground on the centre‐right from the Conservatives. New Labour's move to the centre also disrupted the usual patterns of vote‐switching; more Conservatives than usual switching directly to Labour rather than to the Liberal Democrats.

Keywords: Tony Blair; centre ground; economic issues; Neil Kinnock; Liberal Democrats; modernization; New Labour; non‐economic issues; Old Labour; Thatcherism; vote‐switching

Chapter.  9810 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: UK Politics

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