New Labour

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  • The era of New Labour 1997-2007
    • The Labour governments
      • Blair as a leader
        • Despite his privileged background he portrayed himself as an ordinary person. He dressed in casual clothes, was in a rock band at university, supported his local football team.
        • He was in touch with the electorate. When Princess Diana died, he paid tribute to her, calling her the "people's princess"
        • Blair's popularity rose to 93% according to a Labour party poll.
        • There would be no re-nationalisation of privatised industries. Much of the Conservative party's trade union reform was accepted.
        • Critics argued that Blair did not really stand for anything. He accepted Thatcherite policies, simply to win power.
      • Constitutional change
        • Devolution
          • Unpopularity of the Conservatives in Scotland had strengthened calls for Scottish independence during the 1980's and 1990's. By 1997 the Conservatives had no MP's in Scotland
          • The Labour party manifesto in 1997 promised new referendums on devolution, as Scotland felt as though it was being ruled by a party in Westminster it had not voted for.
          • The Scottish people voted in favour of devolving power to a Scottish government and also in favour of this government having tax-raising powers. This led to a new Scottish assembly established in Westminster on a system of PR.
          • Similarly, the referendum In Wales agreed to the setting up of a Welsh Assembly in Cardiff- with more limited powers.
          • Governments in Northern Ireland were already devolved as a result of the Good Friday agreement in 1998.
          • Another reform was the introduction of an elected mayor for London in 1999. This proved to be a successful change. However in the first election in 2000, Blair blocked Ken Livingstone from being Labour candidate.
            • Blair feared that Ken Livingstone would harm the image of "New Labour". Livingstone left the Labour Party, ran as an independent and won the election. The official Labour candidate came third behind the Conservative candidate. Blair was forced to accept Livingstone back into the party/
          • A major political effort was made to reform the House of Lords in 1999. Hereditary peers were not abolished but cut to 92. This reform was seen as unsatisfactory.
        • Reforms to parliament
          • There had been talks pre-election with the Liberal Democrats about possible reforms to the electoral system. A commission led by Roy Jenkins was set up to look at alternative voting systems.
          • It was recommended in 1998 that the FPTP voting system be replaced with a more proportional system. No changes were made.
        • Citizens rights
          • The freedom of information act was passed in 2000. This gave people the right to request information from public bodies.
          • By 2006 over 100,000 requests were being made each year.
          • Tony Blair later described the freedom of information act a mistake and branded himself as "naive, foolish and irresponsible"
          • The European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into British law through the HRA 1998. However, the way in which judges interpreted this created unexpected difficulties for the government.
            • E.g in 2004, the government were forced to amend the anti-terrorist legislation which allowed the indefinite detainment of UK non-nationals suspected of terrorist activities. The House of Lords declared that this was incompatible with the HRA.
      • Domestic policies
        • The Labour party won the 1997 election based on a manifesto that concentrated on improving public services.
        • Tony Blair had promised that education was Labour;s key commitment. Blair had also promised that Labour would be tough on crime. This was designed to counter-argue the belief that only the Conservatives were tough on law & order.
        • At the 2001 election, Labour promised more investment in health and education. A special delivery unit was set  up in 2001 to ensure that reforms were implemented. Blair was disappointed by the slow progress of these reforms.
        • Rising fuel prices led to a blockade in 2000 by farmers and lorry drivers. Foot and mouth disease hit farmers of cattle and sheep- leading to a cull of 10 million animals.
        • People in the countryside felt that Labour was too Urban.This came apparent when the Labour party tried to ban hunting with dogs.There was a long battle with the HOL and pressure group Countryside alliance. The ban was finally passed in 2004.
      • Brown and economic policy
        • Gordon Brown had an agreement with Blair that he would not stand for leadership and he would have complete control over economic policy and remain as chancellor of the exchequer.
        • Labour inherited a very favourable economic circumstance in 1997. Brown priority was to keep inflation low, and keep governemnt spending under control.
        • Brown had made the Bank of England independent from the government. This meant that the government would set a target for inflation but it was up to the BOE to decide where to set interest rates.
        • Brown set the treasury rules about how much could be borrowed by the government. He was following the Thatcherite belief that the supply of money could be controlled.
        • The purpose of a stable economy was to improve public services. The big increases in investment were seen new schools, hospitals and pay rises for doctors, teachers and nurses. Exam results went up and waiting lists went down.
      • Northern Ireland & Good Friday
        • Blair developed a close relationship with Bertie Ahern throughout 1997-2008. This helped keep support of the Republicans.
        • Key elements of the agreement: both UK and Irish republic would give up their claim on Northern Ireland. it would be up to the people of Northern Ireland. A devolved assembly with a power sharing executive would be set up. Links between NI and ROI would be strengthened.
        • Referendum was held on the 22nd May1998. 71% voted in favour of the agreement in NI and 94% in the ROI.
        • There was opposition to the agreement as seen in the omagh bombing in 1998 killing 30 people.
    • The Conservative party 1997-2007
      • Leaders and reasons for divisions
        • After the election defeat John Major resigned as Conservative leader.
        • William Hague 1997-2001
          • 145 of the remaining 165 Conservative MP'S were Eurosceptic.
          • William Hague was Mrs Thatcher's preferred choice "Vote for William Hague to follow the same kind of government I did"
          • Despite somewhat unity on Europe. Party began new divide Mods and Rockers.
        • Ian Duncan Smith 2001-2003
          • Tried tro reinforce compassionate conservatism. Visited Easterhouse estate in Glasgow.
          • Was aggressively Eurosceptic and reopened divisions over Europe.
          • Conservative party remained socially conservative voting against repeal of section 28 to allow unmarried couples to adopt.
          • Supported British entry into the Iraq war.
          • Scandal paid his wife to be his secretary. Was found to be false but damage was done.
        • Michael Howard 2003-2005
          • Brought stability to the party. Despite the fact that he was socially conservative, he supported modernisers. (David Cameron became shadow secretary and George Osborne shadow chancellor)
        • David Cameron 2005-2016
          • Wanted to modernise the Conservatives, aiming to reach out to the ethnic minorities, homosexuals, single mothers and young people.
      • Reason for electoral failures in 2001 and 2005
        • Hague found it difficult to be taken seriously.
        • Thatcher's involvement in the election campaign
        • Manifesto in 2005 focused on immigration, law & order, tax cuts and reduction to the public sector. "Victor Meldrew" not what people wanted.
    • Social issues
      • Workers, Women and youth
        • Women
          • in 1997 the number of women elected as MP's rose to 120, double the previous number. 101 of these were Labour MP's.
          • Blair had appointed women to prominent positions in his cabinet including Margaret Beckett as foreign secretary (2006-2007)
          • Childcare provision was extended. By 2007- all 3 and 4 year olds were entitled to 12.5 hours a week of free nursery. This rose to 15 hours in 2010.
          • Women were given pension credits when unable to work because of caring responsibilities.
        • Youth
          • Celebrity party hosted at 10 Downing street after election win including Noel Gallagher, Vivienne Westwood.
          • Had 3 children, one was born in 2000.
          • Youngest  prime minister to have been elected.
          • Wanted to end social exclusion. Social exclusion unit set up in 1997.
          • Establishment of sure start centres. Helped provide guidance to families and children.
          • Pledged to end child poverty in 20 years. Through policies like child tax credit- it had brought it down by a quarter by 2005.
          • Connexions service created to advise teenagers about choices when they leave school. New Labour aimed for 50% of young people to go to university.
          • Number of NEETs had increased to 20% by 2007.
          • ASBOs are introduced.By 2005 46% of ASBOS went to under 17 year olds.
        • Workers
          • Decline of trade unions continued. % of workforce with membership fell from 29% to 26%
          • HRA act meant that employees were now entitled to request up to 3 months unpaid parental leave to care for a child under the age of 8.
          • Labour government opted out of some employment legislation eg. maximum working hours.
          • Welcomed globalisation.
          • New Deal programme  targeted particular groups of the unemployed and promised support to help them find work.
          • 1998 National Minimum Wage is introduced.
          • Brown introduces tax credits.
      • How far had Britain become a multicultural society?
        • 2002 first black cabinet minister is appointed.
        • Mosques were a familiar feature of most towns and cities.
        • In 2005 London successfully bid to hold the Olympic games and one of its key selling points was the multiculturalism of the city.
        • Macpherson report published in 19982, about the murder of Stephen Lawrence identified problems of institutional racism in the metropolitan police.
        • Greg Dyke BBC chairman acknowledged that his workforce was "hideously white"
        • London terrorist attack July 2005. 52 people were killed as  4 suicide bombers attacked 3 underground trains and a bus. One of them was a British citizen. Two weeks later another 4 attempted a similar attack but failed.
        • National Identity Card Act 2006 and Terrorist act 2006.
    • Foreign affairs
      • Attitudes to Europe
        • Did not join the Euro.
        • in 2007 the European union had expanded to 27 states. It presented new and difficult changes.
      • 'Special relationship' with the USA
        • Both governments were influenced by the Third Way.
        • Close relationship with Bush especially with regards to meeting the treat of global terrorism.
        • Yugoslavia- Blair persuaded Clinton to back military action against Serbia. In 1999  a prolonged bombing campaign against Serbia forced Milosevic into pulling forces out of Kosovo.
      • Military interventions and the war on terror
        • 2001 Britain join the US in a military campaign to overthrow the Taliban.
        • 2003 war is launched on Iraq because of  Saddam Hussain.
        • Going to war in Iraq was seen as extremely controversial. Four ministers including the foreign secretary Robin Cook resigned.

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