Tony Blair 1997-2007


1997 Election Victory

  • Blair led a newly developed and vibrant party in comparison to the tired and lacklustre Conservatives. He was a charismatic and well approved leader. 
  • Won the 1997 election in a landslide, 179 seat majority. 
  • Sought introduce his ''third way'' or radical centralism. 
  • Blair led a ''sofa-style'' of government. He asqueued long cabinet meetings and preferred to meet with ministers personally. He appointed a large number of political advisors. 
  • Critics accused him for a too ''presidential style'' of government. 
  • Labour had inherited a good economic situation. 
  • Longest serving PM and Brown the longest serving chancellor since 1832. 
  • His period of leadership coincided with a number of key events, e.g Human Rights Act 1998, Good Friday Agreement 1998, 9/11 attacks etc. 
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Domestic Reform

  • 1997 - Blair promised a referendum for a Scottish and Welsh devolution. 60% of Scots voted in favour. Gave these states tax raising powers and domestic controls. 
  • 1999 - Blair began reforms to the House of Lords. Radically reduced (but didn't completely remove) the number of hereditary peers in the House of Lords and replaced them with life peers selected by the Blair administration. 
  • Repealed Sect. 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. 
  • Good Friday Agreement 1998 - sought an end to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Promised/guaranteed that the N. Irish people could be a part of the UK for as long as its citizens wanted. All paramilitary prisoners would be released within 2 years. The IRA had to abandon violent methods and a Northern Ireland Assembly would be set up among the largest and most influential parties. 
  • Worked because Blair was able to cooperate efficiently with Sinn Fein and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Accepted by major parties but not by the DUP. Issues persisted e.g Omagh bombing 1998 (killing 28) and in 2002, the Assembly was suspended because of a lack of trust between parties. 2006 - St. Andrews Agreement: restored the peace and led to the cooperation of DUP and Sinn Feinn. Ian Paisley elected as 1st Minister in 2007 with Martin McGuinness as his deputy. 
  • 2002 - Employment Act - gave unions new rights.
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Education and Welfare

  • Blair also made significant improvements in education and welfare. 
  • Slogan ''education, education, education". 1998 - introduced tuition fees @ £1,000 a year.
  • From 1997-2007, spending per pupil doubled. 13% increase in the number of GCSEs achieved from A*-C. By 2007, 43% of 18-30 year olds were at university and 20% of this figure were from the poorest families. 36,000 extra teachers. 
  • Succeeded in decreasing inequality that had been prominent under Thatcher. Report in 2007 suggested that the poorest 1/3 of the population were much better off under New Labour than they had been under Thatcher. 
  • Blair talked of a ''welfare to work'' hence the Job-Seeker's Allowance 1998 (only available to those who were unemployed and looking for work). 
  • 1998 - Human Rights Act, saw the introduction of a minimum wage introduced in 2001. 
  • Blair significantly managed to reduced child poverty. In 1997, 1/3 of all EU children in poverty were British. By 2007 - he'd managed to lift 1.2 million out of poverty. 
  • 2006 - UK matched EU spending on welfare @ 8% GDP (compared to 6.8% in 2000). 
  • Taxes were increased by 1p to help fund the NHS. 300,00 extra doctors, nurses and hospital staff. Labour was responsible for building 218 new hospitals - reinforcing Blair's ''public choice''
  • Eventually though - NHS funding was scaled back when there was an MRSA epidemic following the privatisation of hospital cleaning services. 
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Law and Order

  • 1997 - Labour publishes the MacPherson Inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence. Found evidence of institutional racism in the case. 
  • 1998 - Crime and Disorder Act - criminalised anti-social behaviour. 
  • 2002 - Police Reform Act - 12,500 new police officers and the creation of community support officers. 
  • 2000 - Freedom of Information Act allowed people to request data from public bodies - Blair called himself ''foolish'' for passing it. 
  • By 2007, crime had fallen by 35%. 
  • ''Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime'' - Blair was successful in reforming law and order, an areas the Conservatives had previously been strong in but could not match up to Labour. 
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Economy - Pros

  • Brown - longest serving economic chancellor since 1832. Inherited a favourable economic situation in 1997. 
  • Valued for his competence and prudency - looking at the future and deciding economy policy. Accepted Thatcherite polices such as privatisation (Labour had abolished Claus IV), and introduced a budget in 1997 ''far from old tax and spend'' (old Labour, associated with raising taxes excessively after elections). 
  • Brown's years are marked by constant budget surpluses and he managed to keep unemployement and inflation below 2.5%. The economy grew at a steady rate of 2.5% per annum. 
  • 1997 - deregulated the Bank of England (made the bank independent from gvt.) The government would set targets for inflation but the Bank would manage interest rates. 
  • Set Treasury rules about how much could be borrowed by government. 
  • Labour didn't increase taxes as promised and use private sources of funding e.g Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to fund new projects). 
  • Labour argued that a stable economy was necessary to improve welfare and public services which had been rejected under the Conservatives. 
  • Living standards under Labour remained high and the consumer economy boomed. 
  • Brown also extended privatisation e.g London Underground (2002)
  • Benefitted from foreign investment. 
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Economy - Failures

  • Brown is often seen as partially responsible for the 2008 crash since he bailed out banks at extremely high costs and excessively borrowed money from private funding sources. 
  • He increased ''stealth taxes'' which heavily affected pensions (they decreased in value). And after 2002, he began increasing general taxes which rose by 43% in the coming years. 
  • Between 1997 and 2002, the value of British gold fell on international markets, so Brown made the ''prudent'' decision to sell off 13 million ounces of British gold (over half of Britain's gold reserves). This was a mistake since by 2005, the value had recovered due to technologial developments and Brown ultimately lost around $3 billion. 
  • Manufacturing industries continued to be in decline and many of Brown's changes only affected the South-East of England. 
  • Brown failed to achieve his 10% of British energy to be renewable quota by 2010. British energy came from unreliable sources such as Russia and were mostly nuclear and damaging to the environment. 
  • Brown's reforms led to ovezealous credit and borrowing. 
  • 1999 - Foot and Mouth disease epidemic. Cattle are killed off which greatly affected the agricultural and tourist industry. 
  • 2000 - Fuel crisis - over rising fuel prices. Country at a standstill with many important workers e.g healthcare workers unable to get fuel. 
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Elections of 2001 and 2005

  • Blair comfortably won the election in 2001 but there was only a 59% turn out since people believed Labour victory was inevitable. Other had lost the support of the political system. 
  • Many valued Brown's prudency and Blair's leadership. 
  • Conservatives were tired and lacklustre and in need of rebuilding - not seen as a viable alternative to Labour. 
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Conservative leaders 1997-2005

  • William Hague (1997-2001): Elected in place of Kenneth Clarke (who was deemed too Europhillic). Dogged by the image of Thatcher, led a party which was tired and had an anti-EU stance. Hague performed poorly in Parliament against Blair and focused too heavily on EU issues - the party was characterised by Euroscepticism which voters did not associate with. Contrasted with Blair's Europhilia. 2001 Labour campaign featured Hague with a Thatcher style hair-do and the slogan ''be afraid, be very afraid". 
  • Iain Duncan Smith (2001-2003): Nicknamed ''the quiet man''. Wasn't strong in his ideas for the party and performed poorly in Parliament against Blair. Uncharistmatic and not respected by the public. 
  • Michael Howard (2003-2005): Replaced Iain Duncan Smith. More charismatic than previous leaders and a well respected leader. Performed well in Parliament against Blair, especially regarding the failures of Iraq (accused Blair of ''sexing up'' evidence). However, unable to reform the party since Labour were already doing very well, especially in areas such as law and order which was the Conservative's strong point. 
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  • 2006 - population reached 60.5 million due to immigration and an increasing birth rate. 
  • 1956-2006 - number of pensioners doubled which put a strain on the NHS and the workforce. Tensions between young and old grew. 
  • Women: Opportunities for women were steadily improving. 101 female MPs in Parliament (although sexistly referred to as ''Blair's babes''. Margaret Beckett = Foreign Secretary in 2006 and was the first woman to be given this role. However, issues and divides persisted. In 2007, women only earnt 87% of what men were earning - ''glass ceiling''. In 2007, all children (toddlers) were given 12.5 hours of free childcare a week. 
  • Young People: Blair's New Deal in 1998 - aimed at reducing youth unemployment. By 2001, spending on the New Deal reached £1.3 billion. Youth unemployment fell by 40% and 200,000 jobs were created. Blair had improved education and welfare service for young people also. Youth culture was more reformed than it had been under Major, e.g knife crimes, acid-house raves etc. However, despite the New Deal, many NEETs still existed. 
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Multicultural Society

  • The increased of immigration sought to expand Britain's multicultural society. 
  • Expansion of the EU in 2004 saw the immigration of people from Latvia and Poland come to the UK in search of work. By 2006, 1 million of the population were Poles. Transformed many areas such as rural employment. 
  • Extent to which Britain was multicultural: 2002 - Paul Boateng, 1st black cabinet minister. Mosques became a familiar feature in towns and cities. Festivals like Notting Hill Carnival were culturally diverse and attracted many. London was selected to host the 2012 Olympic games because it was a culturally diverse city. Religious Hatred Act 2006, outlawed religious discrimination. 
  • Extent to which Britain was not multicultural: MacPherson Inquiry 1997 - suggested that there was institutional racism in the Stephen Lawrence case. 7/7 attacks - 52 people killed. 9/11 and the war on terror meant many perceived Muslims as dangerous. Race riots throughout the Blair administration. 2006 - National Identity Card Act. 2006 Terroist Act - meant political prisoners could be kept as long as 28 days without charge. Daily Express article accused Poles and Latvians (Eastern Europeans) from taking peoples' jobs. 
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Blair Foreign Policy

  • 1998 - Operation Desert Fox, 4 day joint bombing campaign in Iraq. Successful. 
  • 1999 - the Kosovo War: intervention in the Kosovo War, Serbians were persecuting the Albanian state of Kosovo at the demands of their leader Slobodan Milosevic. The military campaign was successful despite only being as a result of air-attacks from the US. 
  • 2000 - intervention in Sierra Leonne. Many civilians were killed in the conflict and the Chinese Embassy destroyed in Belgrade.
  • 2001 - 9/11 attacks, beginning of the war on terror to expel the Taliban from Afghanistan, but fighting would continue for the foreseeable future. 
  • 2003 - Invasion of Iraq. US-led invasion (Bush). Blair went through the UN to ask for permission of invasion after resolutions 1440 and 1441 concluded Saddam Hussein had refused to comply with weapons inspections. He pushed for a resolution 1442 (permission of invasion), but it was denied by France, Germany, Russia and China. 2002 - 'Dodgy dossier' as it was nicknamed (by Spiked, online newspaper), claimed that Saddam had WMD's in his possession and that war was necessary in order to eliminate a threat of nuclear war. No WMD's were found in Iraq and the conflict remains controversial. 179 servicemen were killed in the war. Robin Cook (former FS resigned), and Dr. David Kelly a gvt. scientist committed suicide. 
  • EU - failed to achieve a rebate but favoured further EU integration, 1999 - Euro established in 9 member states but rejected by Brown. Human Rights Act 1998. 2004 Constitution, rejected by France and Denmark, 2007 - Lisbon Treaty confirmed the EU as a social and economic community. 
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