How different is New Labour from Old Labour? The Labour Party was formed to represent the working class at a time when the franchise had not yet been extended to such groups. The party’s origins in the unions and socialists societies that meant it originally pursued an agenda centered on socialism, being more left wing on the political spectrum. However changes in the class and occupational structure of the nation since the 1960s, saw the party looking to broaden its appeal beyond this core idea.
Firstly, Old Labour characterizes the party prior to the modernization programme begun by Neil Kinnock in 1983 and completed by Tony Blair. Old Labour refers to the party’s historic commitment to socialism and its links with socialist societies, trade unions and the old working class. The core ideology of Old Labour was the outcome of equality. Therefore it believed in the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor, putting heavy taxes on upper-class citizens. They had a strong belief in collectivism, emphasizing the interdependence of every human being.
It stresses the priority of group goals over individual goals and the importance of cohesion within social groups. Old Labour believed in nationalization, which is the process of taking a private industry or assets into public ownership and the redistribution of wealth. They wanted to manage the economy in co-operation with the trade union and big businesses. Old Labour also took the Bank of England into state control, enabling them to control interest rates. The Old Labour party was in favor of universal welfare benefits.
They supported comprehensive school, giving children of mixed abilities the availability and opportunity to go to school. During Wilson’s time in office from 1964 to 1970 housing was a major issue, new houses were built which made low-income house buyers eligible for subsidies. They tried to enable the people equal opportunities to ensure social justice. They also emphasized upon rehabilitation measures, rather than tough custodial sentences. They believed that rehabilitation would help deter criminals from recommitting crimes.
However, in electoral terms ‘Old Labour’ lost four General Elections between 1979-1992. Tony Blair realized that if they wanted to win something change needs to occur and as a consequence New Labour came out of defeat. New Labour emerged following a process of party modernization completed by Tony Blair; he first used the phrase when addressing the Labour conference party leader in 1994. It involved a less powerful role for the trade unions and made the party more appealing to middle-class voters. The New Labour was characterized by the notion of a Third way.
The party moved more towards the center of the political spectrum; it existed between conventional socialism and mainstream capitalism. Tony Blair called the Third Way a stands for a modernized social democracy, passionate in its commitment to social justice and the goals of the center-left. It was in favour of a public-private partnership. It allowed the involvement of the private sector in the delivery of public services. New Labour now had preference for selective welfare benefits. Still providing equal opportunity combined with an emphasis on personal responsibility.
Under New Labour citizens get welfare benefits based on factors such as income, with the idea that if less money is distributed more can be spent on other things such as the National Health Service (NHS). New Labour focused on decentralization of government power to the lowest level. On becoming chancellor, the first thing Gordon Brown did was to grant independence to the Bank of England. They also lowered taxation rates and were more favorable towards wealth creation than Old Labour. Regarding punishment, it also aimed to be tough on crime, but also tough on the causes of crime.
It made sure that the punishment fit the crime, but it also battled the causes of crimes. Following the modernization of the party, New Labour won three consecutive General Elections between 1997-2005. Whereas Old Labour had been based on the big ideas of socialism and collectivism for the advancement of the working class, New Labour attempted to reconstruct the state with a more democratic and individual responsibility based on the idea of communitarianism. Old Labour was more dogmatic, where it now has changed to becoming more pragmatic.
It appeals to not only the working class but to all the classes. New Labour attempts to maintain the dynamic aspects of a liberalized economy, changing from a public sector provision to a public-private partnership. Decreasing government intervention has helped give opportunities to business owners to create wealth and to have more flexibility, overall improving the citizen’s satisfaction with the party. New Labour still believes in universal welfare benefits however they are more selective before taking into account factors uch as income before granting citizens welfare benefits. This eliminates people who are taking advantage of the government and concentrates government spending to people who really need it. The Labour party has evolved to reflect changes in society and voters needs. The gap between the Left and Right has significantly narrowed. Labour no longer seeks nationalization but prefers equality of opportunity rather than outcome. The Labour Party is no longer the preserve of the socialist working class but a party for middle England as much as the workers as well.