British Labor's New Model

Robert Malecki malecki at
Wed Oct 2 23:52:10 MDT 1996

The following is interesting in the light of the Labor Party's congress.
Prettt much the same kind of thing going on here in Sweden.

Bob Malecki

>New York Times Editorial  --  October 2, 1996
>Only a few years ago, Britain's Labor Party seemed locked into a decline as
>inexorable as that of the coal mines and smokestack factories whose workers
>built its ranks. Now it has rebounded to a healthy lead in the polls based
>on a modernized, middle-class platform far removed from the old Socialist
>themes of nationalization, union power and unilateral nuclear disarmament.
>Having lost four consecutive national elections since 1979, Labor is
>determined to win the next one, due no later than next spring. Tony Blair,
>a telegenic, media-savvy 43-year-old who became the party's leader two
>years ago, has modeled himself on Bill Clinton and tried to capture the
>broad center ground on social, economic and defense issues.
>Labor's recovery is welcome. Strong competition is invigorating to
>democracy, just as it is in the marketplace. Labor's updated positions
>calling for a flexible mix of public and private ownership and more
>democratic decision-making serve Britain better than those they replaced.
>Other Labor views are vague but appealing campaign slogans whose real
>meaning will only become clear if the party takes power.
>British politics was transformed in the 1980's by Margaret Thatcher.
>Breaking sharply from the aristocratic traditions of the Conservative
>Party, she won over much of the upwardly mobile urban middle class with an
>emphasis on markets, deregulation and self-reliance. But under her chosen
>successor, John Major, the Tories have stumbled and been riven by internal
>conflicts over Britain's proper role in the developing European Union.
>Americans would find Labor's campaign platform, which has been on display
>at this week's party conference, familiar ground. In place of the old
>Socialist slogans are calls for combating crime, cutting taxes and assuring
>business profits. Mr. Blair urged his union allies to "forget the past. No
>more bosses versus workers. You are on the same side."
>He made a direct bid for the middle-class voters Mrs. Thatcher wooed away
>from Labor, reaching out to small business and the self-employed with
>promises of tax relief, reduced bureaucracy and tight fiscal discipline. He
>identified Labor as "the party of law and order" and pledged to sustain a
>strong national defense.
>Labor's clearest difference with the Conservatives is its more positive
>approach to the European Union. But even here the party is cautious,
>stressing Labor's commitment to national independence and opposition to
>joining a "European superstate."
>Throughout the developed world, the center-left parties that regularly
>elected governments in the 1960's and 1970's saw voters defect in large
>numbers during the 1980's and early 1990's. Most have tried to rebuild
>their strength by modernizing their appeal, and it makes sense for British
>Labor to seek lessons from Bill Clinton's campaign successes.
>Mr. Blair's success in broadening Labor's appeal seems real. The test now
>is whether he can hold this new base together in an election, and if Labor
>wins, in a new British government.
>Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company
>David Richardson
><oakport at>

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