Is New Labour Still Socialist?

The definition of socialism is ‘An economic, social and political doctrine which expresses the struggle for the equal distribution of wealth by eliminating private property and the exploitative ruling class’. In some ways I believe that ‘New Labour’ is still socialist, but not to the same extent as when the party was first established. For example, the original rules and traditions set by the original ‘Old Labour’ are somewhat non-existent in new labours ideas and beliefs. There are many examples of how new labour have differed from old labours policies, however there are also many similarities between the two ages of the Labour Party. For example, New labours idea of a minimum wage very much bares a socialist style of view, as this is seen as fair, equal and is a redistribution of income. The old Labour party very much believed in the redistribution of wealth, as this was seen as helping out the less fortunate people of Britain, this counters my belief that New Labour have ‘stranded’ away from the old labour policies. New Labour is broadly pro-Europe, and wants to lead the country to become more involved in the EU. However, the old labour view is that the EU doesn’t have the same values as Britain. This is a prime example of how new labour have strayed away from old labour and are becoming less socialist as a result of this, because these views are radically different from each other, showing that new labour may have differed from old labour views. In light of this, new labour still share many of the same ideas that old labour once believed. For example, old labour believed that everyone in the country should work together and should forget about social classes, and new labour believes that poverty gaps should be smaller, and classes should work together. Also, new and old labours both believe in public expenditure on a large scale. This is to give the nation equal opportunities and the best possible standards of living, arguing the point of new labour still being a socialist party. Old labour believed that taxation should be high on the rich people of the country, as they have more money to give to the country to benefit the less affluent citizens of Britain. New labour believes in low taxation, however stealth taxes are used to also benefit the country. This shows that both eras of the party believed in taxation benefiting the less ‘fortunate’ members of the country. Another reason to believe that labour has become less socialist is the different views on nationalisation. Old labour believed that big companies, like the railway, the telephone, and electricity firms are owned by the country as a whole instead of privately by businessmen. Whereas new Labour share the view that the idea of Private Finance Initiatives (PFI), they welcome private funds into national institutions such as hospitals and schools etc. New Labour is seen to be ‘expanding’ on old Labours views and adjusting them to fit in with Britain’s social aspects. For example, old Labour believed in free education from 518 years however now new Labour want 3-4 year olds to have free nursery education, something that wasn’t about with old Labour. Old Labour morals disagree with the idea of entrenched privileges toward education, as the state should create conditions that will give maximum opportunity to all sections of society. Whereas new Labour does not have

a problem with public schools, they have the view that if people are prepared to spend more money on giving their children more benefits then so be it. When old Labour first became a political party, they were to represent the working class people of the country, which were linked to trade unions. The unions had realized that the liberals and conservatives would not represent them, so they looked to Labour to represent skilled workers. The Labour party established a wide range of trade unions, socialists, Christians, Fabians and Marxists, this provided key amounts of support for the then liberal party. The common old Labour views consisted of, forgetting class, which meant that the country should work together to earn the best way of living for everyone. Old Labour believed that the working class should have their own say, which was to be non-violent. The idea of collectivism was a view shared by old Labour, which means to work as a group rather than as individuals, which links to the view of forgetting class. Old Labour have the idea that free enterprise (An economic system characterized by private ownership of property and productive resources, the profit motive to stimulate production, competition to ensure efficiency, and the forces of supply and demand to direct the production and distribution of goods and services.) will do nothing good for the working class, however new Labour believe that free enterprise is a good idea as the workers will benefit massively from this. New Labour still have many socialist views such as the idea of the UK being fairer and more prosperous than it was a decade ago, and it having the highest employment rate in the G7, and also that the government lifted 600,000 children out of poverty in 2007. This shows that the New Labour government is still keeping in mind the working class people of Britain, showing us that Labour still share some socialist views. However, New Labour has been accused of being far too right wing on some policies. For example, in December 1997, 47 Labour MPs rebelled when the government carried through the previous administration's plans to cut the benefits paid to new single-parents. Tuition fees for university students were also introduced with no debate within the Labour Party itself. The government also promoted wider use of Public Private Partnerships and the Private Finance Initiative, which were opposed particularly by trade unions as a form of privatisation. Another example of Labour appearing too right wing is that the New Labour government has been closer to corporate business interests than any previous Labour government. This idea was opposed by old Labour views, and dramatically shows how different new Labour is now from when the party first started out. Since 1997 Labour's economic policies have sought to take a middle way between the more centralised socialist approach of past Labour governments and the free market approach of the Conservative government from 1979 to 1997. One of the most popular policies introduced was Britain's first National Minimum Wage Act. This act was a massive revelation, and shows us that Labour still shares a socialist way of thinking, even in this modern day and age. One Labour policy that bares in mind the idea of socialism is the country’s ‘war on terror’. The Party has sought to put the promotion of human rights and democracy at the core of British foreign policy. Blair decided to send British troops to fight alongside the United States and a number of forces in smaller numbers from around the world in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Labour went against the majority view of the country, as they sent UK troops into the Middle East. This may show that socialism is no more at the heart of

Labours plans, as the government ignored the British people, a key view that old Labour were against. New Labours idea of terrorists being kept in prison without trial for up to three months would be widely disapproved by old Labour, as they strongly believe in civil liberties. These conflicting views are vastly different backing up the idea of new Labour no longer being a socialist party. New Labour widely believes in ‘the third way’. This is a mixture of socialism and capitalism and rejects both socialism and laissez-faire approaches to economic governance. The third way gives the impression that New Labour are becoming less socialist than before, as it rejects a socialist approach to the economy. New Labour believe in reducing the relationship with Trade Unions, however Old Labour share the view that Trade Unions are in fact, important, as they look out for workers rights. If T.U’s were to be abolished, workers could be taken advantage of and have no none to look of for their rights. Labour now believes in individual choice, as opposed to the community, which is the opposite of what old Labour believed in. Old Labour believed that the country should work together as a whole and forget class struggle, however new Labour are set to reintroduce the opposite of this. This is another reason why it seems Labour has become a less socialist party. In conclusion, it would be very difficult to stay as socialist as old Labour were, as they had extreme views which may not work in this day and age. However, I do believe that new Labour is still a socialist party, as they introduced key beneficial policies such as the minimum wage act. New Labour seem slightly more central than previous years, however I believe that they are very much still a ‘left wing’ political party.