A Level Politics

Improving your grade

FAQ: What is New Labour?

Posted by Matt Walker on October 29, 2009

New Labour In 1994 Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party.  His first major act was to rewrite Clause IV of the party’s constitution, ending its symbolic commitment to nationalisation, and some would say, socialism. So what do New Labour believe in?


  1. Free markets – minimal interference with free market. In 1997 the Bank of England was made independent; pursuit of low inflation  the basis of economic policy; support for globalisation; and light touch regulation.
  2. Equality of Opportunity –  abandonment of  an explicit aim to narrow the gap between rich and poor. Insisted that equality of opportunity would enable the poor to  improve their lot in life if helped to take advantage of opportunities offered up by globalisation.
  3. Public spending – massive increases in health and education spending linked to reforms,  financed by the profits of the deregulated free market and from borrowing.
  4. Community – the balancing of rights and responsibilities, hence higher prison sentences, strong anti-terrorism laws, and the introduction of ASBOS. Combined with targeted state support to eliminate child poverty through tax credits,  and state benefits linked to an obligation  to find work.
  5. Trade unions – their role limited to the workplace, rather than the wider economic policy-making framework. Introduction of a national minimum wage.
  6. ‘Modernisation’ – devolution of power to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; partial reform of the House Lords; introduction of Human Rights Act. England remains highly centralised.

Andrew Marr’s History of Britain (youtube clip – start at 2mins 15 secs)


4 Responses to “FAQ: What is New Labour?”

  1. Hannah Readshaw said

    It may be a silly question but how would you define Free Market? Ive looked on the internet but it just tells me really complex definitions. Is it just part of the economy that the goverment do not control?

  2. Matt Walker said

    Hi Hannah,

    It’s not a silly question! And you are essentially right in your assumption. The free market is basically all the private economic transactions that people participate in, such as buying and seeling, producing and transporting. By private we mean those things done by free acting individuals and companies. When the government runs things, this is known as the public sector, and it is done instead of the free market. Hope this helps.

  3. adyhorne said

    Ah, i needed that aswell, as i wasn’t quite sure on this either. Also, do people and politicians blame the recession on free markets? One more thing, if the government is running a private sector, does it observe and control every small legal market? (e.g a corner shop) or just large areas like banks and large retail stores.

  4. Grace Willis said

    i am confused like Ady on whether the recession is blamed on the free markets themselves or whether they didnt have enough regulation if its because of the free markets themselves then the conservatives can’t moan at Labour because having a free market is one of their principles !

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