Old and New Labour are two quite distinct and different sections of Labour. Old Labour effectively sticks to the original core beliefs of Labour and is somewhat socialist, whereas New Labour has moved more to the centre (a shift to the right effectively), and is less socialist than Old Labour. The core beliefs of old labour are the concepts of class, collectivism, equality, organised labour, and the role of the state. Old Labour is a fervent believer in the theory that most political conflicts stem initially from class conflicts. Essentially, there is a clash between the working class and the capitalist class in the eyes of Old Labour.
Old Labour tried to redress the perceived imbalance of power between the capitalist class and the working class in favour of the latter. This was attempted through the protection of workers’ rights, giving trade unions considerable power, and the nationalising of major industries. New Labour on the other hand has come to accept that the class system has broken down and that this old fashioned concept of segregation between the classes is no longer true in our modern society. People identify less with a specific class; they are more interested in their own personal issues.
New Labour has come to recognise this. Also, the attitude towards collectivism has shifted a lot. Old Labour believes that people enjoy working collectively to achieve a common goal. New Labour has come to accept that people nowadays are actually more interested in working towards their own personal goals, than towards collective goals. An example of this is the welfare state. This was and to an extent still is a symbol of collectivism, however, nowadays; New Labour tries to implement policies that encourage individuality, for instance, owning your own home.
The welfare system has been restructured to promote self-reliance rather than dependency on the state. The concept of equality has also changed. Old Labour was quite keen to stress that it did not try and impose equality; it rather tried to reduce inequalities. New Labour has changed this view by accepting that in a free market capitalist state inequality will grow. It has however, implemented safeguards to ensure that people do not fall below a certain standard of living. The concept of equality is no longer seen in the same light as it was before; it has lost some of its previous importance.
Inequality is now accepted, but there are measures to prevent too much inequality. As one can see, New Labour has dramatically shifted from Old Labour. It has not completely abandoned its core beliefs, but it has modified them so that they appear more appealing to the general public. It has also done away with its traditional image of being very close to trade unions; a good example of this is when the RMT Union was kicked out of the party. It has shifted towards the right more and more and some would say that it has abandoned the ideals of true Labour.
New Labour has effectively become more Conservative than before. It has adopted many Conservative policies and has therefore gathered more support than the more socialist wing of Old Labour. In 1983, Labour presented its most Socialist manifesto ever. Labour suffered a resounding defeat to the Conservatives and decided to alter its policies. Once Blair was elected leader in 1994, he ushered in a new age of bringing the party back closer to the centre. His policy reforms clearly paid off with victory in the 1997 General Election. New Labour is the new way forward for Labour; it is the third way. Q (D)
The conservative and Labour parties up until about 10-15 years used to have considerably different views in terms of ideals and policies. Since the dawn of Tony Blair’s New Labour in 1994 which Neil Kinnock put in motion in 1992 the differences have all but disappeared in some areas, although in other areas there are still clear differences On the issue of tax and the economy which traditionally would have seen a clear divide in policies between the two parties but recently it has all changed, now they both favour only limited intervention in the economy that comes in the form of regulations implemented by the DTI.
Their monetary and fiscal policies are also similar, although the Tories accuse Labour of introducing 66 stealth taxes and that their government is following in the footsteps of past Labour governments of ‘tax and spend’. They both attempt to keep income tax at a low level, and Labour even reduced it by 1% in their ‘honeymoon’ period after they were elected, as well as stating they were to stick to the conservative spending policy for the first two years that was currently in place.
Although this isn’t uniform throughout the Labour Fiscal policy with Labour having tendencies to introduce more indirect taxes, which the Tories dubbed stealth taxes, as well as the more major 1% increase in National Insurance which was very heavily opposed by the Conservatives. Therefore although there are some noticeable similarities there is still some distinct differences which are quite clear, and can easily be portrayed by party spin-doctors as distinct difference between them and the other party.
This pattern of having similarities within areas of government whilst still having noticeable differences are unilaterally followed, although the amount and degree of difference does vary. As both parties, in particularly the Conservatives, fight to for a fixed unchallenged place in the political spectrum, instead of what they were particularly worried about after Labour’s shift to the right was being in political limbo which would mean voters couldn’t identify with them.
Although the parties may have principally the same ideas in an area, small policy differences can be magnified by huge proportions which is largely down to the media. For example although they supported the invasion of Iraq the Tories now say the case for war was presented on false evidence and consequently now oppose the war. As the Iraqi war was such a controversial issue and by and large one most of the public have an opinion on, having a different political stance will be much more affective at being seen as different than if policies on other ‘less news-worthy’ issues would.
Therefore it could be argued that it is not necessary to be vastly different in policies, but just different in controversial areas, and cynics might well argue that’s what the Conservatives do now. The question of whether the voter has a real choice, can then be questioned along the lines of do voters actually want vastly different ideals from parties? Do they care about whether they use league tables in schools? Is it that they just want to see differences in terms of the major issues, that in general people do care about and do have opinions on?
What defines a real choice in political terms? Is it that the Labour and Conservative parties should have clear differences for the good of the representative democracy that this country has or is that there should be an option for every view and opinion of a particular person to be represented within reason. This is fundamentally what the present situation is now, with a whole menagerie of minority parties representing the minority views.
The theory of having clear differences would be very hard to implement because they are both fighting for the middle-ground, and thus have to have a similar manifesto to appeal to them. One cannot be confused about the nature of political parties, they are not in the business of getting ethics awards, they are in a fight for votes. A totally dog eat dog world, they cannot afford to take too much consideration into their moral obligation to provide a real choice, that is if its their moral obligation.
Hence one now has to refer back to the question ‘Do the Labour and Conservative Parties offer a sufficient difference in policies to give the voter a real choice’? If you look at the specific detail you could well argue they don’t with them being policy wise similar, but in reality the similarities can only be expected, an rationally speaking you cant really do anything about it. Does the answer then not depend on your opinion as to what role political parties should fulfil and in what way it should conduct itself and from that one can conclude whether you think that they offer a real choice.
If you think they should cater for the masses in general you may well believe they offer a real choice, but on the other hand if you believe they should endeavour to cater for a much wider range of opinions and views you may well feel they don’t offer a real choice. Therefore there seems to be no clear answer, and that it may simply come down to personal opinion and preference, because after all what the parties are trying to do is represent peoples opinions, and its just how they do this that is up for debate.