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See Also: New Labour

Clare Spencer | 10:04 UK time, Wednesday, 5 May 2010

As polling day approaches commentators turn their minds to past elections, especially 1997, and offer their opinions on New Labour.

David Randall in the Independent succinctly chronicles the New Labour years:

"'Things Can Only Get Better', Cherie in a dressing-gown, and a bright, confident May morning. Bernie Ecclestone. Pretty straight kinda guys. That catch in his voice. The smile. Sincerity. 'She was the People's Princess.' Alastair Campbell. Cool Britannia.
"Step changes, strategies and stakeholders. Enablement, diversity and outreach. Projects, partnerships and initiatives. Above all, for all those "communities". Frank Field asked to 'think the unthinkable'; Roy Jenkins' report on electoral reform. Blairites, Brownites, 'Blair Babes' and nom-doms. Euan in Leicester Square; Ron Davies on Clapham Common; and a slow handclap from the WI.
"The Good Friday Agreement. Sure Start. PFI, MMR and CCTV. Asbos, 24-hour drinking, Saturday night in town centres, knives, hoodies, marching yobs off to the nearest cash machine, and 'a few eye-catching initiatives'. Hate crime, date crime, and a thousand other new crimes. 'Elf 'n' safety. Risk assessments. Inappropriate behaviour. Compensation. Pay-offs. Blue skies thinking. Lord Birt, tsars, envoys, focus groups, special advisers, Jo Moore, and 'a good day to bury bad news'. Targets. Tick boxes. More targets. 'New money.'
"An ethical foreign policy; 9/11; 'We will pay the blood price.' Dodgy dossiers, weapons of mass destruction, 45 minutes, David Kelly, a body, and no inquest. Afghanistan, Iraq, death tolls and Wootton Bassett. Hutton, Butler and Chilcot. Helmand, Basra and Baha Mousa. Home-grown terror cells. Tanks at Heathrow, 7/7, weedkiller bombs, terror raids, 42 days, extraordinary rendition. 'Yo, Blair!'"

In the Independent Mark Steel says the root to what he sees as Labour's demise can be found in New Labour:

"So until the era of Blair, whatever the size of its vote, it retained its branches in every town, its campaigners, its youth sections and its links with working class communities. Under Blair that evaporated, so the branches are almost dead, and almost anyone with any vision or passion has packed up and left, so that now they might be overtaken by Liberal Democrats, not just in votes but as a national party in every sense. That will be Blair's legacy."

Polly Toynbee reminisces in the Guardian about her time on a Clapham housing estate and wonders what the New Labour legacy will be:

"Walking back home I thought over this microcosm of New Labour with its hyperbolic promises brought down to earth by hard realities. The social distance between Clapham Park and well-off Clapham where I live is as wide or wider now. Like Britain, the estate is brighter, cleaner, safer and better off with tax credits - but the social chasm between their children's lives and those 10 minutes away is as deep as ever."

George Monbiot argues against his colleagues at the Guardian, calling New Labour a parasite:

"Cling on to nurse for fear of something worse. Though she has become crabbed and vicious, though she has usurped our parents, swiped our inheritance, binned our toys and sold the nursery, we must cower behind her skirts for fear of the beasts that prowl beyond. This, in essence, is what Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Freedland, Seumas Milne and Nick Cohen are now telling us to do."

In the Telegraph Matthew d'Ancona continues the criticisms:

"And their legacy will be deep and lasting. Not just a public debt of £167 billion, unreformed public services, a broken society, and Armed Forces deplorably overstretched and under-resourced. What the New Labour gang grasped was that post-war Britain, though not quite a social democracy, had grown utterly dependent upon the state in all its manifestations."

Tony Blair's agent from beginning to end, John Burton told the BBC's Today programme that he is convinced New Labour isn't over:

"The very fact that Mandelson is involved with the present Labour government shows that New Labour isn't over... You've just got to have the very thought in the North East of a Conservative government and it really generates enthusiasm among Labour people."

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