Toye, Richard
April 2004
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Apr2004, Vol. 69 Issue 1, p83
Academic Journal
Historians, commentators and political scientists have divided over whether New Labour marks a definitive break with the pre-1994 Labour Party, or instead represents 'traditional values in a modern setting'. Steven Fielding bras recently offered a systematic and apparently persuasive exposition of the latter argument. In his view, the Labour Party, under Tony Blair's leadership, has been faithful to its past. This article challenges this interpretation of Labour's history, and by extension Blair's own 'core values' argument, to which (it is armed here) Fielding's claims bear a marked resemblance. It is suggested that such interpretations create the risk of a Whig interpretation of the party's history. Moreover, not only are sonic of the specific historical judgements used to back their up open to doubt, but also Fielding's focus on the party's parliamentary leadership inevitably brings about a misleading conclusion. Blair's accession marked a shift in the balance of forces within the party, and a focus on the ideology of the leadership alone is bound to obscure this. The article will therefore conclude by exploring the merits of Tony Benn's remark that New Labour is 'almost certainly the smallest party in the history of British politics'. It is argued that 'New Labour' should be seen not as something that has superseded 'Old Labour', but as something that exists alongside it, providing leadership as part of a udder coalition.


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