The Instrument

  • David Coates


The Labour government that picked up Will Hutton’s challenge on that May morning in 1997 came to its moment of power down a long and troubled history of its own. The arrival of a new government is always of this fashion. New governments invariably enter office engaged in a dialogue with more than the opportunities of the moment. They also enter office engaged in a dialogue with moments from their own past. Electorates tend to see just the novelty of the hour. Their thoughts, as well as their hopes, are predominantly directed towards the future. Politicians, by contrast, are obliged to read that novelty through a party lens of their own. Their hopes are also directed to the future, but they read that future as a moment in a longer story.1 New Labour certainly came to power in 1997 in that mental condition. It entered office conscious that throughout the party’s entire history, Labour governments had never managed to survive through more than two full electoral cycles. It entered office also conscious that from the previous four general elections no Labour government had emerged at all. Tony Blair and his colleagues came to their moment of power, that is, poised to make a new history for themselves and their party, but they did so against the background of an ‘old’ party history that was littered with the ghosts of governmental and electoral failure.


Industrial Policy European Monetary Union Party Leadership Labour Government Public Ownership 
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Copyright information

© David Coates 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Coates
    • 1
  1. 1.Wake Forest UniversityUSA

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