Campaigning in Poetry, Governing in Prose

  • David Coates


The final ingredient in New Labour’s strategy to narrow the UK’s productivity gap was its commitment, as we noted in the last chapter, to ‘improve productivity in public services’. Though that commitment invariably came last in any listing of the strategy’s component elements, it was never a minor or a residual one. On the contrary, the condition, delivery and expansion of public services in the UK since 1997 has been, and remains, absolutely central to the New Labour project, and critical to its potential for regular re-election. Public sector productivity preoccupied the Treasury under Gordon Brown as part of his campaign to raise living standards without raising direct taxation, and it preoccupied Number 10, as one of the defining elements of what is ‘new’ in New Labour. The Chancellor has invariably approached the issue of productivity in the services that his budgets finance in primarily cost terms: the cost to the taxpayer, and the cost to UK business and its competitiveness if government departments do not play their ‘part in meeting the productivity challenge’.2 The Prime Minister has shared those concerns and on occasions that vocabulary, but more normally Tony Blair has presented the ‘modernization’ of the UK’s welfare state as the only way of protecting old Labour values in an increasingly competitive and globalized world.


Private Sector Public Sector Public Service Prime Minister Specialist School 
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  1. 16.
    Tony Blair, The Courage of Our Convictions: Why Reform of the Public Services is the Route to Social Justice, London, Fabian Pamphlet, 2002, pp. 21–8.Google Scholar
  2. 25.
    Labour Party, New Labour: Because Britain Deserves Better, London, Labour Party, 1997, p. 13.Google Scholar
  3. 34.
    David Walker, ‘Never-Never Land’, Guardian, 9 October 2002. See also R. Ball, M. Heafey and D. King, ‘PFI — a good deal for the public purse or a drain on future generations?’, Policy and Politics, vol. 29(1), 2001, pp. 95–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 40.
    Figures in this paragraph from R. Brooks, Pay and the Public Service Workforce, London, IPPR, July 2004.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Coates 2005

Authors and Affiliations

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

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