These two faces of the New Labour government — the reforming and the conserving — are not restricted to its education policy. They crop up everywhere, for there seems to be a genuine, and indeed quite legitimate, tension in what New Labour is about. To a far greater degree than in Labour governments in the past, the key figures in this government — and certainly its leader — are in one sense profoundly conservative, particularly in social terms. This is not a libertarian government, afraid of order or hostile to traditional institutions like the family. Far from it: this is a government committed to the view that ‘families are the core of our society. They should teach right from wrong’: one whose initial critique of their predecessors’ crime policy was precisely that ‘the Conservatives have forgotten the “order” part of “law and order”’.1 No, this is a government whose leading figures repeatedly insist that, if their policies are new, their values are not, and yet it is also a government that sees itself as engaged in a long-term and wide-ranging programme of fundamental reform. It is a government that perennially seeks to conserve the best of the past only by persistently changing many of the key institutions and practices that have come down to it from that past. Being a reforming conservative is never an easy endeavour, and it certainly has not been easy since 1997.
KeywordsPrime Minister Social Exclusion Social Inclusion Child Poverty Labour Government
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