Looking Forward: Unfinished Agendas and New Models

  • David Coates


Nonetheless, honour must be given where honour is due, and it is definitely due here. Whatever else can and cannot be said about this New Labour government, one thing at least is very clear: this is a government of high intellectual capacity and moral purpose, one whose policies are sustained and underpinned by analysis of unprecedented quality and range. We are not dealing with stupidity here, or with the politics of soundbites, as arguably was the case in Labour governments in the past. There is real force in the arguments that New Labour politicians make about the novelty of the agenda posed by changes in the global economy, and by the rising expectations of an increasingly sophisticated and affluent electorate. There is real force in their ruminations on how best to modernize the provision of public services, the better to maintain public support for the social democratic principles underpinning their provision. There is real force in their argument that productivity growth holds the key to employment and affluence over time. Even its critics must concede that this is a government that has built its policies on the basis of careful and complex analyses of the origins and character of the problems that those policies are designed to redress; and that this is a government which, once it settled upon those policies, has demonstrated an unusually sustained capacity to hold to them, and to maintain their coherence over time.


Public Service Child Poverty Labour Government Labour Party Welfare Provision 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 6.
    But not many: for the relative quiescence of the PLP during that first Parliament, see P. Cowley and M. Stuart, ‘In place of strife? The PLP in Government 1997–2001’, Political Studies vol. 51(2), 2003, pp. 315–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 20.
    The report was leaked to union leaders, and by them to the rest of us: see the Guardian, 8 March 2002; and also S. Sachdev, Paying the Cost: PPPs and the Public Service Workforce, London, Catalyst, 2004.Google Scholar
  3. 21.
    C. Leys, What Works: Public Services Publicly Provided, London, Catalyst, 2001, p. 2.Google Scholar
  4. 25.
    Sir George Blunden, to the Treasury and Civil Service Committee of the House of Commons, 20 October 1993, quoted in William Keegan, The Prudence of Mr. Gordon Brown, London, John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p. 212.Google Scholar
  5. 28.
    Tawney’s famous essay ‘The choice before the Labour Party’ was first published in Political Quarterly in 1932. It is worth reading in its entirety even now, including this often cited piece. ‘Onions can be eaten leaf by leaf, but you cannot skin a live tiger paw by paw: vivisection is its trade, and it does the skinning first. If the Labour Party is to tackle its job with some hope of success, it must mobilize behind it a body of conviction as resolute and informed as the opposition in front of it. The way to create it, and the way when created, for it to set about its task, is not to prophesy smooth things. Support won by such methods is a reed shaken by every wind. It is not to encourage adherents to ask what they will get from a Labour Government, as though a campaign were a picnic, all beer and sunshine. It is to ask them what they will give. It is to make them understand that the return of a Labour Government is merely the first phase of a struggle, the issue of which depends on them.’ A fuller extract can be found in D. Coates, ‘Social democracy and the logic of party traditions’, Economy and Society, vol. 15(3), 1986, pp. 422–4.Google Scholar
  6. 29.
    On the South Korean growth model and the ‘disciplining of capital’, see Vivek Chibber, ‘The politics of a miracle: class interests and state power in Korean developmentalism’, in D. Coates (ed.), Varieties of Capitalism, Varieties of Approaches, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2005, pp. 122–38.Google Scholar
  7. 33.
    For an argument that it should, see Robert Taylor, Social Democratic Trade Unionism: An Agenda for Action, London, Catalyst, 2003. For an earlier debate on whether it could, see Perry Anderson, ‘Figures of descent’, New Left Review 161, 1987, pp. 20–77, andGoogle Scholar
  8. D. Coates, The Question of UK Decline, Hemel Hempstead, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994, pp. 123–7.Google Scholar
  9. 36.
    Will Paxton and Mike Dixon, The State of the Nation: An Audit of Injustice in the UK, London, IPPR, 2004, p. 60.Google Scholar
  10. 43.
    The Stuart Hall argument is reproduced in A. Chadwick and R. Heffernan, The New Labour Reader, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2003, pp. 82–7; that of Will Hutton, first published in the Political Quarterly, can be found inGoogle Scholar
  11. A. Gamble and T Wright (eds), The New Social Democracy, Oxford, Blackwell, 1999, p. 99. The rebuttal by Ruth Kelly MP in that same collection (‘Response to Will Hutton’) rests on New Labour’s possession of what she terms ‘New Keynesian growth theory’ (p. 103). She is right. The New Labour project is underpinned by such a growth theory. But so is Hutton. Whatever else that growth theory is, it isn’t anti-capitalist.Google Scholar
  12. 54.
    Ruth Lister, ‘Doing good by stealth’, New Economy vol. 8(2), June 2001, p. 66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 56.
    D. Piachaud and H. Sutherland, ‘Child poverty in Britain and the New Labour government’, Journal of Social Policy, vol. 30(1), 2001, p. 115.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Coates 2005

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations