Kiouas Malika L3 LLCER Anglais (1)

Kiouas Malika L3 LLCER Anglais

“Tackling poverty” and building more equal society are the main goals of British

prime ministers over the years, or not. Tony Blair’s New Labour was a mixture of old

Labour policies with Thatcher capitalist reforms. He wanted to fight against poverty

and create a classless society where equality may reign. In 2001 Labour manifesto,

where he states:”My passion is to continue the modernisation of Briatin in favour of

hard working families, so that all our children; wherever they live, whatever their

backgrou nd have an equal chance to benefit from the opportunities our country has to

offer and to share its wealth,” he shows his will to fight in favour of the “hard working

families” to allow their children to have a future based on their capacities, not on thei r

background neither their origin.

To what extent Tony Blair modernised the labour

party in order to improve the lives of the working class and provide equal access to

education ?

This essay will deal with the political idealogies related to Blair insip iration to create

the New Labour, his policies in his path towards Britain’s modernisation through


Updating the Labour party represented a great deal in British Politics arena. Tony

Blair deleted, but not competery, the ancient ideoligies for which the labour party

stood. In fact, those keneysian and socialist ideologies served well during the post war

period, Baveridge report allowed to create a welfare state and full employent served to

provide poeple with money, security and prevent the wor king class families to slip into

poverty and famine as well as they contributed to rebuild Great Britain after the

immense distruction of the Nazis Germany.

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These policies were relevent for three

decades even if it took great amounts of public spending.

The victory of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 General elections anounced the end of the

post war consensus with all its benefits and polices. In fact, Thatcher based its

economic policies on capitalism, free market and individualism, she cut partially

welfare state benefits and abolished full employment aiming to limit public spending

and privatizing public sectors creating unemployment and high inflation. When

Labour goverment provided full employment, spending on unemployment benefits

were low but for Thatche r, the welfare state was “an obtsacle to economic growth”.

By adopting Thatcher and Attlee policies, Tony Blair found a “third way to break

traditionnal bounderies between right and left, giving Britain an obvious reason to vote

for New Labour and new h ope and perspective in taking Britain to whole new level.

After his lanslide victory in 1997 after eighteen years of Tory’s rule, he continued to

develop Thatcher’s policies even if it caused high unemployment, poverty and

inequality which rose since she w as in power and it worsened with him. He was

supported by rich business men which explains his committement to these policies, he

also reduced the power that trade unions had on the party and on the goverment as well

even if they were the origin of the cre ation of the labour party and the link between

poor working class’ voice and the goverment. 1

The old Labour’s sense of humanity and charity was still present in new version of

the party. Blair continued his committement to tackle poverty by changing th e attitude

of the poor lower class pushing them to work by reforming the welfate state “ Welfare

to work” he created Social Exclusion Unit which pomoted activities aiming to help

poeple reintegrate into community by providing them with materials, aiming to create

their own business therefore create more activity and deal with high rates of

unemployment caused by Tory’s rule. He created “minimum wage ( initially set at

3,8? per hour) encouraging incentive to employment through progressive tax credit”. 2

Wit h those reforms, Tony blair aimed to motivate the unemployed to get a job or

build his business. In his previous statement, he mentioned “hard working families”

and he refered to the workers who can’t survive till the end of the month with their low

wages and long hours of work. Selena Todd says:” it implies that our entitlement to

citizenship is not birth right but rests only on our ability to work our fingers to the

bones ‘hard working families’ silently but effectively conjures up its mythical opposite

number the ‘benefit scrounger’, the ‘chav’ the parastical underclass,” 3 Tony Blair

1 Pat Thane. “Devided kingdom: a history of Britain,1990, to the present” first edition. United

Kingdom : Cambridge University press, 2018. 2 John, Peter and Pierre Lurbe. Chapter five – The evolution of Welfare state. In : Civilisation

britanique. Hachette. Paris: Vanves, 2017, p116. 3 Todd Selina. The People: the rise and fall of the working class 1910 – 2010. Oxford. London: John

Murray, 2014.

targeted precisely this class because he deeply believed hard work ethic can lead to

success even if it is not the case in the real world because capitalism leads to the fast

enrichement of the country and rich poeple in it, widening the gap between the rich

and the poor. As a result, inequality that Britain endures has a close relationship with

the country’s wealth and not with inequality of income and it is prooved that more

equal societies are healthier and happier 4which was the case of post war period when

equality reigned.

Imran Hussein, head of policy at Child Poverty Action groups, stated : “ Poverty is

not about being able to participate in society,” 5 it makes sense that the goverment have

less trust in poeple because unemployed have much more benefits than the hard

working person who pays taxes, enjoys the same rights and pleasures or less than the

‘scrounger’. The welfare benefits on unemployment raised poeple on th e culture of

dependency and this is what both Thatcher and Blair tried to eradicate. He sought to

help the ‘deserving poor’ by improving their poverty rather than eradicate inequality. 6

Labour goverment increased public spending on benefits and tax credits to improve

the deserving poor’s life and allow him to particpate in society.

With Gordon Brown by his side, Tony Blair succeeded to decrease poverty among

pensioners and families with children, long term poverty decreased, “from 12 per cent

of the UK p opulation and 16 per cent of all children in 1998, to 8 per cent and 10 per

cent, respectively in 2003,” by improving the life of poor householders, the life of their

children would improve systematically which would give them an access to education

and pa rticipation in life in the future. 7

Tackling poverty in general and promoting equality of opportunity was the first step

to a much more complex issue which is child poverty and education. Tony Blair’s goal

was to eradicate child poverty in the next deca de and promote equality of opportunity

4 Wilkinson Richard. How economic equality harms societies. In : TED talk. Poste d on October 2011.

available on : ( seen on December 5, 2018). 5 Tom de Cestella.”Baveridge report: From ‘deserving poor’ to ‘scroungers’? “, BBC News Magazine.

-20431729 ( accessed December 6, 2018) 6 Todd Selina. The People: the rise and fall of the working class 1910 – 2010. Oxford. London: John

Murray, 2014. 7 Pat Thane. “Devided kingdom: a history of Britain,1990, to the present” first edition. United

Kingdom : Cambridge Univers ity press, 2018. P 448 -449

for every child no matter his background, he said “ ask me for my three main priorities

for the goverment and I tell you education education education,” he introduced “Every

Child Matter” strategy to provide support f rom birth to nineteen years old in order to

reintegrate in addition to a test dedicated to disadvanteged children to identify their

needs. 8

Tony Blair’s modernisation touched every aspect in United Kingdom but especialy

education. He wanted the specialize middle schools in two years time after his election

in 2001, he was obssessed with choice and he forgot parents were playing in another

field than his. He criticized comprehensive schools implemented by old labour back

in the fifties. In fact, c omprehensive schools came as reaction to inequality that rose

after the eleven plus test between students from different backgrounds, grammar

schools and modern schools. The test became a fierce battle to succeed and to access

to grammar school which prese rved its prestige because it was the main avenue ,if not

the only, to well paid, non manual high status occupation. Therefore, the old labour

party encouraged comprehensive schools where everyone could meet. In contrast,

Tony Blair thought that schools wit h mixed abilities often fail criticizing the Clement

Attlee ideology about education.

Tuition fees were introduced in 1998 after one year in the goverment, the amount was

1000? per year. In 2003, the amount tripled making it harder for high school stude nts

to think about getting into university espacialy when they are from middle class

family. Introduction of the market even in education did not aim to help the poor but

it aimed to serve universities and inject money to compete with United States

instit utions even if it implies a violation of Labour manifesto. Universities became

dedicated to rich poeple who could pay tuition fees at once rather than the student with

full capacities and great abilities suitable for that specific type of education that

selective universities like harvard offers.

Promoting meritocracy was an obvious goal in 2001 Labour manifesto but Tony

Blair’s actions did not fit with his statement. This word reflect a modern way of Social

Darwinism in which the richest can survive in favor of the talented, they created a

8 Path, Thane. “Devided Kingdom: A history of Britain, 1900 to the present.” First edition. United

Kingdom : Cambridge University Press, 2018. P453

world where only rich students with rich parents and backgrounds could have a direct

access to high positions in the goverment.

To conclude, the statement of 2001 Labour manifesto could be devided into two

phases in the the new labour party making history and its influence on Britsh politics.

The first phase was from 1997 to 2001, Tony Blair set up his reforms in terms of

economic and social policies inspired by his predecessors from both Labour and

Conser vative parties. By adopting capitalism, he succeeded to take to the country’s

economy to the top making it between the wealthiest countries in the world, but with

the wealth comes inequality and poverty and he delt with it and decreased poverty rates

targe ting householders with children. There is strong link between parents’ financial

situation and their children well being, productivity and intelligence therefore by

improving their lives by encouraging them to find work and participate in the

community, th eir children would be able to have an ambition to succeed through hard

work in school and fit in society no matter their background and this is the second

phase which started from 2001 to 2005. This phase focused on education and promoted

meritocracy even if Tony Blair continued his commitment to the marketization in favor

of the rich in the same time as he tried to tackle inequality in schools by offering grants

of 1000? to the poorest students which is contradictory.

Policies and reforms implemeted by different parties were short term solutions with

long term consequences like the full employment which was suitable in the post war

period where they encouraged immigration but created high rates of unemployment

and racism towards the carebeans during Marg aret Thatcher’s rule. For Tony Blair , it

was the introduction of tuition fees which tripled to 9000? by 2012 with the coalition

goverment, the poor talented students were discouraged by the huge amount of debts

despite the loans that the goverment was rea dy to pay ahead and the debt that would

haunt them for thirty years after their graduation.

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