Date: Thu, 5 Sep 1996 16:51:54 CDT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: MichaelP <>
Subject: British debate about neo-liberalism

British ‘debate’ about neo-liberalism

London Times, 2 September 1996

TONY BLAIR'S attempt to reposition Labour as the party of modern social democracy was undermined yesterday when John Prescott pointedly refused to accept the term.

The Labour leader made a deliberate attempt in a series of interviews to redefine Labour as the new middle party positioned between a clapped out Tory party and old Labour. He argued that Labour's traditional values of justice and compassion should be matched with ambition and aspiration to bring it into the 21st century.

But he fuelled the current disquiet over his leadership by declaring that he would regard himself as a social democrat. Mr Prescott, the deputy leader, who is known to be unhappy about some of the policy changes being introduced by Mr Blair, deliberately chose not to associate himself with the Labour leader's words, arguing instead that he was a democratic socialist.

In a wide-ranging interview on BBC 1's Breakfast with Frost, where he emphasised the need to redefine new Labour, Mr Blair also disclosed that Labour would reveal its full tax plans after the November Budget. He indicated that the top rate of tax would not be raised, even for the very rich but left open that possibility in case the economic position changed this autumn. He also denied that he intended to rule out a single currency in the next Parliament, making clear there had been no policy change.

During an interview on Sky's Sunday Programme half an hour later, Mr Prescott insisted: I'm a democratic socialist .. our party, our new constitution, fully endorsed at the conference, said that we were a democratic socialist party. I'm proud to call myself a democratic socialist who is concerned about the traditional values but putting them into a modern setting.

Leadership sources pointed to a newspaper interview in which Mr Blair had said that the two phrases were interchangeable. Asked by The Sunday Times whether he believed he was a social democrat, Mr Blair said: Sure. I would describe myself as that. I would describe myself as a democratic socialist too. My belief is that those are interchangeable terms.

Mr Prescott's intervention follows growing tension between the deputy leader and Mr Blair. On Friday it emerged that he had sent a memo to Shadow Cabinet colleagues and their staff, insisting that he should be sent copies of all draft policy statements and documents. Earlier this summer he made clear that he was unhappy about spin-doctors briefing on policy and insisted that campaigning should be based on substance rather than soundbites.

Mr Blair's decision to underline Labour's move to the centre follows a series of strategy meetings last week with senior party figures. Yesterday he made clear that he would not be deflected from his ambition to modernise the party. He conceded there would be disagreement in the party about some changes. But my passionate belief, the conviction that drives me in politics, is that we shouldn't have to choose between this type of Conservatism and switching the clock back under Labour. There is a different, a new way forward.