The Historical Roots of New Labour

Kenneth O. Morgan finds that New Labour stands firmly in the mainstream of British political history.

Historians of British politics distrust the cult of the new. Continuity rather than novelty appears to be the norm. ‘New’ is a word more commonly applied to US politics – Wilson’s New Freedom in 1913, Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1933, Kennedy’s New Frontier in 1961. In Britain, the adjective ‘New’ is much less usual. But it has become commonplace since Tony Blair’s conference speech in October 1994 repeatedly spoke of New Labour and New Britain. The word ‘new’ appeared thirty-seven times, and 107 times in the draft election manifesto. New Labour was the ever-present watchword in the 1997 general election. When Blair then took over the presidency of the European Union, he proclaimed a New Europe as well, or alternatively a People’s Europe (another favoured usage).

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