March 2001

'Blairism' — a beacon for Europe?

Since Tony Blair first offered his "Third Way" politics as a beacon for the rest of Europe, much debate has ensued about the merits of his political vision. For some, he has added something new to the social democratic/labourist tradition. For others, he has sold out all socialist ideals and given in to the vulgar pretensions of global capitalism.

At a seminar held at the Finnish Institute in London in May 1998, the Blairist vision was analysed in detail. Now, at the time when the material from the seminar has been published as a book ('Blairism' - A Beacon for Europe? edited by Keijo Rahkonen & Tapani Lausti), Blair's vision is coming under new scrutiny because of approaching elections in Britain.

At the launch of the book at the University of Helsinki this weekend, one of the editors of the book, Keijo Rahkonen, pointed out that although the Third Way has been a much debated topic during the last two years, the contributions included in this book add a new critical perspective, from the Nordic countries in particular, not too well known elsewhere. Rahkonen said that one indication of this is that Anthony Giddens in his latest book The Third Way and its Critics (Polity Press, 2000) discusses Erkki Tuomioja's critical contribution.

(Giddens gave a keynote speech at the Finnish Institute seminar, but his contribution is not included in the book. Tuomioja, now the Foreign Minister in the Finnish government, had promised to attend the book launch but on the very day ended up in a hospital because of a minor health problem.)

The debate about Blair's vision and the Third Way continues, Rahkonen said at the book launch.

"Tony Blair has just published an article entitled 'Third way, phase two' in the March issue of the monthly magazine, Prospect. In his article, Blair warns unnamed opponents that 'constructive criticism is healthy, lazy negativism is not'.

"Well, we have sent a copy of our publication to 10 Downing Street, and we very much look forward to knowing how Tony Blair judges our small contribution — whether constructive or plain negativism."

The seminar which is reported in the book was jointly organised by the London School of Economics, New Statesman and the Finnish Institute in London.

'Blairism' - A Beacon for Europe? edited by Keijo Rahkonen & Tapani Lausti. 113 pages. Renvall Institute Publications 11, 2001. ISBN 951-45-9831-8. ISSN 0786-6445. (Renvall Institute for Area and Cultural Studies, University of Helsinki)

The book includes major contributions from Göran Therborn, Erkki Tuomioja and Loïc Wacquant. Participants in the discussion section include John Palmer, Anne Power, Nikolas Rose and Ruth Lister.

The book can be ordered by writing to Marianna Collander at the Finnish Institute in London, 35-36 Eagle Street, London WC1R 4AJ. A cheque for £12 should be made payable to "Finnish Institute in London". Any queries about the book to

Illustration by Peter Till

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