Doubts about Blair’s ‘third way’

Finnish media’s interest in Blairism or so-called ‘third way’ resurfaced during the recent mayoral election in London and local elections around Britain. The growing dissatisfaction among British voters with Tony Blair’s government was widely noted, while the Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet went further and questioned the political significance of ‘third way’ politics.

In its editorial, Hufvudstadsbladet (6 May 2000) complained that the concept ‘third way’ has no notable ideological content.

“Socialists whose dogmas have become unenforcable have combined old slogans with market solutions and necessary practical measures, and then marketed all this as the ‘third way’.”

The paper commented on Anthony Giddens’s new book. (The title was not given but presumably the book is The Third Way and its Critics, published by Polity Press early this year, as a sequel to Giddens’s The Third Way : The Renewal of Social Democracy, Polity Press 1998). The leader writer says that according to the author the ‘third way’ “aims to combine social solidarity with a dynamic economy, emphasises citizens’ rights to equal opportunities and concentrates on how wealth can be created but not on how it will be distributed”.

“’Third way’ supporters accept (according to Giddens) that the old-fashioned welfare states have failed and that there is no real alternative to market economy. These definitions are quite confused and many governments therefore claim to be following a ‘third way’.

“When it becomes clear for British voters that not even a Labour government can implement positive reforms without raising taxes, the voters will, inspired by Ken Livingstone and William Hague, ask if there is anything notable about Labour, or even Tony Blair”, Hufvudstadsbladet concluded.

In his book The Third Way and its Critics, Anthony Giddens refers to a debate on Blairism, held at the Finnish Institute in May 1998. A book based on this seminar (jointly organised by the London School of Economics, the New Statesman and the Finnish Institute) will be published soon: Keijo Rahkonen & Tapani Lausti (eds.), 'Blairism' - A Beacon for Europe? A Round Table discussion on the future of the European Welfare States.

See also:

Tony Blair's 'third way' compared to the Nordic welfare state
Blairism -- Europe's shining beacon or just a low-watt glow? by Erkki Tuomioja
Europe needs credible instruments of governance by John Palmer


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