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Brown, Blair, and Labour's legacy in Britain

After a 13-year run, Britain’s Labour Party is out of power. How should we assess its legacy?

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The era of Labour hegemony is over. How should we assess its legacy?

It is conventional these days to disparage the record of Labour in government over the past 13 years. Even quite supportive observers tend to argue that little of substance has been achieved. For the more swingeing critics, Labour in power – Labour as New Labour – has been more than a disappointment; it has been a disaster. The party led an onslaught on civil liberties, betrayed leftist ideals, failed to make any impact on inequality and, worst of all, embarked upon a calamitous war in Iraq.

New Labour promised a New Dawn and many feel betrayed. I’m not without sympathy for these criticisms. Yet one can mount a robust defense of many of Labour’s core policies, and a balanced assessment is needed if an effective future path is to be charted. A realistic base line for so doing is to compare Labour’s period in government with the fate of its sister parties in other countries over roughly the same period, such as Bill Clinton and the Democrats in the United States, Lionel Jospin’s socialists in France, or the Social Democratic Party in Germany, led by Gerhard Schröder.

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