A further important strand of New Labour policy was this: Do not allow any issues to be “owned” by the political right – instead, seek to provide left-of-center solutions to them. This position became a focus of attacks by critics worried about implications for civil liberties, but was vital to Labour’s longevity in power.
Social democrats fell from government in many other countries because of their failure to develop a comparable standpoint. In the past, the left tried to explain away, rather than directly confront, questions to do with crime, social disorder, migration, and cultural identity, as if the concerns citizens felt about them were misplaced or irrelevant. It was assumed, for example, that most forms of crime resulted from inequality; once inequalities were reduced, crime would inevitably decline. Without denying the connection, New Labour broke away from such a view. Mr. Blair’s formula “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” was not just a slogan, but was offered as a policy principle.
It might seem a long distance from these concerns to a further strand of New Labour thinking – the need for an activist foreign policy – but it is not. Because of increasing globalization, domestic and foreign policy overlap far more than in previous times.
Increasing levels of migration, for example, reflect the yawning division between rich and poor in world society. Britain faces no visible threats of invasion from other countries, but must be prepared to assume an active role in the wider world. Interventionism is a necessary doctrine when national sovereignty has lost much of its meaning and where there are universal humanitarian concerns that override local interests. Transnational terrorism, itself a creature of globalization, becomes a threat far greater than the more local forms of terrorism prevalent in the past.