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Blair's legacy - June update

What will Tony Blair leave behind as his economic and social policy legacy? And what next as Brown takes up premiership? To mark Tony Blair's stepping down as prime minister this 27 June 2007, LSE academics offer some comments.

Blair and Brown

Professor Rodney Barker|
The replacement of Tony Blair by Gordon Brown on 27 June brings to an end one of the longest farewells in parliamentary history. It calls to mind the policemen in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance who sing endlessly that they are going to fight the foe to be countered by the despairing chorus who complain, 'but you don't go'. Tony Blair's world tour, like the last final benefit tour of an ageing pop star, will, at last, pass into memory, and there will be a new leader of the Labour Party (the prefix 'new' is not so prominent these days) and a new prime minister.

What difference will it make? There is disagreement over whether Brown's dour, unflashy image will be an advantage or a disadvantage to the party and its chances of winning a fourth general election. On the one hand is the argument that, compared to Blair or the Conservative leader David Cameron, Brown lacks sparkle or charisma. On the other is the view that, after the dazzle and bounce of Blair's early image had turned into tat and tawdry after the invasion of Iraq and the politics of dossiers, Brown's image of solid respectability will mark off Labour to its great advantage from both its previous leader and its current opponent. Click here to read the full article|

Blair's resignation

Professor Rodney Barker|
A podcast of Rodney Barker discussing Blair's resignation can be downloaded from Department of Government|

Rodney Barker is Professor of Government at LSE
Tel: 020 7955 7168, r.s.barker@lse.ac.uk| 

Blair and liberal internationalism

Professor Chris Brown|
A consistent feature of Tony Blair's foreign policy has been his commitment to liberal internationalism. This commitment is based on his own values and beliefs, but was also, perhaps, shaped in reaction to the pusillanimous policies of the Tory government in the early 1990s, when the people of Bosnia were abandoned to ethnic cleansing and mass murder in the name of a morally-vacuous 'realism'. As Brendan Simms has argued, this truly was Britain's 'unfinest hour' and it is greatly to Tony Blair's credit that he recognised this and, in contrast, was prepared to launch, or contribute to, humanitarian interventions in Kosovo and Sierra Leone. No policies are ever 100 per cent successful, but in both these cases a bad situation was made much better by the judicious use of military force. He has defended Enlightenment values at a time when they have been under threat from within the West as well as from their traditional enemies - his principled unwillingness to blame the victims after 9/11 contrasts very favourably with the weasel words of so many Western intellectuals who rushed to excuse the actions of Al Qaeda.

The intervention is Iraq is, of course, harder to justify in terms of results than Kosovo or Sierra Leone, but the case for the removal of Saddam Hussein was strong, and remains so in retrospect. Click here to read this article in full.|

Chris Brown is Professor of International Relations at LSE
Tel: 020 7955 7400, c.j.brown@lse.ac.uk| 

How will the economy fare under Brown?

LSE Director Howard Davies|' views form part of a longer article on what a Brown government holds for business in the July/August issue of Business Voice magazine.

How will the economy fare under a Brown premiership? Surely a meaningless question. For the last decade the prime minister has had no role in economic policy, leaving all the decisions to his chancellor. Won't that remain the way things work? Well, perhaps not. Click here to read this comment in full.|

Howard Davies is Director of LSE

Blair's legacy

Professor Patrick Dunleavy|
A podcast of Patrick Dunleavy discussing Blair's legacy can be downloaded from Department of Government|

Patrick Dunleavy is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at LSE
Tel: 020 7955 7178, email: p.dunleavy@lse.ac.uk| 

Blair, law and the politics of counter-terrorism

Professor Conor Gearty|
Tony Blair's engagement with the law and politics of counter-terrorism long precede 11 September 2001. Indeed they date from even before he was party leader. It is hard now to believe but the party of which he became shadow home secretary in 1994 was emphatically opposed to all UK terrorism laws. Though it had introduced the original legislation when in government in the 1970s, Labour had since 1983 consistently opposed renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, something which Parliament was in those days required to debate every year. Long a source of useful mockery for the Conservatives, this terrorism policy was particularly invaluable to them when Blair began to enjoy his great success in shifting Labour away from liberal towards more authoritarian positions on law and order ('tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime'). The annual terrorism debate became a reminder to the public of Labour's 'true colours'. What happened during these years to shape Blair's subsequent approach to terrorism? I have a clear recall of this because I was then (for the couple of years before he became Party leader) his adviser on terrorism law. Click here to read this article in full|

Professor Conor Gearty is Professor of Human Rights Law and Rausing Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE
Tel: 020 7955 6554, c.a.gearty@lse.ac.uk|  

Blair and freedom of speech

Professor Conor Gearty|
If it is to be fair, an appraisal of the state of freedom of expression in Britain during the prime ministership of Tony Blair must avoid three traps into which civil libertarian zealots in general - and free speech enthusiasts in particular - often fall. Seductive though they might appear to the already passionate, these wrong turnings risk plunging civil libertarians into a dark hole so far removed from the lived experiences of the general public that their perspective on freedom loses all persuasive power as a result.

The first of these is the temptation to deny history. This particular lament takes a number of forms: the current prime minister and/or home secretary are the worst in living memory; the 'erosion' or even 'destruction' of our civil liberties is gathering pace at an 'unprecedented' rate; governmental animosity towards Britain's traditional freedoms 'has never been stronger'. But these are the kinds of things that have been said about every government, at least since the early 1970s. In truth there has never been a 'golden age' of freedom from which to mark the start of our current 'decline'. Click here to read this article in full.| 

Blair and the 'Department of the Prime Minister'

Professor George Jones|
In a new History & Policy paper, Professor George Jones, LSE, and Dr Andrew Blick, University of Essex, call on Gordon Brown to follow in the footsteps of Lloyd George, Wilson and Major by adopting a radically different style of Government from his predecessor.

The authors argue that Brown can make his mark as a leader by abolishing Blair's semi-official 'Department of the Prime Minister', withdrawing from the minute detail of public service reform and focusing on the most pressing policy challenges, such as counter-terrorism and the environment. Click here to read the full policy paper|

Gordon Brown - a new style of governance?

Professor George Jones|
Brown will not be different from Blair in policy, but in style of governing. His main problem is to walk a tightrope, balancing between on the one hand showing that the UK has a new Government, making a fresh start, different from the Blair government, thus undermining opposition claims that after ten years it is time for a change, and on the other hand carrying on the New Labour programme of the Blair government, taking it further as New New Labour. Click here to read the full briefing paper.|

Blair, the great transformer - he made the weather

Professor George Jones|
1. He transformed political discourse

Because of Tony Blair there is no significant left-versus-right divide in British political debate. The old sectarian ideological divisions have given way to a new pragmatism that links to the interests and concerns of the British people. He pioneered the Third Way, a philosophical approach cutting through the two outdated traditions of socialism and liberalism, by fusing a social-democratic belief in social justice through collective action with a liberal belief in individual freedom in a market economy. Click here to read the full briefing|

George Jones is Emeritus Professor of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science.
Tel: 020 7272 3519, email: g.w.jones26@btinternet.com| 

Families and Labour's family policies

Professor Jane Lewis|
Prior to 1997, UK governments, unlike their counterparts in continental Europe, did not 'do' family policy, at least, not explicitly. This has changed dramatically under New Labour, who have taken the idea of 'social investment' in children seriously and have recognised from early on that the massive changes in family form, and in the nature of the contributions that men and women make to families, can no longer be ignored.

But 'family' is difficult territory for policymakers. There is little consensus on what it should look like these days and politicians find themselves on notoriously dangerous ground if they make judgements about sexual morality, or particular forms of intimate relationships. The instinct prior to 1997 was to look back - 'back to basics' in the words of John Major's Conservative government - to the traditional two parent, married family, in which men took primary responsibility for earning and women for caring. One of Labour's earliest policy documents was presented with the title 'Supporting Families'; Labour's approach has been in the main, and often cautiously, to address the changes in family form and to work with them. Click here to read the full article|

Jane Lewis is Professor of Social Policy
Tel: 020 7955 6754, email: j.lewis@lse.ac.uk| 

UK productivity during the Blair era

Raffaella Sadun

  • Productivity is a key indicator of economic health and increasing productivity has been a key objective of the Labour government since 1997. UK labour productivity (GDP per hour) has traditionally been lower than other major industrialised countries.
  • In recent years, the gap in labour productivity with respect to France and Germany has gradually narrowed. Although these improvements are evident since 1991, prior to the Blair government, we would normally have expected productivity growth to have slowed by this point in the business cycle.
  • Despite these recent improvements, output per hour worked in the UK is still about 13 per cent lower than Germany's, 18 per cent below the US level and 20 per cent below France.
  • Low UK productivity is partly due to a deficit of innovation and skills. Recent evidence also suggests that part of the gap might be driven by weaknesses in management.
  • UK productivity benefits from a high degree of competition and openness to trade and foreign investment.
  • Since 1997 total GDP growth has been driven mainly by increases in employment and capital (especially information technology) rather than increases in overall efficiency. Click here to download the full policy paper (PDF)

Raffaella Sadun is research economist at the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE
Tel: 020 7955 7786, email: r.sadun@lse.ac.uk|

Labour's economic legacy

Professor John Van Reenen|
The economy is probably the most successful legacy of the Blair years. Ironically, New Labour's economic policies have been set by his heir, chancellor Gordon Brown.

Since 1979 Britain has enjoyed continuous quarter-on-quarter growth. Average income growth has hummed along at 2.4 per cent, better than the average of the previous half century of 2.1 per cent. More remarkably this has occurred without the traditionally British booms and busts of Sterling crises, housing market crashes and the like. Although inflation has picked up recently, it has been low by historical standards - a typical basket of goods has risen on average by about 2.7 per cent a year since 1997. Of course, this disguises much variation. The average house price has risen by an eye-watering 185 per cent from £66,521 in 1997 to £189,681 today. By contrast, the price of a humble pint of milk has only risen by only 5.7 per cent - from 35p to 37p.

The labour market has absorbed a growth in population of 4 per cent and yet unemployment has remained at historically low levels. This is a feat much envied by Nicholas Sarkozy and our Continental neighbours. Even on the Achilles' heel of productivity, Britain has narrowed the gap with France and Germany and managed to hang on to the tail of the American tiger, keeping up with the post 1995 U.S. 'productivity miracle'.

The numbers look good, so why does Labour have trouble converting these economic gains into the political currency of popularity? Leaving Iraq aside, I believe that there are three main reasons - forgetfulness, fiscal policy and fairness. Click here to read the full article|

John Van Reenen is Director of the Centre for Economic Performance and Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics.
Tel: 020 7955 6976, email j.vanreenen@lse.ac.uk|

The Centre for Economic Performance has a number of policy analysis papers available to download|

Labour and education policy

Professor Anne West|
In three manifestos - 1997, 2001 and 2005 - education was Labour's 'number one priority'. Commitments were made to increase expenditure, raise standards, and reduce the achievement gap between children from different socio-economic groups.

There have been significant increases in the amount spent on education and clear improvements in English and mathematics test results for 11 year olds in England, aided by national literacy and numeracy strategies. In England, examination results, particularly as measured by the high profile 'five or more GCSE passes at A* to C' indicator, have also improved. The competition resulting from Tony Blair's commitment to the Conservatives' market-oriented reforms appears to have contributed to the improved results; however, the incentive structure has resulted in concerns about neglecting those at the highest risk of failure at school. Click here to read the full article|

Anne West is Director of theCentre for Educational Research and Professor of Education Policy at LSE
Tel: 020 7955 7269, email: a.west@lse.ac.uk|

Click here to view the May 2007 Blair's legacy webpage|

Press cuttings

New Statesman
The Brown revolution begins
Professor Francesca Klug, LSE, whom Brown has quoted in his speeches, says the PM must be careful not to use the bill to water down what has already been established. 'We already effectively have a Bill of Rights. It's called the Human Rights Act. But it was brought in with the minimum of consultation and no attempt was made to sell it to the British public. If they go further it should be with the engagement with the British people to establish the rights they actually want written down.'

Houston Chronicle
Britain's Brown takes low profile in two early crises (1 July)
'What we are seeing is a change of style of governing,' said George Jones, a political professor emeritus at the London School of Economics. 'Mr. Brown is staying very low-key in public. We all felt Mr. Blair was acquiring presidential features and breaching the British system of government to make it more American.' 

Daily Telegraph
Prescott's fiefdom blown away
(29 June)
Mr Brown's first formal act as Prime Minister was to revoke the Order in Council that allowed special advisers to issue instructions to civil servants. Patrick Dunleavy, professor at the London School of Economics, said: 'I am very positive about it. In so far as a Prime Minister can change the way that the Whitehall machine operates, this looks like a pretty good first instalment.'

Boston Globe
Britain's new leader unveils Cabinet
(29 June)
David Miliband replaces Margaret Beckett, 64 'Like Brown, Miliband is very pro-American,' said Patrick Dunleavy, professor of political science and public policy at LSE.

Houston Chronicle
Britain's new leader appoints a fresh Cabinet (29 June) 

Expansion, Spain
Adiós al 'sofá' de Blair (28 June 07)
Donde sí van a cambiar las cosas es en el estilo. 'El estilo de Blair era informal, de sofá, como dicen algunos, mientras que el de Brown es más formal', afirma George Jones, profesor de la London School of Economics. Según Jones, Brown se encargará de hacer un Gobierno menos mediático, 'restaurando la responsabilidad colectiva del Ejecutivo frente al estilo personalista de Blair', o asegurándose de que los puestos claves del Gobierno se encuentran ocupados 'por especialistas y técnicos y no por políticos o asesores especiales'.
Source: Lexis Nexis News

Blair retires as UK prime minister, hands power to Brown
(26 June 07)
'It's an epoch change in British politics,' said Patrick Dunleavy, professor of politics at the London School of Economics. 'It's the first time we've ever had anybody move up from such a long period as chancellor. If Brown can make that transition and win an election, he will bestride late 20th- century and early 21st-century British politics as a colossus.'

Voice of America
Bush benefited from Blair loyalty
(26 June 07)
'People still don't understand what on earth Blair was doing in joining the invasion of Iraq,' said Rodney Barker, a professor of government at LSE. 'Public opinion was against him. The churches were against him. The military was against him. The pope was against him. Pretty well everybody was against him, and he made it his crusade. "I believe I am right." The mission-driven politician. Well, that is rather good news for the Labour Party, because it means that people can associate Tony Blair with the war, what they see as George Bush and Tony Blair, not George Bush and New Labour.'

CNN-IBN, India
Gordon to be Britain's 'new face'
(26 June 07)
Professor Rodney Parker, LSE said: 'Gordon Brown has one huge advantage. Which is that he is not Tony Blair. So as far as he can give an impression of continuity with difference, stability but change, freshness, innovation, then possibly he might lead the Labour Party to victory in the next general election.'

Updated 26 June, posted 22 June 2007