Tony Blair’s thinking has often been described as eclectic. Commentators note its debt to: the New Liberalism of the early twentieth century (the commitment to progressive non-socialist reform); Thatcherism (the emphasis on strong leadership, the pursuit of economic realism and the need for Britain to compete in a global economy); ethical and Christian socialism (the emphasis on values and improving the tone of society, rather than on traditional socialism with its substantial economic content); Clintonisation (modernisation of the party, as Bill Clinton had modernised the American Democrats, rebranding it as ‘New’, discarding the taxand- spend approach and adopting tougher attitudes towards some groups who had traditionally looked to Labour to protect them, such as trade unions and the poor to whom he wished to give ‘a hand-up rather than a handout’); communitarianism (associated with Etzioni); and to the stakeholder society (as elaborated by Will Hutton). The Blair approach is a long way from traditional socialism. He uses the term the third way, to describe his mid-way position between pure capitalism and the excesses of state control. It rejects the approaches of the old Left and the new Right, seeking to combine a market economy with a decent society, social justice with economic efficiency.
   Much of the language of Tony Blair still echoes traditional Labour vocabulary. He talks of community, cooperation, fairness, partnership, society and solidarity. Some of the actions of his governmentconstitutional reform, devolution, the introduction of a minimum wage, signature of the Social Chapter, the New Deal work programme and the injection of funding into education and the National Health Service – seem very much in the Labour tradition and are policies that Conservatives, even many moderate ones, opposed. Blair has been non-doctrinaire, borrowing from several traditions, as the circumstances seem to make appropriate. There is no clear Blairite philosophy. Indeed, Blairism represents a retreat from ideology.
   Further reading: A. Giddens, The Third Way, Polity, 1998; A. Seldon and D. Kavanagh, The Blair Effect 20015, Cambridge University Press, 2005

Glossary of UK Government and Politics . 2013.

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