Friday, 8 June 2007

Labour’s philosophical guru tries to repeat his success

Last night I broke my moratorium on buying new books, again.

First it was Lord Ashdown (whose book has lamentably sat in a draw since then) who broke down my defences, and last night it was Lord Giddens. Clearly I can’t resist the authority of aristocracy!

To be fair, I think it was a special case (inevitably!). Anthony Giddens was the author of The Third Way, which in 1998 provided a seminal outline of the New Labour mindset and laid out (perhaps for the first time) the supposed philosophy underpinning the Blair-Brown government.

Ten years on, one of the two architects of that government is on the verge of handing over to the other, and Giddens has taken the opportunity to pen a sequel. This is important, he argues, because if New Labour is truly to renew and to constructively address the issues facing Britain today and in the coming decade, it needs to repeat something which it did in the 1990s and which, tellingly, the Conservatives have not done. Giddens argues that before New Labour came up with ideas, let alone policies, it conducted a thorough analysis of the world in the 1990s, and from that its philosophy and policies emerged. The world has (naturally) changed over the ensuing 15 years, and a new analysis is needed. Giddens seeks to provide that in his new book.

Last night I attended a book launch at Policy Exchange, where both Giddens and Danny Finkelstein discussed the book and the future for Gordon Brown. This, reading the first two chapters, and Question Time stimulated my brain so much that I was awake until 4am. Much note-taking ensued.

Over the next few days and weeks I’ll share with you a few interesting snippets of Gidden’s insights. Like him or hate him (and just 30 pages of his book is enough to convey a clear bias that at times causes him to deliberately obfuscate or misrepresent the facts) he is the nearest New Labour had to a philosophical guru. His Third Way was essential reading for the opposition as well as for aspiring ministers in the last ten years. If he has managed to repeat his success (and that is by no means guaranteed) then the better we understand it the better we will be able to counter it.

The Third way is a new, dynamic socialism. We ignore it at our peril.

1 comment:

a radical writes said...

I too went to see the book launched but this time at the LSE where it was debated by some excellent names (Peter Riddell, Polly Toynbee, David willets and of course Tony himself). I wasn't impressed it has to be said, I rather see the third way as a directionless void (definitely not a new type of socialism, more like a less individualistic Thatcherism). An ideology founded upon compromise and the acceptance of conservative ideas with the emphasis put on methods rather than human aims and a possitive left wing view on human beings being replaced by... uhh, well, nothing. It is the damaging effect of the third way in British politics that has created a total loss of direction throughout the left wing. This is a bad thing whether you agree with left wingers like me or not because it means the debate and fire of politics is lost to be replaced by controlling managerialism with unappealing and uninspiring aims (hence low electoral turnout). I don't think Giddens has changed his views since then and has rather twiddled around the edges which is rather sad. This is something we should be making ground on by providing that lost ideology for progressives in the form of liberalism (though maybe you would want us to go the other way ;)?). Please keep us informed on what you've read though, I'd love to hear your views on the matter!
PS i'm conducting a little poll on my site about who the most influential economist is today on liberal thought on my blog, its not going too well so far (only had one post) so pleasse have a look!