In 1997 Tony Blair broke with tradition by naming education as a major priority for the General Election Manifesto. In the past, Labour leaders had tended to give education a much lower priority. Despite this, Blair has been greatly criticised for his educational programme 1997-2001. Was he taking education away from traditional labour values of fairness and equality? Was Blair's 'Third Way' just 'Thatcherism in Trousers'?
Denise Lawton approaches such questions by analysing labour education policies since 1900 and shows that from the very beginning the labour Party lacked unity and ideological coherence concerning education. Specifically, there has always been a tension between those like the early Fabians who saw educational reform in terms of economic efficiency, and the ethical socialists whose vision of a more moral society stressed the importance of social justice in education. After an assessment of Labour ideologies in the past, this book concludes with an examination of New Labour and the 'Third Way' in education and suggests some changes that will be necessary in the near future.
'Denis Lawton, with his usual style and panache, provides us with succinct and scholarly history in relation to a century and more of democratic socialist thinking and action on education … I salute Denis Lawton for undertaking this necessary appraisal and consider this book to be a decidedly practical contribution for students in the field of educational studies, politics and social policy.' - British Journal of Educational Studies
'It is good to have, at a time when Labour's turn away from some of its historic positions appears to be almost complete, a book which, without nostalgia or loss of critical rigour, succinctly reminds us of an earlier legacy.' - Educational Review