1st Edition

The British Labour Party in Opposition and Power 1979-2019 Forward March Halted?

By Patrick Diamond Copyright 2021
    438 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    438 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book provides a novel account of the Labour Party’s years in opposition and power since 1979, examining how New Labour fought to reinvent post-war social democracy, reshaping its core political ideas. It charts Labour’s sporadic recovery from political disaster in the 1980s, successfully making the arduous journey from opposition to power with the rise (and ultimately fall) of the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Forty years on from the 1979 debacle, Labour has found itself on the edge of oblivion once again. Defeated in 2010, it entered a further cycle of degeneration and decline. Like social democratic parties across Europe, Labour failed to identify a fresh ideological rationale in the aftermath of the great financial crisis.

    Drawing on a wealth of sources including interviews and unpublished papers, the book focuses on decisive points of transformational change in the party’s development raising a perennial concern of present-day debate – namely whether Labour is a party capable of transforming the ideological weather, shaping a new paradigm in British politics, or whether it is a party that should be content to govern within parameters established by its Conservative opponents.

    This text will be of interest to the general reader as well as scholars and students of British politics, British political party history, and the history of the British Labour Party since 1918.

    1. Introduction: The Labour Party and the Reinvention of Social Democracy in Post-War Britain

    Part I: Labourism in Decay

    2. The Crisis of Labourism: Britain in New Times

    3. Historical Roots: Conscience and Class in British Politics

    4. New Labour and the Centre-Left Across the World

    5. Modernisation in Hard Times

    Part II: New Labour in Power

    6. Institutional Legacies

    7. Shaping Secular Trends

    8. Towards the New Progressive Settlement

    Part III: New Labour’s Legacies in British Politics

    9. New Labour’s Broken Legacy?

    10. Conclusion: The Strange Death of Labour England?


    Patrick Diamond is Associate Professor of Public Policy at Queen Mary University of London, UK. He was Senior Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister (2001–05), and Head of Policy Planning in 10 Downing Street (2009–10).

    'Patrick Diamond's magisterial analysis of the last 40 years of Labour's history, comprising both government and opposition, provides the essential foundation upon which Labour has to construct its future path. The book makes it crystal clear that future Labour success depends upon intellectual and policy renewal which offers the British people a coherent path to the future, and not simply, as in the last 4 General Elections, upon expressing hostility to the theory and practice of Conservatism.'

    Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary and Labour Party MP, 19972010

    'Patrick Diamond's book sheds valuable light on the often-acrimonious debates about ideas that have taken place on the centre-left and in the Labour party over the last turbulent forty years, and will be of interest to students, scholars, observers and participants in British politics.

    Dan Corry, Former Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit and Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister on the Economy from 2007 to 2010

    'This book is an impressive achievement. It is a balanced and critical account of the New Labour years exploring both the successes and the limitations of the Blair/Brown Governments and why they ultimately failed to transform British politics.'

    Andrew Gamble, University of Sheffield, UK

    'Although Sir Keir Starmer has been reluctant to embrace New Labour, there is much for Labour to learn from the party's 13 years in power to 2010. This book provides essential reading, and vital lessons, on what the Blair and Brown governments got right and wrong, and why New Labour’s governing project failed to entrench progressive values and achieve an enduring legacy.'

    Andrew Grice, Chief Political Commentator at the Independent, UK

    'For far too long the debate about New Labour has been quite stale. Good or bad. Neoliberal or not. Patrick Diamond's book adds a new drive by putting new Labour firmly in its post-war historical context. His argument is nuanced, punchy, original and a compelling read.'

    Andrew Hindmoor, University of Sheffield, UK

    'One of the most striking features of Labour party culture under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was the consensus it promoted about the ‘neo-liberal’ character of Blair and Brown’s governments. Patrick Diamond offers a powerful riposte to this view, providing a balanced and historically informed re-appraisal of the party’s years in office. He demonstrates that New Labour had its roots in debates on the intellectual left and wider trends in European social democracy, and explores the reasons for its inability to deliver on its promises to transform British society and politics.'

    Michael Kenny, University of Cambridge, UK

    'At last, a well-informed book about Labour that neither idealises nor reviles its record. An essential primer for Keir Starmer and for Labour's new post-Corbyn generation.'

    Martin Kettle, Chief Leader Writer, the Guardian, UK

    'This book is an invaluable guide to New Labour in opposition and in government. The chapters shine a sharp light on the recent history of the party, and how Labour has dealt with the challenge both of election defeat, and a long period in government. This is an authoritative volume on the modern Labour party.'

    The Rt. Hon. Lord Giles Radice, UK

    'This insightful and original study is a must read for anyone interested not only in really understanding the vicissitudes of the Labour Party over the last forty years but more broadly the rapidly changing topography of British politics during this period. The rigorous and detailed analysis offered here provides a refreshing and balanced counterpoint to some of the barbed and partisan accounts we have had to endure in recent years.'

    David Richards, University of Manchester, UK

    'Diamond is exceptionally well placed to write about the Labour party since he combines scholarship of a very high order and an impressive capacity to elucidate complex issues with the unique experience of having worked as a Downing Street advisor. The book should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in the Labour party.'

    Eric Shaw, University of Stirling, UK

    'As Labour stands yet again at a crossroads, considering whether to be a protest movement or a party of power, Patrick Diamond’s book could not be more timely. His analysis of what went wrong in the past, both in Opposition and in Government, will be essential reading for anyone interested in the party’s future.'

    Rachel Sylvester, Chief Political Commentator at the Times, UK