Lionel Jospin and Tony Blair are both new socialists... how can they st and so far apart?

Europe's Left: United we stand, but divided we remain

Female delegates in the auditorium groaned when he spoke of cherishing "the family". When trite words were spoken on the subject of crime fighting and the citizen, they yawned. But when Tony Blair spelled out his ideas for modernising Europe and job creation, people rose to their feet, applauding. What appealed most of all was his call for radical change and rejection of the ways of the old Socialist past.

Lionel Jospin, Europe's other brand-new Socialist leader, also raised applause when he spoke yesterday to the European Socialists' Congress in the Swedish city of Malmo.

And, unlike Mr Blair, Mr Jospin raised some laughs, admitting that nobody was as surprised as him to have seen the Socialists swept to victory in last Sunday's French elections. But it was Mr Blair who caught the mood of the moment yesterday, while Mr Jospin's vision of the future appeared to leave people cold.

There was puzzlement and even fear at some of the French Prime Minister's policy proposals which seem to hark back to the past. And Mr Blair himself seemed keen to keep a distance from Mr Jospin - failing to congratulate him in his speech, whereas the French Prime Minister showered Mr Blair with warm praise.

It was a perfect opportunity yesterday for Europeans to hear their two newest Socialist leaders set out their respective visions of the future and to test the differences.

The two men, of course, struck many similar themes. This was a joyous occasion for Europe's Socialists riding a wave of excitement and enjoying their new supremacy on the European political stage.

Both leaders determined to demonstrate they were part of the same "happy political family", spoke of social equality. Both warned that Europe had become remote from its people and both recognised the paramount need to answer the unemployment crisis which has led to 18 million unemployed in the European Union.

But it was Mr Blair who touched the mood of the moment with his forthright dismissal of old "statist" ways and his outright rebuttal of regulation or state control as the solution to Europe's problems.

Instead he spoke of a "third way" by which government should work to "empower" people to develop their own skills in order to stand up to the forces of change. Even on the question of the Social Chapter his caution and warnings found little resistance. Mr Blair told his audience that minimum standards of social provision were vital but not if they hindered job creation or led to red tape.

Blair's vision was welcomed in the corridors outside. "From the substance of what I have heard, I very much like Tony Blair's vision of change," said Karel Van Miert, Europe's Commissioner for the Single Market. "Blair says we must not look backwards. We must place an emphasis on education and skills, that is all good."

Dutch leaders embraced Mr Blair's philosophy which they believe they in the Netherlands are already implementing with widespread success. "On flexible job markets and minimum standards for social provision, we are already forging ahead," said one senior Dutch official. "Tony Blair's vision is in line with ours," he added.

Mr Blair's message went down well, too, with German Socialist delegates. "We prefer the pragmatic Blair approach," said Barbara Weiler, a member of the European Parliament for the German Socialists, the SPD. "We have already shifted our thinking towards the Blair approach in many respects in our party."

Mr Jospin, as predicted, placed greater emphasis on the need for governments to regulate and control the economy in order to direct the changes caused by globalisation. "The market has to be regulated. Its forces have to be channelled so the energy generated can help produce investment, to produce growth," he said.

Such comments, though not explicitly calling for a return to the interventionist ways of the old left, nevertheless produced fears that France would not be able to take a lead in Europe's reforms.

Mr Van Miert said: "I feel some turbulence when I listen to Mr Jospin." Ad Melkert, the Dutch Social Affairs Minister said: "I preferred listening to Mr Blair, whose message was to keep the status quo."

More worrying to those listening to Mr Jospin, perhaps, was the emphasis he seemed to place on the role of the nation-state. Europe, the French Prime Minister suggested, should have less role in the future in directing economic affairs, and he declared the state to be the "core of European democracy".

Mr Blair, meanwhile, showed a clear recognition of the need for European instruments in key areas of policy, particularly in the field of employment. One Belgian minister commented: "Mr Jospin's words have puzzled us. Does he want to renationalise policy in the economic field, is that what he means?"

Few at the congress wanted to play up the differences between the two men, many French delegates insisted the visions were "complementary". Wim Kok, the Dutch Prime Minister, spoke guardedly of differences in "nuance", but it was clear that not only amongst the northern Europeans but also amongst the new Labourites of Portugal, Italy and even Spain, Mr Blair's words struck more of a chord.

Delegates warned that Mr Blair still needed to prove that his changes could come to fruition in his own country before real faith could be placed in his leadership qualities in the rest of the European Union. But Mr Blair himself must have left the congress well aware that it was his speech which won a standing ovation and not that of Mr Jospin.

Asked whether Mr Blair could become the first British leader to take a truly central role on the European stage, many delegates replied: "In time, why not?"

German left (out)

Rudolf Scharping of Germany, leader of the Party of European Socialists, said socialism has as many faces as there are socialist parties in Europe. "But overall it's the same idea: defend the people's right, be close to the people.

"It was not such a long time ago that people were saying the whole idea of socialism was out-of-date," he told the opening session of the Socialist get-together.

But now, "we have become so strong in Europe that cannot allow ourselves the luxury of behaving like an opposition party."

Germany is one of only two countries in Europe where the left plays no role in government.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Payment Developer (Swift, FOX, Vigil, .NET, SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Payment Dev...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?