Keep the ideas rolling, Mr Blair

Share
When Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party five months ago, the event promised a new era. But sceptics were wary. They recognised that his ideas were ahead of a party that still clung to failed and outdated policies. There were suspicions t hat MrBlair's modern face disguised an unreformed organisation that would reveal itself fully only when it was back in power. At the party conference, Mr Blair himself acknowledged that many had supported him not for his policies but because they believ ed hecould win the general election.

Since then fears that Labour is inseparable from its old ways have, to some extent, been allayed. Whereas frontbenchers once spent their energies parroting the predictable, they have in recent months started to think afresh and share those thoughts with the rest of us. For the first time since the Sixties, Labour is beginning to look and sound like a party with ideas.

Today, for example, we report Labour's plans for regulation of the railways. In the past the party has responded to privatisations with empty pledges to reverse the changes, only to acquiesce in the inevitable a year or so later. Under Mr Blair, Labour has become creative and flexible rather than rigid and reactive.

In education policy, David Blunkett has indicated that at last the party will no longer be merely a vehicle for disgruntled vested interests. His emphasis on raising standards may well produce clashes with the teaching unions. Labour is now prepared to think uncomfortable thoughts: a hypothecated graduate tax is under consideration to pay for an expansion in higher education.

Such shifts in Labour ideas have been dismissed as cynical electioneering, an attempt by the party to paint itself a lighter shade of Tory blue. It is true that Conservative policies have been shamelessly plundered: Michael Heseltine's idea that mayors should be directly elected is only the latest example of healthy inter-party promiscuity. Yet by raising issues such as slimming down the Royal Family, and constitutional reform, Labour has demonstrated that it is setting a fresh agenda rather than simplystealing from and catching up with the Conservatives.

Against this dynamism, John Major's call yesterday for Tory unity and his hints of future tax cuts sounded tired. In the Eighties the Conservatives were the party of ideas: now Mr Blair shows signs of wanting to steal that mantle. But there is a long wayto go. There is still a danger that Mr Blair will allow the old left to stifle change where no immediate electoral damage will result. The appointment of Margaret Beckett as health spokeswoman was a bad omen: she has already made it clear that she intends to scrap the internal market. Mr Blair needs to keep his revolution rolling on all fronts.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Neo-Nazis march in London  

I'm taking my Jewish kids to a vile neo-Nazi rally in London this weekend because I want them to learn about free speech

Richard Ferrer
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map