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Does The Third Way Constitute a Departure From or a Continuation of Thatcherism? Essay Sample

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Does The Third Way Constitute a Departure From or a Continuation of Thatcherism? Essay Sample

This question attempts to tackle the long contrived argument within many political ideological spheres about the true nature of ‘The Third Way’ currently illustrated within ‘New Labour’ elected into government in 1997. For a new ideology supposedly cultivated from the left of centre of the political spectrum, analysis of their beliefs and policies shows a surprising resemblance to that of Thatcherism. To formulate a theory of this continuation, rather then a move away from Thatcherism, first of all it is important to define both ideologies as a foundation to produce constructive similarities or differences for both regimes.

Define the 3rd way

‘The Third Way’, similarly to Thatcherism, only came into existence actually during its political term once the Labour Party had obtained power after the landslide of 1997. Talk of a ‘New Labour’ which later developed into ‘The Third Way’ was originally believed a campaigning device to demonstrate to the sceptical electorate that the party bearing the name ‘Labour’ was different in every way to those who had previously failed in 1974-79. Its central notion is the idea of producing what Bentley calls ‘a middle pathway which is both radical and centrist at the same time’ (Bentley:1999,75). This supposed ‘pathway’ was designed to lie between that of Thatcherism on the right and democratic socialism on the left which Driver labels as ‘catchall’ policies (Driver:2002,18). However, in reality, the ‘Third Way’ was criticised of producing no real distinctive approach, rather as Bentley illustrates, the former Labour Deputy Leader Roy Hattersley, ‘they pursued a clearly identifiable Thatcherite agenda’ (Bentley:1999,75). This was followed up by a special edition of the journal ‘Marxism Today’ in October 1997 who claimed that, ‘Blairism is nothing but Thatcherism by another name, the Labour government has abandoned social democracy and submitted to the forces of capitalism’ (Bentley:1999,76) they later go on to say that

Explain large amounts of similarities which going to explain in essay to answer question

Although not directly evident even from these short insights into both political ideologies, it can be said that many of their core aspirations seem surprisingly similar. This essay will not only attempt to identify such similarities, but come to a conclusion to whether the ‘Third Way’ is simply a continuation to the policies and theories of Thatcherism.


One of the most memorable aspects today of Thatcherism, was its style of leadership. Margaret Thatcher not only created controversy through being the first and to date the only female British Prime Minister, to the end of her rein, her strict style of governance which #### called ‘presidential’ (#####) is said to have resulted in her downfall. This resignation, well documented due to its causes by a revolt from within the Cabinet, seems in the public eye the lasting memory of a previously successful strong leader, who took decisions in a directly personal way. As a result, such a vote of no confidence not only within the party at the time, but within the electorates public opinion, has become the Conservatives party lasting visible scare.

However, this style of leadership within British politics did not step down with Thatcher in 1992 through Major as her replacement. Instead it brewed as a desirable controllable form of governance, to reappear with vengeance in the form of Tony Blair for the ‘New’ Labour Party in 1997.

Relationship with cabinet

Yet most writers would agree that Thatcher’s personality and leadership style is a part of what is meant by ‘Thatcherism’ and such an evaluation has only been made post her being in power. It would be difficult to make any assumptions at this stage as to whether or not ‘Blair-ism’ as Driver calls it within ‘Blair’s Britain’ (Driver:2002,23) is just around the corner. However there are some intellectuals such as Gamble within ‘British Politics in Focus’, who although the factor of Thatcher’s degree of influence, argue that ‘Thatcherism cannot be reduced to the personal project of a single individual’ (Bentley:1999,52)

Importance of a strong identifiable leadership

Simularites of US connection


Welfare (privatisation)

Economics (work/ employment related polices) Keynesian ‘full employ pg20 heffern



However…. Devolution, minimum wage, lords

THEORIES (1) (650)

Both Thatcherism and ‘The Third Way’ can be broken down into a few main concepts, which not only dictate the policies produced from each government, but at the same time greatly determines the perspective from the electorate. However, many of these core concepts appear surprisingly similar.

From an early period of Thatcher coming into power it was soon realised that, as Jones illustrates within ‘Politics UK’, that although claiming that her policies were driven from traditional Conservative line on the rule of law, property, liberty and for the most part, foreign policy, ‘she would go along with much described under other headings there would be differences – some of them crucial’ (Jones:1991,123)

1. Thatcherities would strongly agree that the purpose of policies is to reduce government powers and give people the freedom to be themselves and develop their talents.

2. A widespread acceptance of an enterprise culture was a prerequisite for national regeneration, indicated a faith in ‘social engineering’ due to Thatcher’s strong Anglican Christianity combined with a pessimistic view of human nature.

3. Thatcher always sort to maximise her own power within the democratic process and saw no reason why she should not just defeat socialism but – as she proclaimed before the 1987 election – obliterate it completely.

4. A passion for the idea of ‘nation’, seeing the need for unifying social mechanisms. This however was combined with a played down notion of society as a cohesive unit preferring to references to that of families.

5. Strongly opposed to measure aimed at reducing economic inequality, as believing it to be a right of the people to be ‘unequal’ (Jones:1992,124)

6. Due to Thatcher’s upbringing, unlike previous Conservative leaders, she was less inclined to respect aristocracy, preferring the self-made, introducing the notion of the ‘entrepreneur’ (Kavanagh:1989,241)

7. In retrospect now, it was clear that Thatcher was no traditionalist, but in the aim to ‘change the heart and soul’ of the nation (Jones:1992,124)

These fundamental foundations to the development of Thatcherism as we know it today when compared to that of New Labour’s ‘Third Way’ highlights many core similarities.

What is the 3rd way… development of 1st, 2nd (Thatcher)

For ‘The Third Way’, Tony Blair within ‘The Third Way: New Politics for a New Century’, defines New Labours intended movement as ‘A credo of social reform and state action to emancipate individuals from the vagarities and oppression of personal circumstance’ (Blair:1998,3) however previous desires of ‘socialism’ seemed to have moved on in the intension rather to ‘reform’. According to Heffernan, Labour’s transformation from old to ‘New’ was brought about by the belief that ‘The great idelogical contest of the twentieth century has been settled. Free market capitalism has won; state planning and communism of which social-market is alleged to be subset, has lost’ (Heffernan:2001,20)


As already mentioned, after the disapproval of the Third Way shown by the former Labour Deputy Leader Roy Hattersley, the journal ‘Marxism Today’ produced a special edition in October 1997 stating ‘This is not a third way. Rather it is a variant on the Thatcherite way, more acceptable in some detail, but not substantially different in its ideological impetus nor in its economic and social policies’ (Bentley:1999,76). This in itself is not only a clear answer to the majority of New Labour’s ‘Third Way’ ideology of being a continuation to those of Thatcherism, but illustrates that from an early time of this new left movement, it had already been realised that New Labour’s initial intension was that of ‘catch-all’ policies as Driver previously illustrated and not a left wing movement of its own.

However it would be wrong to say that any political movement could ever be produced inorganically from the previous, it is a different matter if such an ideology is simply re-titled and the basic fundamental policies remain the same. If political ideologies were university degree essays, then the ‘New Labour’ party could easily be accused of free plagiarism checker for students of policies. This is not to say that all of ‘New Labours’ policies are exactly the same as that of Thatcherism, at least they went to the trouble of renaming some. In conclusion, this overall certainly can not be viewed on the majority as a departure from Thatcherism, more of as many rap artists claim today ‘remixing’, (in essence, taking a tried and tested classic, then add a modern beat on top of the exact same melodies) and unfortunately, people still have the desire to buy them. Can you really blame ‘New Labour’ after 18 years of opposition for trying?

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