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New Left Review 3, May-June 2000


Responding to Peter Mair’s article in NLR 2, David Marquand suggests that Blair’s ambition to consolidate power as a ruler above partisan strife is less new than it seems. Baldwin’s regime in the thirties offers some surprising similarities.

DAVID MARQUAND

REVISITING THE BLAIR PARADOX

Peter mair has put all New Labour watchers in his debt. His contribution to the continuing debate on the ‘Blair paradox’ is illuminating and thought-provoking, and I have learned a lot from it. [1] Peter Mair, ‘Partyless Democracy’, NLR 2, March–April 2000. In essence, he argues that the so-called paradox is not a paradox at all. In seeking to concentrate power within the Labour party while at the same time devolving power within the state, Blair and his associates are being perfectly consistent. Their aim is to eviscerate—or at least to by-pass—party altogether. The Prussian discipline they have imposed on their own followers represents one path to the ultimate goal of a ‘partyless democracy’; their experiments in constitutional pluralism represent a parallel and complementary path. When I accused them of failing to understand what they were doing, I was not just mistaken; I had grasped precisely the wrong end of the stick. They know perfectly well what they are doing. They are trying to dismantle the structure of majoritarian democracy which has been fundamental to British politics for more than a century, in order to de-politicize the whole process of government.

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