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New Left Review I/224, July-August 1997

Mike Marqusee

New Labour and its Discontents

The week before the European Union summit in Amsterdam, Tony Blair delivered a Thatcher-style lecture at the Malmö gathering of European socialist parties. ‘As I said to the Labour Party a few years ago, we must modernize or die,’ he declared; there was no choice for the European Left but to adopt the New Labour cocktail of ‘labour market flexibility’ and ‘welfare reform’. Having effectively argued for the export of Thatcherism to the rest of Europe, and echoed the Bundesbank line that ‘emu cannot work if it is set up on the basis of a fudge’, it was not surprising that in Amsterdam Blair opposed any expansionary revision of the Dublin stability pact or any direct investment in job creation, and left the new French socialist government isolated. [1] In his lecture to the City in April 1997, Blair had already promised that New Labour would seek ‘to extend the flexible labour markets to the rest of Europe’ rather than ‘import Eurosclerosis’. This perspective has been analyzed and rebutted in detail in Michael Barratt Brown, ‘Where Blair is Wrong’, European Labour Forum, Pamphlet No. 11.

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