'In Comparison to the Thatcher Government, in what ways does New Labour try to bring back traditional family values through policy and legislation?'
The objective of this dissertation is to evaluate and compare the way in New Labour is trying to bring back traditional family values through policy and legislation with the ways in which the Thatcher government had tried to do so. As will be explained and analysed there are some similarities and indeed some profound differences between the objectives and the methods of New Labour and the Thatcher governments. As will be analysed in great depth both the Thatcher government and New Labour government came to power with wide-ranging visions of how they wished to transform the politics, the economy, and the society of Britain. The Thatcher government’s attempts to bring back traditional family values through policy and via legislation will be evaluated first, in order to examine the extent to which its objectives succeeded or if those objectives failed. Arguably, the Thatcher government had a massive impact upon the social, economic, and the political make up or infrastructure of Britain, even if not always in the ways that it had intended, or had hoped for. The Thatcher government also discovered that the consequences of their policy decisions could be contradictory, rather than complimentary to the primary objectives of the legislation that they passed.
The latter parts of the dissertation will concentrate upon the transition of the Labour party away from its traditional economic and social policies into New Labour and how, that transition affected its policies and objectives. New Labour was a reinvention of the Labour party designed to regain power after 18 years in the political wilderness. Traditionally, the Labour party had regarded the promotion of social ownership of the means of production (the infamous clause four of its constitution); and the provision of generous benefits by the welfare state for those in need as sacrosanct policy areas. Labour governments had used progressive taxation and high public sector borrowing to pay for high social policy expenditure if that was needed. Those were the policies mainly used to maintain or bring back traditional family values by all previous Labour governments. New Labour, as will be demonstrated, turned away from the concepts of increasing levels of social ownership, and set limits for the use of progressive taxation and increasing public sector borrowing, whilst promising to reform the welfare state. The combination of these measures was intended to focus help on to those people that needed help the most. It also arguably, gives cause to debate whether New Labour is driven by its ideological principles; or if it is driven by the more selfish desire to obtain and subsequently retain governmental office. After all, as any self-respecting politician will tell anybody willing to hear them, it is no good having a vision of transforming society if there is no political office or power to do anything about enacting that vision.#p#分页标题#e#
Certainly before winning the general election of 1997 New Labour emphasised its intention to bring back traditional family values through policy and where it was considered to be necessary through legislation. As a party New Labour committed itself to improving public services, fighting crime, and a host of other measures to make Britain a better place to live in. Also to be discussed is New Labour’s policies and legislation upon human rights and equality for all, that in many respects goes beyond bringing back traditional family values. Whilst politicians are generally in agreement over the need for traditional family values, they differ as to the best policies and if needs be the best legislation to restore, promote, or protect traditional family values. Differences over the best ways to achieve traditional family values are influenced by differing ideological approaches, as well as different understandings of human nature. Governments do not only rely on policy and legislation to achieve or at least aim to achieve their objectives. Governments try to influence the public through official statements, press and television articles, as well as presenting its objectives to the public as frequently as possible. The public of course does not have to be persuaded by the influence, policy, and legislation of any government. Indeed the public can affect the policy and legislation that governments adopt by voting those governments in and out of office at every general election. The media has a great deal of influence in its own right when it comes to the moral attitudes and acceptable standards of behaviour that the British public hold. All are issues and influences upon the restoration or promotion of traditional family values will be evaluated.
Before evaluating and analysing the ways in which New Labour and the Thatcher governments aimed to bring back bring traditional family values, it would be best to define what is meant by traditional family values. Usually traditional family values are considered to be the promotion of long lasting marriages, bringing up children to be well behaved and law abiding, and educating everybody to respect law and order. Traditional family values are also linked with a religious or moral upbringing, yet it can also encompass people being responsible for providing for their own financial and social welfare through working hard and saving, as well as taking responsibility for their own actions. Traditional family values were linked in public perceptions to Victorian times, the majority of people may now be materially better off yet their sense of morality, and the willingness to accept traditional family values has declined noticeably (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p.42). In the British context the religious influences upon traditional family values had been predominately Christian in their origins. The dominant family values in Britain have been altered by different factors since the 1960s. The belief in Christian values has declined due to the processes of secularisation and liberalisation, changing social attitudes arguably helped by changes in fashion and media coverage. Family values are also different due to the immigration of people into Britain with different religious faiths such as Islam, and Hinduism (Modood, 2005, p.192). Different religious beliefs mean that although non-Christians often have a strong sense of morality and an understanding of how to behave, those moral values are similar yet not necessarily the same as traditional family values as they are perceived (Forman & Baldwin, 1999, pp. 10-11).#p#分页标题#e#
British governments, assuming that they have a sufficient Parliamentary majority are generally able to carry out policy objectives and pass legislation as they feel necessary, or, to keep to the pledges they made in their party manifestos during the previous general election campaigns. The power and the authority held by British governments to carry out their policies is great, and the vast majority of the population accepts the legislation passed through Parliament. However, it is under the assumption that the government can be voted out at the next general election if the majority of voters are unhappy with its performance, or achievements. Much harder to define or evaluate can be the influence that governments have upon people’s beliefs and behaviour. Parties win general elections sometimes because they are the least unpopular party, rather than because they are the most popular. Voters can be as pragmatic or as cynical as the politicians that they vote for or against, they vote for the party that makes them better off, as much as the party that wants to influence or potentially change their beliefs and behaviour (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, pp 4 –5).
Now attention is turned to the discussion of how differing ideological, or political beliefs have influenced the Thatcher and New Labour governments into making policy and legislation that affects social policy in Britain. The classical liberal approach to traditional family values was that governments should not intervene in social matters just as they should keep economic interventions down to an absolute minimum. The classical liberal approach regarded the role of governments as being strictly limited to providing legislation when required, and limited educational, law and order, and national defence facilities or services. The moral, religious, and social values may have been Christian yet that was just by historical chance. Classical liberal thinkers such as John Locke argued that the government should tolerate diversity and allow its people to act in anyway they wanted that did not contravene national laws (Lacey, 2006, p.7). For classical liberals, governments should have gone no further than regulating workplace safety and regulating the Poor Law administration. The teaching of traditional family values was down to churches (or other religious institutions), schools, and individual family groups themselves (Eatwell & Wright, 2003 p. 36). The ideas of classical liberalism would re-emerge from the 1960s in the guise of neo-liberalism and would have the most influence in Britain upon the government that was led by Margaret Thatcher between May 1979 and her removal from office in November 1990. The Major government that held office from 1990 through to 1997 was regarded as being less dogmatic and more pragmatic than its immediate predecessor was, though conversely placing a greater emphasis on individual morality and standards of behaviour (Eatwell & Wright, 2003, p. 287).#p#分页标题#e#
Another strand of liberal political ideology emerged at the beginning of the 20th century that favoured a higher level of government intervention in social and economic matters. This ‘new’ liberalism was responsible for the first moves towards establishing the welfare state in Britain. The new Liberals regarded poverty as being the largest single threat to traditional family values, as well as being socially divisive. Poverty often led families into the dreaded workhouses that separated parents from their children, and then parents from each other. Poverty in other words could stop people from caring for each other, it stopped relatives being cared for, and prevented people looking after themselves. The workhouse was, according to the new liberal ideological perspective, the biggest breaker of families, something that grinding poverty did not always achieve (Moran, 2005, p. 28). The introduction of Labour Exchanges, national insurance, which paid small amounts of unemployment benefit, and limited old age pensions may have done little to reverse poverty, yet it heralded greater levels of government intervention in social and economic affairs, especially after Labour’s landslide election victory in 1945. All those new Liberal reforms were intended to preserve family units, as unemployment, underemployment, and old age were all factors that made people poor, and put them in the workhouse, or drove them towards committing crimes to make money. Had the British economy been stronger during the inter-period then the limited welfare state of the Liberals might have been extended earlier. There were limited extensions such as the development of council houses and some free health care for the poorest families (Eatwell & Wright, 2003 p.38).
The Liberal party itself appeared to be in a virtually terminal decline after the First World War with its former supporters either switching their votes to the Conservatives or the Labour party. Conversely it would be variations of liberal ideology that have arguably had the most political, social, and economic influence upon post-war Britain and the values that British government aimed to promote through policy and legislation. New Liberalism had a pronounced influence upon the welfare state and Keynesian economic policies pursued from 1945 through to the late 1970s, particularly under the auspices of the Beveridge Report and the wish to avoid mass unemployment on the scale of the 1930s. New Liberalism also influenced the decision of British governments to accept changing social attitudes by changing policy and passing legislation to recognise the slackening hold of traditional family values. The use of Keynesian economics was lessened during the Callaghan government as it was forced into accepting a loan from the International Monetary Fund, and had to reduce public spending before that loan was made available. Of course, it was the revival of neo-liberal ideology that strongly influenced the Thatcher government and meant that the New Labour government had to take power in radically different social and economic circumstances than the Labour governments of the 1970s had faced (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 54).#p#分页标题#e#
In contrast, the Conservative ideological perspective often placed a greater emphasis upon the promotion and the respecting of traditional family values, either to protect property or to maintain social stability. Conservative politicians in Britain regarded themselves as being the party that maintained law and order better than any other political party, to protect social stability, and strengthen national unity (Eatwell & Wright, 2003, p. 51). The Conservative party was the party that usually claimed to be the guardian of traditional family values. The Conservative party had strong links with the Church of England. Indeed, sometimes people referred to the Church of England as being the Conservative party at prayer. As such the Conservative party took a negative view about human nature that helps to explain its tougher stance on law and order issues (Jones et al, 2004, p. 155). Unlike the classical Liberals, the Conservatives were prepared and remain prepared to actively change government policy, and enact legislation if that was needed to protect traditional family values. Previous Conservative governments in Britain have passed both restrictive and liberalising legislation when they have considered such actions to be justified by present circumstances. Conservatives have been repressive, regressive, or liberal in character at different times (Eatwell & Wright, 2003, p. 54). There was a strong paternalistic streak in the British Conservative party, which has sometimes dominated the party, and at other times has had very little influence over the party’s policies when in government. The paternalistic streak has not always gone well with other ideological influences within the party that have been opposed to intervening in society or the economy. For instance, compare the ideological beliefs of Harold MacMillan, or Anthony Eden with Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher did not like the paternalistic ‘One Nation Tories’, and instead attempted to transform British society (Moran, 2005, p. 28).
The Labour party was created specifically to further the interests of the working classes, as such the only traditional family values it wished to protect, promote, or bring back were those that it believed would benefit the working classes. The Labour party was committed to the social ownership of the means of production, and the introduction of extensive welfare, and social security provision. Not only would these measures improve social equality, they would reduce poverty, and make British society better by making it fairer for all. The Labour party was also a political party that was moderate and gradualist in its approach to achieving social, economic, and political reforms. The decline of the Liberal party allowed Labour to become the second main political party in Britain and even form a government in 1924. The first Labour government was only a minority administration, and was therefore unable to achieve much (Wilson, 2005, p. 252). The second Labour government elected in 1929 had a parliamentary majority, yet its time in office was blighted by the onset of the Great Depression. The party was divided by Ramsey Mac Donald’s decision to cut unemployment benefits, and the introduction of other austerity measures that made the affects of unemployment worse for many of the people that Labour was supposed to help (Wilson, 2005, p. 285). Labour got its big chance to profoundly alter British social and economic policies as a result of the wartime feeling that something should be done to make Britain a fairer and less poverty stricken place to live in. Labour fully backed the proposals of the Beveridge Report and introduced a comprehensive welfare state and reaped its sensational electoral benefits in 1945 (Lacey, 2006, p. 260).#p#分页标题#e#
The Labour party managed to achieve its social and economic aims during the Atlee governments of 1945 through to 1951. Its objectives were achieved with the introduction of a comprehensive welfare state, the National Health Service (NHS), and increased educational opportunities. To banish the possibility of mass unemployment on the scale of the 1930s, industries were nationalised and Keynesian demand side economic policies were pursued. From the Labour party’s perspective Britain’s traditional family values should have been protected or even promoted by declining levels of poverty, better health care provision, and higher levels of educational achievement. The welfare state and the NHS seemed to be safe as the Conservatives accepted the vast majority of Labour’s reforms (Fisher, Denver, & Benyon, 2003, p. 11). In fact, the Conservative Party enjoyed considerable success in the 1950s as the British electorate trusted them to leave the welfare state and public services untouched, whilst successfully managing Keynesian economics to make people financially better off (Sandbrook, 2005 p. 51).
Until the late 1960s it seemed that British governments had managed to achieve strong economic growth, an effective welfare system, and a high degree of social harmony. The period also introduced legislation that liberalised British society, for instance the legalisation of homosexuality, abortion, and the abolition of the death penalty. Legislation was also passed that made it easier to get divorced. However, there were to be social, economic, and political developments that loosened the post-war political consensus. The loosening of that post-war consensus began with deteriorating economic growth and social changes, developments that would eventually lead to the emergence of Margaret Thatcher as a politician that was determined to radically alter the political, social, and economic fabric of Britain (Forman & Baldwin, 1999, p. 11). It was not just Britain’s relatively poor economic performance that Margaret Thatcher wished to tackle; she wanted to tackle the political, social, and economic decline of Britain. Margaret Thatcher wished to reverse what she considered to be the harmful social and economic consequences of decline fostered by the liberalisation of moral values caused by the legislation of the 1960s and the changes in social attitudes that occurred during the same period (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 42).
On the other hand, New Labour wished to regain power by gaining the votes of people that had previously voted for the Thatcher and Major governments, whilst retaining the support of their loyal Labour supporters. Traditional Labour party supporters had not supported the party because it claimed to protect or restore traditional family values; instead they believed that a Labour government would make them better off, and British society fairer. However, traditional Labour voters had been reduced in numbers by the reduction in the size of heavy industries and the Thatcher government’s economic policies such as the sell off of council housing and privatisation (Fisher, Denver, & Benyon, 2003 p. 12). The combination of changing social and economic trends, the privatisation policies of the Thatcher government, as well as party in-fighting had condemned the Labour party to four consecutive general election defeats. The Labour Party had expected to win the 1992 general election, although the Major government managed to get re-elected by scrapping the poll tax (Jones, 1999 p.1). New Labour might not have emerged at all if John Smith had not died leading to Tony Blair becoming the party leader, and going on to reorganise the Labour Party, reshaping its policies, and its image in order to gain power (Seldon & Kavanagh, 2005 p. 5).#p#分页标题#e#
Whilst New Labour emphasised that it would no longer pursue traditional Labour party economic policies, it would stress that it was keen to make British society fairer than it had been during the Thatcher and the Major governments. New Labour stressed that it stood for fairer social values, for instance actively trying to encourage the acceptance of cultural diversity, or promoting gay and lesbian rights (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 397). New Labour shifted its economic policies to the right first, then moved its social policies in a similar direction (Moran, 2005, p. 28). Tony Blair and New Labour stressed that once in power it would help to bring back traditional family values by being tough on crime by tackling its social and economic causes (Seldon & Kavanagh, 2005, p. 6). New Labour has also pledged to reform welfare provision, the NHS, and the education system to improve performance and reduce social exclusion. New Labour wanted to restore what it considered to be traditional family values through policy and legislation, yet with the emphasis being different from the emphasis of the Thatcher government in rhetoric if not in substance (Jones, 1999, p. 2).
All governments have to be aware of the public scrutiny that they may have to endure, through Parliament, through media coverage and speculation, as well as been observed by the general public. The government of the day can have its policy and legislation objectives overturned and jeopardised by adverse publicity or media revelations. The media is very useful for the government to sell its policies and pieces of legislation to the electorate yet no government can expect favourable media coverage all of the time and sensible governments will try to manage media coverage to get the best results. The Thatcher and New Labour governments took media management techniques seriously for their periods in office although that has not guaranteed that they will succeed in making all their policy and legislation succeed, whether or not it was meant to restore traditional family values (Jones, 1999, p. 52).
Chapter One –
The Thatcher government and returning back to traditional family values
This chapter will deal with the subject of the Thatcher government and its attempts of returning to traditional family values through policy and legislation. Margaret Thatcher broke the mould of the average Conservative party leader, and it was not simply because she was the first woman to gain that position. Although the Conservatives had been stung by the size of their election defeat in 1945, they had soon recovered to regain power by 1951 (Wilson, 2005, p.484). Successive Conservative leaders from Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold MacMillan, and Alec Douglas Hume had accepted the post-war political, economic and social consensus established after 1945 (Sandbrook, 2005, p.51). It had been Margaret Thatcher’s immediate predecessor as Conservative leader, Edward Heath that had first attempted to overturn the post-war consensus through the adoption of the Selsdon programme. As Education secretary, Margaret Thatcher was part of the Heath government that eventually returned to Keynesian economic policies, due to trade union opposition, and the desire to increase economic growth to prevent unemployment levels going past one million (Fisher, Denver & Benyon, 2003, p.11). The Heath government would fall victim to increasing trade union opposition that led to the three day week, whilst Heath’s defeat in both general elections of 1974 meant that leading Conservatives were looking for alternative policies and a new leader with a different approach to the discredited Heath. Margaret Thatcher decided to stand for the party leadership and succeeded in displacing Heath. After she became Conservative leader, her differing ideological outlook from her post-war predecessors started to emerge. Thatcher’s right wing rhetoric, no nonsense leadership style, her forthright messages, and obvious sense of nationalism struck the right chords with the British electorate during the late 1970s (Eatwell & Wright, 2003, p. 160).#p#分页标题#e#
Margaret Thatcher was determined to restore the electoral fortunes of the Conservative and then went on to revive the ailing British economy by fundamentally altering social, economic, and political attitudes within the country. Thatcher believed that Britain needed to radically overhaul its social and economic policies to reverse economic decline and social decadence. The medicine that Thatcher prescribed to cure Britain of its social and economic woes was the adoption of neo-liberal economic policies and a return to traditional family values. According to neo-liberal economists such as Hayek and Friedman, Keynesian economics and extensive welfare states like Britain’s after 1945 were socially and economically detrimental. Thatcher had been introduced to these concepts by one of her closest advisors, Sir Keith Joseph, and she saw them as the solution to Britain economic decline and social degradation (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 54). The welfare state removed the incentive to work, or the incentives to reduce the size of families, whilst providing adequate standards of living for those that were work shy or content to have children outside of marriage and long term relationships. The pursuit of Keynesian economic policies had increased the power of trade unions whilst restricting the efficiency of both public and private sector enterprises. Thatcher argued that excessively high rates of taxation reduced the incentives for people to work harder and meant that some people were financially better off by being unemployed. Thatcher’s solution to these problems was to end Keynesian economic policies, lower taxes, sell off public assets, and attempt to reduce the size of the welfare state. The inability of the Callaghan government to solve Britain’s economic ills and the Winter of Discontent of industrial action and public sector strikes allowed Thatcher to take power after winning the general election of May 1979 (Fisher, Denver, & Benyon, 2003, p.11).
Once in office the Thatcher government undertook a radical reshaping of economic policy that had a major impact upon British society and influenced the success of policy and legislation to bring back traditional family values. The pursuit of economic liberalisation was the government’s policy given priority over all other policies and initiatives. Thatcher believed that economic liberalisation would be the catalyst that would modernise and revive Britain’s economic performance, with the anticipated consequence that it would revive at least some of the traditional family values. That was the underlying belief that people should work to make their lives better rather than relying upon the welfare state to give them handouts. The problem with adopting monetarist economic policies was that it resulted in the highest levels of unemployment witnessed in Britain since the Great Depression of the 1930s. With more than three million people unemployed, expenditure on the social security budget increased rather than decreased. Economic policy in this instance actually made the return to traditional family values less likely to be achieved. High unemployment levels instead meant a return to inter-period levels of poverty, and the closure of unprofitable coal mines and steel mills devastated whole communities (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 54).#p#分页标题#e#
High unemployment levels also helped the Thatcher government to break the power of the trade unions more effectively than legislation on its own. That legislation was restrictive of trade union powers in its own right, more so than the failed efforts of the Heath government a decade earlier. The Thatcher government regarded employment legislation as vital in making its efforts to erode trade union power effective. The Employment Act of 1980 took away the rights of trade unions to operate closed shops (allowing workers the right not to join trade unions), take secondary industrial action, or, use flying pickets to force employers to give into their demands. The Employment Act also laid down certain conditions that trade unions had to follow exactly before they could take industrial action. For instance, trade unions had to hold postal ballots to vote for or against strike action. Any trade union that did not hold official ballots was going on strike illegally, and therefore faced legal action from employers. For the Thatcher government the Employment Act of 1980 proved invaluable with its conflicts with the militant trade unions, especially the coal miners (Forman, & Baldwin, 1999, p.450).
For the Thatcher government its conflict with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) led by Arthur Scargil proved the ultimate test of whether it could change the social and economic structure of Britain to fit in with its ideological outlook. The NUM had been regarded as being largely responsible for the defeat of the Heath government during the 1970s, so the Thatcher government wanted to defeat it as a symbol of Britain being transformed economically, socially, and politically. Although the Thatcher government did give way over pay disputes in 1981 as it did not believe it could defeat the NUM, it was biding its time. However, by 1984 the Thatcher government was certain that the situation had changed in its favour through its new legislation that reduced secondary strike action, and because coal had been stockpiled at power stations to prevent the NUM from forcing the government to give in. The bitter miners strike of 1984-85 effectively broke the power of the NUM forever, and showed that the trade unions could no longer bring down any government that they wanted to (Forman & Baldwin, 1999, p. 196).
As part of its policy objectives to bring back traditional family values the Thatcher government tried to improve the law and order situation without much apparent success. Once again the economic policies of the Thatcher government had consequences for the successful conduct of its social policies. The chief consequence of Thatcherite economic policies was as already mentioned high unemployment. High unemployment made it harder to reduce the level of crime; in fact crime rates rose as sharply as unemployment rates did throughout much of the 1980s (Fisher, Denver, & Benyon, 2003, p. 12). Unemployment increased peoples’ sense of desperation as well as putting many of them into poverty. Crime increased as people tried to make ends meet, and it also increased as a result of a rise in the number of people taking illegal drugs. High unemployment and the illegal drug trade meant that respect for law and order was reduced in the majority of inner city areas rather than improved. A combination of high unemployment, heavy handed policing, and increased levels of racial tension lead to the outbreak of inner city riots in 1981 that alarmed the Thatcher government (Jones et al, 2004, p. 628). To prevent a repeat of those riots the Thatcher government introduced urban redevelopment areas, and attempted to change the policing methods used in areas that contained ethnic minority communities. The Thatcher government tried to reduce crime by allowing courts to set tougher sentences and the introduction of youth detention centres, yet nothing seemed to work (Jones et al, 2004, p. 628). The failure of the Thatcher government to reverse the rising crime figures is a clear demonstration that the social policy, and legislation of governments can have little or virtually no influence over people’s behaviour if they did not want that behaviour to be altered. Although there was a strong link between rising crime and rising unemployment during the Thatcher government the levels of crime have not decreased, despite unemployment falling since its peak in the late 1980s (Jones et al, 2004, p. 629).#p#分页标题#e#
Other areas of the Thatcher government’s social and economic policies and legislation did not have such a detrimental effect on its objective of bringing traditional family values back. The Thatcher government wanted to make people take greater responsibility over their own futures by allowing them greater levels of choice and opportunity. The Thatcher government aimed to provide people with incentives to work harder and employers to employ more workers. To provide such incentives income tax levels were reduced to give people more spending power, although the government maintained its level of revenues by increasing the rates of indirect taxes (Moran, 2005, p.18).
The Thatcher government believed that it could make people work harder, and become homeowners by allowing those that lived in council houses the opportunity to buy their homes from the local authority they rented from. The expansion of the right to buy scheme proved electorally very popular for the Thatcher government and contributed to its victories in the general elections of 1983 and 1987. The selling off of council housing certainly allowed more people to become homeowners as well as altering the appearance of many housing estates. Around one million council house tenants took up the option to buy their own homes, making it one of the most popular schemes introduced by the Thatcher government (Moran, 2005, p.18).
Another way in which the Thatcher government attempted to go back to traditional family values was to make people take a more active role in the private sector and to move away form relying on the services provided by the public sector. The Thatcher government hoped that reducing the size of the public sector would make people work harder for their own benefit. The government also had another objective for privatising public utilities, it proved to be highly popular. Whilst the Labour party protested at the sell off of British Telecommunications and British Gas, few others rejected the idea of privatisation. Although millions of people did buy shares they were in the majority of cases looking to make a short-term profit rather than becoming long-term shareholders. Privatisation may have been popular, yet the Thatcher government only managed to sell off the public utilities that were profitable or close to being profitable (Forman & Baldwin, 1999, p.384).
The Thatcher government also had the objective of bringing back the traditional family values that related to people opting for the most cost-effective provision of public services. In the parts of the public sector that could not be privatised internal markets were introduced. For instance, in the NHS, non-essential services provided by the NHS and local authorities were contracted out when possible to reduce costs. Margaret Thatcher had an axe to grind against high spending Labour controlled local authorities that she and the right wing newspapers frequently referred to as the ‘loony left’. The metropolitan counties such as the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Humberside had their metropolitan councils abolished. The Greater London council under the influence of Ken Livingstone vehemently opposed many of the Thatcher government’s policies and was also abolished (Moran, 2005, p.326). Rate capping did not seem to deter local authorities from setting high rates so the decision was taken to replace rates with the community charge or the poll tax as its many critics dubbed it. The Thatcher government intended that the community charge would make local authorities reduce their bills or risk being voted out. The government also hoped that the community charge would be fairer as all adults (with a few exceptions) would pay for local authority services rather than just ratepayers. The poll tax met with widespread hostility, not least because it was introduced in Scotland a year earlier than the rest of Britain. People believed that the tax was unfair as every adult, except in limited circumstances, was expected pay it. The introduction of the poll tax had unintended consequences, the most widespread tax revolt in centuries and played a major contributory role in Margaret Thatcher’s removal as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party. The poll tax amply demonstrates that government policy and legislation influences people to behave in ways that the government did not intend them to (Seldon & Kavanagh, 2005 p.80).#p#分页标题#e#
There was an area in which the Thatcher government restored some traditional values that it had not intended to. The policies and legislation of the Thatcher government helped to increase support for nationalism in Scotland and Wales. The Callaghan government had relied on the Parliamentary support of the nationalists after the collapse of the Lib-Lab Pact. There were referendums in 1979 in Scotland and Wales about establishing devolved assemblies, although these were defeated. The economic policies of the Thatcher government were particularly resented in Scotland and Wales due to the high unemployment that resulted from the closure of coal mines, steel mills such as those at Port Talbot and Ravenscraig, as well as the shutting of shipyards in Scotland. Previous governments had been keen to prevent high employment by keeping the coal mines, and steel mills open through state subsidies, and by awarding defence contracts to Scottish shipyards. Although the Thatcher government cut subsidies across all of Britain for ailing industries the most adverse consequences were in Scotland and Wales. Resentment of the Thatcher government was high because the majority of voters in Scotland and Wales had voted against Thatcher, yet unpopular social and economic policies and legislation were forced on them due to the Conservatives winning a majority of the Parliamentary seats in England. Labour carried on winning the majority of seats in Scotland and Wales yet the Conservatives were eventually unable to win a single seat in these countries in 1992 and 1997. The Scots frustration with the Thatcher government reached its peak when the poll tax was introduced a year earlier than in England and Wales (Seldon & Kavanagh, 2005, p.80). Although the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru were able to gain from the demise of Conservative support they were not able to achieve independence. However the extent of the resentment of the Thatcher and Major governments meant that New Labour had no other option than to purpose devolution in Scotland and Wales (Jones et al, 2004, p. 307).
Another problem for John Major and subsequent Conservative party leaders has been the images and reputation that the party earned as a result of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership style as well as the policies, and legislation of her government. Although the Thatcher government used policy and legislation to restore the traditional family values that related to thrift, hard work, and enterprise, it also gained the reputation of being uncaring about social problems in general, and unemployment or poverty in particular. Although the Major government tried to appear more compassionate than the Thatcher government it did little to prevent electoral meltdown in 1997. The Thatcher government gave the Conservatives the reputation of not caring, whilst the Major government gave them the reputation of being dishonest, barely competent, and full of sleaze. New Labour took full advantage of the poor public perceptions of the Conservatives (Jones, 1999, p. 380).#p#分页标题#e#
Chapter Two –
New Labour and returning back to traditional family values
New Labour was able to gain power in 1997 due to the unprecedented unpopularity of the Major government, which had suffered one policy disaster after another after its surprise re-election in 1992. That election was won through negative campaign techniques and the newspapers attacking Labour’s ability to form a competent government after so long in opposition. The attacks of ‘The Sun’ were widely regarded as costing Labour electoral victory (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 168). The Conservative party suffered internal divisions over policy towards the European Union, and the Major government suffered a severe denting of its political creditability after Britain was forced to leave the European exchange rate mechanism in 1993. Ironically enough that change in policy speeded up recovery from the recession of the early 1990s. Although the Major government had not introduced any significant policy and legislation to restore traditional family values, it had launched its ill fated ‘back to basics’ campaign to improve public behaviour and standards. Major did want to change the image of the Conservative party to appear to be more concerned with social and moral issues as a way of compensating for the excessive individualism or selfishness that the Thatcher government had increased in Britain through it economic policies. The private lives of government ministers such as David Mellor and Norman Lamont made the government appear to have moral double standards. The ‘back to basics’ campaign backfired amidst allegations of ministerial sleaze and cash for questions (Jones et al, 2004, p.124).
The Thatcher and Major governments had provided examples of how policy and legislation could be used to being back traditional family values should New Labour be willing to learn from the experiences of the Conservatives. Tony Blair had benefited from the unpopularity of the Conservatives, although he and New Labour were influenced by the legacies of the Thatcher government in terms of rhetoric and the policies it felt able to pursue (Eatwell & Wright, 2003, p.287). The Thatcher government had not been as right wing as some its supporters had hoped for, yet it has amongst its many legacies undoubtedly transformed Britain’s society, and economy. The policies and legislation promised, and subsequently implemented was considerably more right wing than the Wilson and Callaghan governments had been during the 1970s. The size of New Labour’s electoral majority in 1997 meant that it could carry out any policies and pass any legislation that it wanted to (Jones et al, 2004, p.155). When it gained power in 1997 many people expected great things of New Labour in transforming Britain’s constitutional, political, social, and economic situations yet in a great deal of things those expectations have not been fully achieved (Jones et al, 2004, p. 779).#p#分页标题#e#
New Labour aimed to restore traditional family values by reducing the level of poverty and social exclusion in the hope that policy and legislation would halt the decline in the number of family units (Moran, 2005, p.11). New Labour was lucky that it came to power during a period of economic growth, and falling unemployment, yet it felt the need to tackle poverty and social exclusion still existed. Chancellor Gordon Brown imposed a windfall tax on the privatised utilities that paid for programmes such as Surestart, and New Deal. Surestart was a scheme to improve the standard of education for children in deprived areas that was intended to help increased levels of educational achievement, whilst instilling moral values, and a sense of citizenship into children that would not have received such lessons at home. New Deal was a period of vocational training or work placements designed to help people back into employment. New Deal was to be made available to groups that are most vulnerable to long term unemployment, the under 25s, lone parents, the disabled, and the over 50s (Coxall, Robbins & Leach, 2003, p.383). Lone parents and the disabled had generally being ignored when it came to receiving help and advice to find work, New Deal made that help available (Department for Work and Pensions, 2004, p.3).
New Labour used the introduction of the minimum wages, as well as more extensive tax credits to raise income levels for the lowest paid (Jones et al, 2004, p. 779). In a way the minimum wage and tax credits were a means of placating the trade unions. That was due to New Labour making absolutely no attempt to end the restrictions upon trade unions by the Thatcher government through its employment legislation (Seldon & Kavanagh, 2005, p.190). New Labour even introduced a version of New Deal to help regenerate areas of social and economic deprivation known as New Deal for Communities. New Deal for Communities was different from earlier regeneration projects in that local community groups or organisations were allowed a greater say in deciding were regeneration funds where spent and what they were spent on. New Labour would argue that poverty whether on an individual, or community scale does the most to erode traditional family values, so reducing poverty should restore a sense of civil morality, pride, and duty (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 311).
New Labour regarded education policy as having an important part to play in restoring traditional family values and perhaps instilling new values into children and young people. There is more to education than passing exams and having good qualifications to find suitable employment opportunities as soon as full time education is finished. The consequences of the breakdown of traditional family units can be witnessed at schools, whilst teaching staff have to deal with children that have been taught very little or nothing at all about how to behave in socially acceptable ways. If children have not learned how to behave at home or at religious institutions then schools are the first place they will be expected to behave themselves. In some schools the teaching staff have found it difficult to control pupils with attitude problems as these pupils are not deterred by the punishments or persuaded by the incentives that teaching staff have available to them. Schools are a place for pupils to learn about acceptable behaviour and New Labour did want schools to teach lessons about how pupils could become laws abiding adult citizens. As with previous governments New Labour has attempted to reduce the truancy rates that truants will become involved in criminal activities. Persistent truants obviously have a greater chance of leaving full time education without any qualifications, which hampers their prospects of finding worthwhile employment opportunities. Poor educational achievers find it more difficult to avoid poverty, unemployment, or having to become involved in crime (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 375).#p#分页标题#e#
New Labour has used education policy to teach pupils about family values, yet critics have argued that New Labour has not taught them about traditional family values. Rather New Labour has taught pupils about the social values that fit in with its politically correct version of family values. New Labour has certainly changed the national curriculum to teach pupils about the multicultural, multiethnic and multi-faith nature of modern day British society. In a way it is very difficult for New Labour to use education policy in its attempts to restore traditional family values as the society that used to embrace those traditional family values no longer exists (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 311). Instead secularisation amongst the nominally Christian majority of the British population combined with the large minority of people of other religious beliefs means that New Labour or any other government could never restore Christian dominated traditional family values. New Labour is instead attempting to use education policy to teach pupils social and moral values that would have traditionally been taught at home. The success of such a strategy depends if influences outside the education system have a stronger effect upon the attitudes and behaviour of pupils (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 375).
New Labour has also been interested in using education to pass on moral and social values to immigrants into Britain. Immigrants have been given English and citizenship classes to help them to adjust to living in Britain. Part of the citizenship classes focus on the moral and social values that are expected of British citizens. Some of the values that are taught in citizenship classes may coincide with elements of traditional family values, yet that is coincidental. The objective of English and citizenship lessons is allowing immigrants to fit into British society, not for them to alter the values of British society. However, the scale of immigration into Britain since 1997 form asylum seekers and citizens of the new European Union member states could, if maintained, dramatically alter social values in Britain (Seldon & Kavanagh, 2005, p. 147).
Law and order was an issue that New Labour was pledged to restore traditional family values in, or at least attempt to reduce the number of people that were actively involved in crime. New Labour introduced new measures to keep its electoral promise of being tough on crimes, measures that have included electronic tagging and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). These measures were intended as alternatives to custodial sentences, ASBOs were designed to curb anti-social behaviour, especially amongst youths and to allow ordinary law abiding people to live free of the fear that youths could ruin their lives through anti-social behaviour. However, measures such as ASBOs and electronic tagging have not been as effective as New Labour would have liked. For instance, people have managed to breach the conditions of their ASBOs and electronic tagging, with the result that they have been sent to prison anyway. ASBOs have proved to be expensive to obtain, proved to be inadequate deterrents, whilst those with ASBOs have in most cases not altered their behaviour at all. New Labour has found the task of reducing crime just as difficult as its predecessors did and undoubtedly its successors will find the task equally difficult. Indeed, under New Labour the British prison population has reached record levels leading to some prisoners having their sentences cut to make room for new inmates and the cells in police stations have been made available for use. The prison population has reached heights despite declining detection by the police fewer convictions at court. The police complain about lack of frontline resources to prevent crime or catch criminals, whilst the amount of bureaucracy involved when somebody is arrested make it time consuming (Seldon & Kavanagh, 2005, pp.250-2).#p#分页标题#e#
Whilst New Labour policy may have been aimed at reducing poverty, and to a much lesser extent the restoring of traditional family values, some of the legislation it has passed contradicts those aims. In particular, the Human Rights Act and the Data Protection Act have affected how the law courts, the police, and the Crown Prosecution Service have carried out their duties. The Human Rights Act and the Data Protection Act were not primarily intended to restore traditional family values to fight crime; rather these acts were passed to enhance individual rights. Critics of the Human Rights Act claim that the legislation has proved to be flawed in practice. Their arguments are that the Human Rights Act delays and occasionally prevents the prosecution of suspected criminals. The legislation is protecting the human rights of criminals, rather than actively enhancing the rights of ordinary law abiding citizens (Moran, 2005, p.49).
The Data Protection Act received criticism; mainly due to confusion about which information had to be retained and which information could be destroyed under the legislation. Misunderstandings over the retention or destruction of data meant that police forces, local authorities, government departments and schools were employing people that had criminal records or posed a risk to children, women, or the elderly. The failure of public institutions to retain exempted data to consider when making appointments was highlighted with the murder of two girls in Soham. The school caretaker, Ian Huntley was eventually caught and convicted for those murders. It later emerged that Huntley had been cautioned and arrested on previous occasions, yet that information had been destroyed or never entered on police databases. If that information had been available, Huntley would not have been able to work at a school. This case was yet another example of policy and legislation having different consequences to those that had been intended (Jones et al, 2004, p. 635).
New Labour did have intentions to restore one traditional family value, which was increasing the willingness to work. As previously mentioned, the windfall tax contributed to the funding of the New Deal initiatives. New Labour wanted to change the benefits system so that people became better off by working than by remaining on benefits. New Labour increased the help available to people on low incomes (Seldon & Kavanagh, 2005, p.316). A system of tax credits was introduced to help the over 25s on low incomes, working parents, and lone parents. Tax credits are designed to allow people to stay in jobs that they could not otherwise afford to stay in, as they would have been better off claiming benefits. Tax credits and focused help to lone parents are designed to help reduce the level of children that are raised in poverty. New Labour hoped that if children grew up with less financial concerns then their parents would be more likely to stay together, whilst they would be more likely to teach their children the difference between right and wrong (Coxall, Robbins & Leach, 2003, p.383). The other group of the population that New Labour aimed to help was old age pensioners. Old age pensioners were aided with the introduction of winter fuel payments, higher levels of state retirement pension and the provision of Pension Credit, which was a more generous replacement of Income Support for those over 60 (Seldon & Kavanagh, 2005, p.318).#p#分页标题#e#
The previous two chapters have described and evaluated when and how the Thatcher and New Labour governments have used policy and legislation to bring back traditional family values. This chapter will compare how the Thatcher and New Labour governments have attempted to restore traditional family values.
A notable feature of both the Thatcher and New Labour governments was that they were prepared to use policy and legislation to restore traditional family values, or at least their variants of family values. Other governments for instance, the Conservative governments between 1951 and 1964, or the Labour governments of the 1970s were more interested in managing the economy and leaving government administration untouched for the most part. Perhaps it is surprising that the majority of post-war British governments had not wanted to substantially alter social policy. For the most part these governments were content to leave the post-war political consensus in place and only tinker around the edges when they felt it was necessary (Fisher, Denver & Benyon, 2003, p.12). The Labour governments between 1964 and 1970 were the first to try and alter society, although the legislation to legalise abortion and homosexuality plus making divorce easier were a reflection of changed social attitudes, rather than a catalyst. Many politicians during the 1960s thought it was time to make Britain a less restrictive place to live in, whilst at the same time giving individuals greater control over their own lives (Forman & Baldwin, 1999, p.11). The Thatcher government, taking the lead from Margaret Thatcher herself saw the decline of religious, cultural, and social morality during the 1960s as a cause of Britain’s economic decline and the resulting political instability of the 1970s. Thatcher thought that Britain was at the zenith of its economic, social, and imperial power during the Victorian era when traditional family values were assumed to have their greatest influence upon British society. It was what Thatcher believed and it helped to shape her government’s policy and legislation, even if it was not a historically accurate of Britain’s past (Coxall, Robbins, & Leach, 2003, p. 43).
The main factor or feature that the Thatcher and New Labour governments have in common is that they both held visions of how they wanted Britain to be. Thatcher was determined to break up the post-war consensus to reverse the damage done by the welfare state, trade union power, and high levels of income. Thatcher wanted to restore the traditional family values that related to hard work, thrift, and increasing levels of homeownership. The Thatcher government wanted people to take responsibility for their own lives, rather than having the welfare state support them. Thatcherism was essentially all about people being capable of fending for them, yet at the expense of no longer thinking about other people. The policies of the Thatcher government produced winners and losers, those that were fortunate to keep their jobs had increased chances to buy their council houses or buy shares in the privatised former public utilities. For those that could not keep hold of their jobs the future was not so bright. The Thatcher governments economic policies meant that some highly industrialised areas had all their industrial plants or units closed down, leading to high levels of unemployment, it was like somebody had turned the clock back to the 1930s (Fisher, Denver, & Benyon, 2003, p.12). The Thatcher government was unable to reduce state intervention as much as it would have liked. Unemployment meant that the Social Security budget went up markedly, whilst increased rates of crime led to greater spending on policing for decreasing levels of effectiveness. Thatcherism was based upon a paradox; to reduce the role of the central government in managing the economy involved increasing the social control that the central government held over social issues (Moran, 2005, p. 326).#p#分页标题#e#
New Labour approached social policy differently from the Thatcher government. It claimed to be working towards a third way between old Labour values and right wing neo-liberal policies pursued by the Thatcher government, and with less enthusiasm by the Major government (Jones et al, 2004, p. 155). New Labour was attempting to retain the majority of neo-liberal economic politics, yet reduce the level of social inequalities that those policies tended to widen. New Labour wanted to rebuild a sense of community, restore respect for authority and increase the acceptance of diversity (Coxall, Robbins, Leach, 2003, p.383).
Both the Thatcher and New Labour governments publicly emphasised their objective of restoring the traditional respect for law and order which they regarded a one of the most important traditional family values. The Thatcher and New Labour governments attempted to reduce the level of juvenile criminals through the respective use of youth detention centres and ASBOs, yet these measures all failed to improve levels of law and order (Jones, 1999, p. 240). The Thatcher and New Labour governments both attempted to deter people from breaking the law by increasing the length of sentences, yet these governments had to cope with ever increasing numbers of prisoners. In fact, the surge of prison population numbers led to the adoption of measures such as community service, the greater use of fines, ASBOs and electronic tagging to punish criminals, yet aiming to keep them out of prison to ease the overcrowding situation. Policy and legislation in the law and order areas has not therefore succeeded in restoring traditional family values (Jones, 1999, p. 240). The legislation that was passed by the Thatcher and New Labour governments has had various impacts upon the effectiveness of law and order policies used in Britain. Perhaps the most prominent legislation passed by the Thatcher government was the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 that tightened up the evidence gathering procedures used by the police to reduce the risk of wrongful conviction. PACE increased the level of paperwork that the police had to complete with every single arrest. The objective of PACE was not however to increase the number of convictions, or restore respect for law and order, its main objective was to improve public confidence in the transparency of the legal system (Jones et al, 2004, p. 628).
The New Labour governments have also learnt that legislation can contradict policy as well as complimenting it. As mentioned previously, the Human Rights Act and the Data Protection Act have made it more complicated to gain successful prosecutions. However, New Labour had introduced legislation to help counter levels of organised crime, such as ability to freeze the bank accounts of suspects pending the outcome of trials with the power to confiscate assets and property after successful court convictions (Jones et al, 2004, p. 635). Both the Thatcher and New Labour governments have in common with all other governments is that they have found out that legislation is not always as effective as it is hoped. Sometimes legislation can be ineffective as it inadvertently contains loopholes or inadequate descriptions of what the government is trying to ban or control. Former Home and Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd contends that too much legislation passed by Parliament is simply poor quality legislation put forward by governments to respond to public or media criticisms (Jones, 1999, p.62).#p#分页标题#e#
New Labour has faced a challenge that the Thatcher government did not have, that of the threat of Islamic attacks on Britain by British as well as foreign Muslims. The Labour Party was traditionally a party that accepted and promoted the concept of cultural diversity. New Labour indeed has been eager to help immigrants learn English and teach them about acceptable standards of behaviour in Britain. That approach is intended to ease the problems that immigrants have with integrating into British society, and improving their employment prospects (Kingdom, 2005, p.198). Of course immigrants and their families have not always found it easy to integrate into British society due to a combination of racism, xenophobia, and an unwillingness to abandon their cultural traditions or religious beliefs. New Labour’s efforts towards helping immigrants and ethnic minority communities integrate into British society would put it at odds with policy and legislation to restore traditional family values (Bulmer & Solomos, 1999, p.5). Support for militant Islamic groups has increased due to New Labour joining in with United States led military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, although the vast majority of Muslims in Britain do not endorse terrorist acts they have resented New Labour’s foreign policy decisions. New Labour has to find the right balance between preventing terrorist attacks and alienating the Muslim communities in Britain (Modood, 2005, p.88). Other immigration issues have proved highly controversial for New Labour whose efforts to reduce the number of asylum seekers and legal immigrants from countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic have met limited successes (Whitaker’s, 2007, p. 18).