Strategies for social democratic surrender?

Author:Reed, Howard

The Condition of Britain: Strategies for Social Renewal

Kayte Lawton, Graeme Cooke and Nick Pearce

IPPR, 2014

The Condition of Britain is the third in a long-running series of publications from the Institute for Public Policy Research which are essentially 'shadow manifestos' containing detailed policy suggestions designed to influence future Labour governments. Historically, IPPR has published a report of this kind to coincide with each key moment of change for the Labour Party over the last two decades. The first such publication--referenced explicitly as an antecedent in the newest report--was the report of the Commission on Social Justice launched by John Smith in 1992 in the wake of Labour's fourth consecutive election defeat, which reported just after Smith's death and succession by Tony Blair, and which laid the policy groundwork for some--though not all--of the re-tooled social democratic approach which characterised the first parliamentary term of New Labour, up to 2001 (Commission for Social Justice, 1994).

The second report was Social Justice: Building a Fairer Britain, of which the present reviewer was a (minor) co-author: this appeared just before the 2005 election and was an attempt to push New Labour towards a more explicit tax-and-spend strategy, rather than the stealth redistribution which had characterised the Blair/Brown years (Pearce and Paxton, 2005). Building A Fairer Britain may have played a role in the minor shift to the left which characterised the Brown government, although the speed at which the economic landscape changed after 2007 makes it hard to be sure; the near-collapse of the UK banking system in 2008 and the deepest recession in a century were probably bigger factors (totally unforeseen by the authors of Building a Fairer Britain, although in their defence they were hardly alone in that).

Securing Osborne's legacy

Unlike the 1994 Social Justice report, the 2005 report is completely unmentioned in The Condition of Britain. This is an unfortunate omission but is probably because the authors would have some difficult explaining to do if they had made reference to the 2005 recommendations--because the IPPR is now recommending the complete opposite of what it recommended back then. Nine years ago Nick Pearce and co-authors were arguing for a modest increase in government spending as a share of Gross Domestic Product (at full employment) from 42 per cent to 45 per cent to funnel further resources into social security, childcare and early years interventions to reduce poverty and inequality. In 2014, the...

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