|A LABOUR LANDSLIDE|
What will Tony Blair's government mean for the UK?
May 6, 1997
in this forum:
What is Tony Blair's mandate? What is Labour's agenda? What does this election do for the Liberal Democratic Party? Will the Labour Party break into factions? What will the election mean for the Irish peace process?
May 2, 1997:
ITN reports on the inauguration of the new Labour government.
April 29, 1997:
Simon Marks reports on the final days of the campaign.
Browse the NewsHour's index of European affairs.
ITN's Election Page
GE97 is an election site sponsored by Yahoo UK/Ireland.
A question from Alexis Hutchison of San Francisco, California:
New legislation for Britain
The campaign run by Mr. Blair has been called "Clintonesque" by pundits and journalists in that it was more about what Mr. Blair believes rather than what he intends to do. Can you clarify his agenda and how this agenda will change Britain in a significant way?
Mary Dejevsky of The Independent responds:
It is very difficult to clarify Blair's agenda because he deliberately steered clear of specifics during the campaign. In some ways, the more he said, the less his programme seemed to differ from a continuation of what the Tories were doing. Companies and utilities that have been privatised will not be renationalised; legislation limiting the activities and power of trade unions will remain, so will most aspects of the reorganisation of the health service to preserve the 'internal market' in services.
What he has said:
- Blair has promised to introduce a minimum wage - but there will be huge arguments about the level (whether it is low as in the U.S., or relatively high, as in France) that can be given without increasing unemployment.
- On social benefits, Blair may be tougher even than the Tories - he suggested that no young person should have the option of doing nothing, and it is thought that he will introduce training programmes or a type of workfare so that young people have to work or study for their benefits. Again, there will be arguments about whether this should be compulsory or whether there should be hard-to-refuse incentives for taking part.
- On law and order: Blair has indicated a more agressive approach to local order issues, like noisy neighbors in public housing projects, hooliganism and juvenile deliquency. He could well launch a New York-style 'zero-tolerance' campaign concentrated on difficult neighborhoods.
- Bill of Rights: Blair has promised one, Britain has never had such a thing, relying on the 'unwritten constitution' and its guiding principle that what is not expressly forbidden is permitted. A bill of rights might make little difference in practice, but would change important principles of English law.
- Devolution: Blair pledged more authority for Scotland and Wales, including the possibility of elected assemblies, but ruled out giving them the authority to raise taxes, which remains a point of contention.
- The House of Lords: He said he would reform the House of Lords, in the first instance, by removing the right to vote from hereditary peers. It is not clear whether he would actually abolish the Lords, as some advocate, whether he will further restrict its rights and leave it effectively to die out, or whether he might eventually make it an elected second chamber. In any event, it looks bad if you are a hereditary lord or lady!
Tom Rhodes of The Times responds:
It is very hard to clarify an exact Blair agenda. He has already shown that he will be more aggressive in courting Europe but otherwise it is too early to tell. After 18 years of conservative rule, there is no member of his Cabinet that has had an active role in office and the first few months of the transition will be taken up with learning the often byzantine methods of British government.