What one nation Labour might be.

Author:Andersson, Jenny
Position::The Socialist Way: Social Democracy in Contemporary Britain
 
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Edited by Roy Hattersley and Kevin Hickson

I B TAURIS, 2013

Last year a debate erupted in the pages of Political Quarterly and the New Statesman between longstanding social democrat Roy Hattersley and longstanding Blairite David Miliband (Hattersley, 2012; Miliband, 2012). In a sense this debate incarnated the contemporary state of social democracy, in Britain certainly but in Europe as well. Can social democracy win elections by moving to the left, or did the Third Way hold some graved in stone electoral truth? In other words, is social democracy doomed to live in the constrained space of the centre? Is it possible to represent the working class in a world dominated by so-called 'middle class values'? Who understands better the contemporary world, New Labour or Old Labour?

David Miliband's broadside was rather beside the point. Not only David Miliband but the residue of Third Way elites in social democratic parties everywhere are today fundamentally challenged. Labour lost, as Hattersley and Kevin Hickson point out, five million votes between 1997 and 2010. Anyone arguing that the electoral strategy of the Third Way was a success has to somehow explain this downward spiral of electoral results of social democratic parties everywhere, even in the Scandinavian countries. In the present, even if social democratic parties win elections, they do so with very unconvincing majorities, and certainly not on the basis of the kind of broad mobilisation of the electorate that would give a clear mandate for systemic change. It is therefore necessary to wonder if there was something in social democracy's turn to the right in the 1990s that had long-term detrimental effects in terms of locking-in social democratic politics in uncomfortable positions, and cementing what were in fact centre-right values? If so, then how can radical political space once again be opened, and how are Labour leaders, in a time marked by fundamental structural challenges, going to find strategies that can make progress in gradually chipping away at the effects of three decades of neo-liberalism?

This is the ambition of The Socialist Way, which is in short a moral, social, economic and political imperative for social democracy in Britain. Its answer to David Miliband and others is to revisit the central tenets of social democracy, and to make a plea for equality, for a new political economy based on Will Hutton's notion of stakeholder capitalism, and for renewed thinking in the areas of...

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