Despite the scepticism of the previous chapter’s concluding remarks, those wishing to understand ‘New’ Labour should still carefully attend to the words of its leading exponents. Indeed, according to those who believe Tony Blair’s leadership marks a decisive break with Labour’s past, its defining moment occurred in 1995, when members voted to revise clause four of the party’s constitution. Since 1918 this had committed Labour to advancing the ‘common ownership’ of the ‘means of production, distribution and exchange’. In so far as these words demonstrated a principled desire to reduce the scope of the free market, many viewed them as denoting the party’s commitment to socialism. By modifying the clause, ‘New’ Labour was seen, by enthusiast and detractor alike, as announcing the party’s full acceptance of capitalism. This supposed change of direction was entrenched by Blair’s elaboration of what he termed the Third Way. There is, however, another view that needs to be considered: namely that, despite changes in emphasis, the principled basis of Labour ideology has remained remarkably constant. From that perspective, 1995 was not a break with the past but the conclusion of some unfinished business.
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