I have been influenced by the white paper “The (Unintended) Consequences of New Labour: Party Leadership vs Party Management in the British Labour Party…, a white paper to the PSA” by Emanuelle Averil on New Labour, its managerialism and the destruction of its activist commitment and influence. It was published in 2015 before the General Election. I read it in 2017 and strangely ended up sitting next to her at Conference ’19. There follows a list of quotes and sources; what she said in 2015 is increasingly relevant in 2021 as Starmer tries to reimpose the controls established by New Labour. See below for a series of quotes from the paper, and remember that New Labour lost the 2010 election partly because it was unable to renew itself.

The sustained efforts to control the grassroots were based on a misconception of local parties and members, who were seen, in keeping with the old Duverger model, as dangerous radicals who would thwart the modernisers’ ambition to make the party more responsive to the voters. However, the rare empirical studies to investigate the supposed ideological gap between Labour members and Labour voters (Seyd and Whiteley, 2002) have shown it to be in fact very slight and a matter of degree rather than of a real divergence of opinions. … Therefore New Labour’s party management methods, which were focused on electoral gain, in reality made the party less attuned to the electorate.

Even more paradoxical for a party whose main objective was to win election, one of the most immediate and most significant effects of the New Labour’s party management, which worked hand in hand with management of the media, was the toxification of the party’s image.

The record level of abstention in the 2001 general election was such a shock …

… instead turned a pluralistic party into a highly factionalized one.

… the blandness of a “sanitized” party (Seyd and Whiteley, 1992: 207). Such type of party simply ends up putting the voters off as they can no longer see the difference between the parties. It also discourages activists, who lose any incentive to get mobilised and to campaign.

… the way the newly created policy forums functioned, where minority opinions struggled to even be recorded.

Vladimir Derer, founder of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, expressed the view, echoed by many party members, that only political debate can keep activists, whom the leadership relies on to run the local parties and campaigns, interested. Participation to the political debate, which “wine and cheese evenings” could never replace, is an essential motivation for partisan engagement.

… it is true to say that internal consensus and cohesion, as they manifested themselves in New Labour, constituted obstacles to innovation and therefore endangered the survival of the party

It is ironic that as Tony Blair became leader and as New Labour was swept into power, an entire wave of ground-breaking management books, developing the model of the learning organisation [ were published ]

See also,

AVRIL, Emmanuelle (2013). ‘The Evolution of Decision-Making in the British Labour Party: From Grassroots to Netroots ?’, in Emmanuelle Avril and Christine Zumello (eds). New Technologies, Organizational Change and Governance, Palgrave Macmillan,

MINKIN, Lewis (2014). The Blair Supremacy. A Study in the Politics of Labour’s Party Management, Manchester University Press.

SEYD, Patrick and WHITELEY, Paul (2002). New Labour’s Grassroots. The Transformation of the Labour Party Membership, Palgrave Macmillan.

I originally used diigo to make note of these quotes and posted the abstract to my wiki. My article Blair’s Shadow (or on medium) talks about how New Labour’s policy direction was ineffective and lacked a mandate from the Party. I also explore means of making a democratically decided and popularly rooted manifesto in Ideas, Alliances and Promises (on this blog or medium). I decided to copy this to my blogs today as I needed the space in diigo and it has become relevant again. The diigo post was dated 17 April 2017. The picture is one of mine, of #lab17.

A note on Emanuelle Averil’s “The (Unintended) Consequences of New Labour …”
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