2. New Labour


John Smith was elected Labour leader after the 1992 defeat. In September 1992 John Major’s Conservative government was forced to devalue sterling, raising questions about its handling of the economy. Major also led a party increasingly divided over Europe. Labour as a result did well in opinion polls. While John Smith was happy with the direction Kinnock had taken the party, Tony Blair and other ‘modernisers’ believed Labour needed to be transformed further. Smith’s death in 1994 gave Blair his chance. He won the leadership contest with 57% of the vote. Blair subsequently called for a ‘New Labour’.

The most contentious change Blair made was the revision of Clause IV of its constitution. Adopted in 1918, the clause was a commitment to the full scale nationalisation of the economy. For some, Clause IV was evidence of Labour’s ‘socialist’ values. Others believed it put off many voters. Blair wanted the Clause changed to show voters Labour was truly ‘New Labour’.

Collection Items

1 Our Common Task
John Smith believed Labour lost the general election in 1992 because voters found Neil Kinnock unappealing. Smith was confident he had the skills to win over voters. After reducing union influence in the party, in 1993 Smith called a halt to further…

2 John Smith
Conservative troubles meant Labour under John Smith enjoyed a lead in the polls. However in May 1994 he died. Some strongly believe that had Smith lived he would have led the party back to power without the transformations associated with Blair.…

3 Changing Clause IV
“Of course, as opponents of the change immediately pointed out once it was announced, it was largely symbolic. No one except the far left ever really believed in Clause IV as it was written. In a sense, that was my point: no one believed in it, yet…

4. Letters and response sheets from Labour members
After Blair announced he wanted Clause IV revised, members were asked their views. Over 4,000 members responded and many of these opposed the change. At a special conference held in April 1995 58% of the party nonetheless supported Blair’s new…

6 Socialist Labour Party pamphlet
Some believed the new Clause IV meant Labour had ceased to be ‘socialist’. Among those was Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mineworkers. Scargill left Labour in 1996 and established the Socialist Labour Party, for which 64 candidates…

7 Tony Blair
Born into a middle class Conservative voting family. Blair’s political beliefs derived from a morality that echoed his religious faith
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