Full text: Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft - 2004 Heft 1 (1)

Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 30. Jahrgang (2004), Heft 1 
l iament, and it Ieads the devolved regional assernblies of Scotland and 
Wales. lt nominates the members of the innumerable ,quangos' ,  the qua­
si-governmental organisations which , largely unaccountable and secreti­
ve, carry out about as much public business affecting the citizen as do the 
elected bodies of the country. Over most of the period , the Labour go­
vernment could legislate and act without hindrance: the parliamentary Op­
position was toothless. The Conservatives, demoralised and split into ho­
stile factions, were unable to develop a set of coherent policies and to pre­
sent themselves as a credible alternative government: the less so as New 
Labour, following Bil l Clinton's strategy of ,triangulation', had occupied so­
me of their traditional ideological space and continued some of their po­
l icies, with marginal alterations to make them more voter-friendly. The ju­
nior opposition party was the Liberal Democrats whose effectiveness as 
an opposition was l imited by their apparent inabi lity to agree on whether 
to oppose from the left or from the right and how to d ifferentiate themsel­
ves fundamentally from both New Labour and the Conservatives. They 
were briefly courted in pursuit of Tony Blair's ,Project' to unite the ,pro­
gressives' ,  in particular their influential so-called ,Social Democrat' wing, 
made up of rightist former Labour politicians; by splitting the Labour par­
ty, they had contributed importantly to keeping it out of power for eighteen 
years. But their ideological stance holds certain attraction for New Labour. 
Tony Blair raised the prospect of a seat in the Cabinet for the Lib Dem 
Ieader, but this idea was dropped when the size of Labour's majority be­
came clear in 1 999, as was a mooted change in the voting system for ge­
nera l  e lections. Proportional representation would have given the Lib 
Dems-as al l  smaller parties-representation in the Hause of Commons 
much more in l ine with the share of votes cast for them than the traditio­
nal first-past-the-post system. But expectations came to noth ing and the 
Lib Dems ceased to be a potential al ly. Only in the regions were there ef­
fective voices other than Labour: the Scottish Nationalists, Scottish Soci­
alists and the Welsh Nationalists, who tend to combine concern for regio­
nal interests with a pronounced social agenda. 
Due to the ineffectiveness of parl iamentary Opposition, the task of hol­
ding the government to account was largely left to the press, most of which 
firmly pursues a Conservative agenda: interestingly enough, many news­
papers tended to combine firm hosti lity to Labour with general approval of 
Tony Blair. Opinion polls consistently favoured the Prime Min ister and vo­
ting intentions invariably placed Labour weil ahead of other parties. 
So throughout the recent years that New Labour has been in office it 
was also fully in power, which gave it opportunities to better conditions for 
the people of Britain that earlier Labour governments rarely, if ever, en­
joyed-the more so as it inherited an economy in up-swing of the econo­
mic cycle, with employment rising and unemployment fal l ing.  lf it could 

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