Spending his holiday on the Ile de Re with Lionel Jospin, Tony Blair and the then French Prime Minister were visiting the island by car. As they arrived at a crossroads, Jospin asked him which way to go. 'Indicate left and turn right', Blair answered. Even though the truthfulness of such a discussion is disputable, the clear-cut idea held by some commentators -e.g. the journalist Nick Cohen- that the British Prime Minister had been somehow 'betraying' the social democratic ideology is worthy of assessment. But what is the basis of such a point of view? Is it facts, acts, and surveys or merely prejudices? More generally, in order to better situate the New Labour in power on the political spectrum, I will try to analyse its domestic decisions and results concerning firstly the economy, then the welfare state and unemployment, and finally trade unions and their influence.
Economically Blair succeeded in gaining the confidence of the markets after eighteen years of Conservative rule.
In order to reassure the City, he notably revised the clause four of the 1918 Labour party constitution claiming the party's commitment to 'common ownership'. Yet this decision was much more a symbol than a decisive ideological break, since MacDonald in the early 1930s and the Labour neo-revisionists in the 1980s already considered nationalisations as a mere means among others to promote social democracy (Fielding 2003: 63, 72). Furthermore Brown gave the National Bank freedom to set interest rates, however most of the major economies have fully independent banks.
Economic dynamism being a prerequisite for social welfare, Blair's governments have endeavoured to maintain the rate of inflation 'as low and stable as possible'. The windfall tax, based on firms' profits, tentatively increased. Although the income tax did not directly rise, the British government still raised National...