Category Archives: UK Politics

What was Clause IV and what did New Labour do to it?

Smith
Labour Leader Jim Smith died in May 1994.

In May 1994 the leader of the Labour Party, John Smith, died suddenly. He had only been Party Leader since July 1992 and his death came as a major shock to the whole nation.

In the leadership election that followed, Tony Blair became Party Leader, with 57% of the overall vote. This was a defining moment in the history of the Labour Party. Alongside Gordon Brown (later Chancellor of the Exchequer), Peter Mandelson (later a Cabinet Member) and Alistair Campbell (later Communications Director) the ‘New Labour’ movement began to take shape. One of the major early policy decisions taken was the abolition of Clause IV. So, what was Clause IV and why did Tony Blair want to see it abolished?

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‘Bigotgate’ – Why is it an example of the difficulties of campaigning in the age of 24/7 News Media?

Gordon Brown spent 10 years as Chancellor of the Exchequer before becoming Prime Minister.

Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in June 2007. He did not face a leadership contest from within the Labour Party (his only potential opponent, John McDonnell, only received 8.2% of nominations) and Brown was always seen as Tony Blair’s designated successor. He lost the 2010 General Election to David Cameron and the election campaign included the infamous ‘bigotgate’ affair. So what happened and why was it significant?

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Are Referendums good for democracy in the UK?

Clement Attlee called referendums a device alien to our traditions.

Referendums are a direct vote by citizens on a political issue. They are an example of direct democracy and contrast with the representative democracy that usually dominates politics in liberal democracies. Referendums do not have a long history in the UK. In fact, until 1975 there had not been a single nationwide referendum on any political issue. In Britain, referendums had been associated with Nazi Germany, where Hitler had use plebiscites to confirm support for his policies such as making himself Fuhrer (1934) and Anschluss (1938). Many prominent figures in British Politics had openly spoken out about the potential use of referendums in the UK:

I could not consent to the introduction into our national life of a device so alien to all our traditions as the referendum which has only too often been the instrument of Nazism and fascism – Clement Attlee

The late Lord Attlee was right when he said that the referendum was a device of dictators and demagogues – Margaret Thatcher

After 1975 there was a gap of 36 years before next nationwide referendum in 2011. However, referendums have become much more commonplace since with both national referendums and a number of very significant regional referendums. So why is this and what might the advantages and disadvantages of referendums be?

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