The Third Ways Ideology In Britain

In this essay I would be discussing how The Third Way’s ideologies have affected the development of Social Policy within Britain. I will be concentrating on their success and failure by comparing it policies with other the political ideology of The New Right and The Old Left. I will be focusing on three of the Third Way policies which are Social, Welfare State and Health Policy

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The Third Way is an ideology strongly supported by Tony Blair and the then America president Bill Clinton. Soon after the presidential election in America, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown travelled to America to meet Bill Clinton. They all realise that the share a lot of things in common especially the philosophy of John Macmurray and this was how The Third Way came into existence.

In the 1997 Labour manifesto Tony Blair claimed that new approach needs to be given to all area of each policy which would be different from both The Social Democratic and The New Right. (Labour Party 1997a). The Third Way was meant to be a form of renewal for Social Democracy but the other parties view it as non-ideological theory without much fact to stand on. Tony Blair describes The Third Way as means of updating the welfare state to fit in into the 21st century by given the state and the community a chance to make a different.

In my view, I believe that The Third Way is all about empowerment and given opportunities and way out to the poor especially the less privileged groups which includes lone parents’ families, unemployed, disables and pensioners by supporting them into getting jobs and developing their independent skills. The Third Way focused mainly on ending poverty by making it clear to the society that work is the quickest way out of poverty.

From my research I can argue that The Third Way is a bit different from both The New Right and The Old Left, for instance The Old Left put more focus on the delivery of means but putting less emphasis on how it would be delivered and not measuring outcome while The New Right are more into cutting public services which leads to increase in poverty level and making it difficult for people to find a way out. The Third Way can also be described as a means of modernising the approach to politics whilst holding on to its major elementary values.

One of the aims of The Third Way is to create awareness to the society on how to overcome poverty by providing access to education for all ages and providing training and apprenticeship. This is an example of Giddens’ view of The Third Way as I quote “investing in human capital wherever possible rather than the direct provision of economic maintenance. In place of welfare state we should put the social investment state, operating in the context of a positive welfare society.” (Giddens, 1998 p177).

Tony Blair was very famous for this quote “a hand up rather than a hand out” (Tony Blair) leads me to explain the four main values of The Third Way:

The four key values of The Third way

The value of a community – Unlike Margaret Thatcher who doesn’t think that there is a society as I quote “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families”. The New Labour was not in support of this and they believe that it was very important to provide a service that reflects the needs of the community.

Commitment to equal opportunity – Deprivation needs to be addressed and it must not be seen as an excuse for failing to provide opportunities. For example, whether it is the absence of a GPs surgery on a council estate or uncontrolled crime or poor housing or failing schools the theory is that the cycle of deprivation can be broken by the community.

Emphasis on responsibility – It is very important that an individual takes adequate responsibility for their actions especially the socially excluded group. For example, the government will support those who want to give up smoking but they also need to do their own part by participating in the service provided.

Accountability – More effort needs to put into measuring outcome as it plays a major role in finding out if a policy is working and how it can be improved. Services needs to be provided in the best way possible and monitored and service provided needs to be held accountable for the success and failure of their service.

In the next pages I would be evaluating the policies of The Third Way by comparing them to the other parties’ policies and focusing on which on what works and what could have been done differently.


Housing Policy

At the time of Margaret Thatcher under the Conservative government, welfare state went through a lot of transformation especially in the area of housing policy which makes it very important for the other parties coming into power to acknowledge the changes.

Going back to the beginning of the 19th century around 1918 to be precise, the war just ended and the main needs that was identified was housing due to soldiers returning home from war into extreme housing conditions. The government then decided to set up programmes of building new properties. By the end of 1919 government used part of the income tax to fund projects managed by the councils and making sure that rents are made affordable and within reason.

From the conservatives’ manifesto of 1979, emphasis was laid into helping families own their homes. They identified that a lot of families would like the idea of owning their own home but they finds it difficult to raise the deposit for a mortgage or prevented from doing so under the local authority and the Labour government. The Conservatives decided that it was the right time to remove all these restrictions by given council tenants the ‘Right to Buy’ their homes.

The right to buy came into effect on 3rd October 1980. Council tenants were allowed to buy their homes. The New Right manifesto made an obligation to introduce ‘Right to Buy’ this gives secured council tenants of more than 3 years the right to buy their homes at a heavily discounted price. The policy entitled tenants to buy their homes at a minimum discount of 33% of market value of the house and 44% for flats. But there is a clause to the policy that emphasised that if the property is resold within 3 years, some of the discount should/must be repaid to the local authority.

This idea became very popular and it was one of the ideas that were identified with the conservatives. At the beginning the Labour party was not in support of the right to buy due to the fact that there will be financial consequences and the effect it would have on the remaining tenants.

But by 1985 the sale of property has increased tremendously as shown in the table below:

This table shows Public sector new housing completions and Right to Buy sales in Britain (1980-95)

Housing completions


Right to Buy sales


















































Source: Wilcox (1997)

By the time the labour party comes into power in 1997, the right to buy scheme has slow down and they decided to reduce the discount. Labour sees this as a failure because two thirds of the families that bought their property under the ‘Right to Buy’ within the last ten years have accumulated huge mortgage arrears, negative equity and a huge numbers of homes have been repossessed because families were unable to make payment.

During the term of Mrs Thatcher the number of homeless household increased tremendously and it also leads to the economic recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Labour party stated in their 1997 manifesto as I quote ….”the Conservatives’ lack of housing strategy has led to the virtual abandonment of social housing, the growth of homelessness…..”.

The Labour Party made it their priority to address what causes the housing market to collapse. They decided that the council should use the money they received from the sale of property should be used to build new properties and keeping the old ones up to the level of decent homes. The local authorities would be asked to give priority to families of individuals who are homeless but not by their own fault.

In my view The New Right are more in support of quick solution but don’t always consider the long time effect the housing policy would have on the welfare state while Labours’ Third Way focused on outcome and prevention. Labour also lays a lot of emphasis on what was the cause and how best to tackle the situation. In regards to the Right to Buy in my opinion it was used by the Conservatives as a way of controlling people i.e. if you have a mortgage you will think twice before going on strike or walking out of a job due to the responsibility and mortgage commitment while Labour looks at how to help people keep up their repayment and laying out prevention if things goes wrong. I believe that the Right to Buy was a good idea initially but the way it was implemented may be a bit wrong however during the term of Mrs Thatcher the housing market improved a lot.

Social Welfare Policy

The new Labour focused on issues faced by the poor i.e. lone parent families, disables, unemployed and pensioners. The Conservatives focused on the “idea that individuals performs better when market forces are unleashed” (Martin Hewitt). The introduction of the New Deal as part of Labour’s welfare reform programme is seen as a positive outcome than Conservatives achievement on the workfare welfare. Tony Blair implies that “there has been no truly comprehensive review of the welfare state in all its elements since the Beveridge” (DSS, 1918a, p iii).

The New Deal was introduced in January 1998 and it main focus was to provide support for the poor and less privileged people in the society. At the time there was a rise in people claiming incapacity benefit (1.85 millions) and unemployment has also rise especially in young people (80000).

When the New Deal was first introduced many politicians opposed to it and some up till now because they believes that people out of work should be neglected. But since the introduction of the New deal more than 1.8 million people have benefited and got into employment and training. Over the last 10 years 300000 lone parents are back in work and this is a great way of reducing child poverty.

As of now, the New Deal is going through reformation in other to be able to continue to tackle the problems of employment by helping people to develop their skills. The New Deal runs programmes for young people ages 18-25 claiming jobseekers allowance (JSA) for more than 6 months. The programme will help them develop skills which would increase their chance of getting into work.

In July 1998 the New Deal introduces another programme for people aged 25 and above concentrating mainly on people claiming JSA for over 2 years. Each claimant would be given a personal adviser that helps them to identify their strength and weakness. It helps them develop and recognise the skills and experience they may already have and empower them to build on it to create opportunities for jobs.

New Deal works in partnership voluntary and private sector to delivering it services and according to research the New Deal programme has been the most successful innovation of the Labour party. Due to the current recession, unemployment figures have risen again.

The Conservatives government inherited a welfare state that “minimised fraud” rather than “maximised work” (Peck, “Workfare” 273). There focus was to restrict eligibility and reduce ‘replacement ratio’ from 43% in 1972 to 16% (Peck, “Workfare” 284).

Health Policy

The National Health Service (NHS) was created by the Labour Party more than 60 years ago. When Labour came out of power in May 1979, the NHS was in a good and stable place with good performance outcome on financial structure. The Conservatives were not in support of the idea at the beginning. There was an expectation that it would be dissolved when Margaret Thatcher came into power in 1979 but this failed to happen as stated in her 1979 manifesto “I have no intention of dismantling the health service than in dismantling Britain’s defence” (Margaret Thatcher 1979). However the government aims to bring in competence and competition into healthcare market. By allowing hospitals and GPs to compete for funding. They informed health authorities to use private companies where possible i.e. private companies would compete on who could be responsible for the hospital laundry or catering. Others ways hospitals can raise funds under the Conservatives includes renting out space to florist, sweet shops, charging foreign patients for their health care and many more. The New Right were all about privatisation and commercialisation while The Third way is in favour of modernising and providing quality service that would be accountable to the community. Labour plans to stop the privatisation of the NHS in their 1992 manifesto but the lost to the Conservatives during the election.

In my view it is very difficult to conclude which government policy on the NHS has actually works, the quality of care have improved under both governments especially around the waiting time for patients however issues surrounding increase in funding and performance target plus lack of good performance outcome can be challenged. I believe that both parties lays good legacy for the NHS and whether their policy work or not they all share the same ideas on some levels. The Third Way, The New Right and The Old Left all have policies focusing on the ‘quasi market’.

Law and Order Policy

One of the biggest challenge the Labour party faced law and order. The conservative party were seen as a “Party of law and order” (Sarah Charman and Stephen P. Savage). On the day that the Conservatives worn the general election in 1979 Margaret Thatcher stated: “What the country needs is less tax and more law and order” (Savage, 1990). The Tories believes that tougher approach needs to be taken and they made a commitment to increase police numbers and power to put an end to crime by waging war against it. New sentences were introduced to the court targeting young offenders; new prisons were built to deal with the problem of prison shortages.

James Callaghan stated that “… the roots of crime are still social deprivation, broken homes and all the rest (Labour Home Secretary, 1970). The Labour party manifesto elaborate their main concern for future action this includes quick sentence for young continual offenders, clean-up on petty crimes and neighbourhood disorder, reform the Crown Prosecution Service, crime prevention and more police patrolling the streets. The Labour party realised that in other to tackle crime they needs to look into

It is hard to establish the success or failure of law and order policy in Britain, Labour appears to be tough on crime and the cause of crime while the Conservatives acknowledged that dramatic short-term improvement is needed. I can only come to one conclusion that Tony Blair’s’ government was more focused on been tougher on crime that both The New Right and The Old Left.