British Prime Minister Tony Blair is scheduled to tender his resignation to the Queen on June 27, a plan that he disclosed on May 10 when he also announced his decision to stand down from the leadership of the Labour Party. His power will be handed over to the newly elected Labour leader. Since Gordon Brown is the only candidate for that position, he is set to become Britain's new prime minister. The hotly contested power transition in Britain has come to a close.
Blair, a reform-minded leader who rose to prominence by chanting the slogan "New Labour, New Britain" and advocating the concept of the "third way," was finally compelled to resign because of poor decision-making over crucial issues, including the Iraq War. Consequently, Blairism, once a widely scrutinized notion, will be consigned to history as a new chapter is opened in British politics.
Treading a different path
The term "Blairism" is often used to refer to the series of policies Blair introduced since he assumed office in 1997. It comprises domestic policy and foreign policy, with the former being the priority. Blair's domestic policy fully demonstrated the reformist philosophy of Britain's central-left parties. The focus of his policy was on pursuing the "third way": adopting an economic policy between monetarism and Keynesianism; and seeking social reforms and social policy adjustments to eliminate the stereotypes of left-wing parties and right-wing parties and strike a new balance between economic efficiency and social equity.
As a political vision, the "third way" was put forward by center-left parties to address the conflict between globalization, a significant trend that emerged in the 1980s, and the existing capitalist regime. Anthony Giddens, founder of the theory, believes that the "third way" is the self-renewal of the left wing to adapt to new circumstances. In the mid-1990s, left-wing parties came to power in many European countries and the United States. They either governed independently or formed coalition governments with other parties. Blair and former U.S. President Bill Clinton were committed to the "third way," whereas former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder created a "new middle" in German politics. Among them, Blair was the most active.
During his 10 years in power, Blair has generally been successful in applying the "third-way" philosophy to the economic sphere, thereby fueling Britain's rapid economic growth. The average annual growth reached around 3 percent, higher than that of Germany and France in the same period. Economic growth brought new job opportunities and considerably reduced the unemployment rate. Mainly thanks to these achievements, Blair won three general elections in a row. With Blair at the helm, the "British economic model" was revitalized. To some extent, it outperformed the economic model on the European continent, becoming a role model for Germany, France, Spain, Greece and new EU members in Central and Eastern Europe.
Blair's accomplishments in the social sphere were not quite as remarkable. Under his leadership, the Labour Party government continued to adjust social policies, increase investment in public health and education and introduce the competition mechanism into feasible fields in a prudent manner. Despite the progress made, various problems persisted. For example, the public is becoming increasingly discontented with the overstaffed and inefficient National Health Service system. In order to appease public discontent, the government launched a major pension reform, which the then Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton called "the biggest renewal of our pension system since Clement Attlee's post-war Labour government implemented the Beveridge reforms." Measures such as extending the retirement age and encouraging the public to save for old age were in the direction of European pension reform. However, their implementation will take a long time and their effects are therefore not immediately tangible.
Blair's reforming of the domestic political regime is also noteworthy. With the devolution, Scotland and Wales were granted financial autonomy. Also, hereditary peers were removed from the House of Lords. The Blair government devoted great attention to resolving the burning Northern Ireland issue. After numerous ups and downs, the peace process made substantial progress shortly before Blair announced his resignation. The Catholics and Protestants, who had long been at odds, sat together for the first time at the Parliament of Northern Ireland to discuss political affairs peacefully. The meeting would have given some comfort to the