This book seeks to review the state of political issues early in the twenty-first century, when New Labour is in its second term of office. As part of the updating process it became necessary to choose which political issues are important. The book includes the main issues which appear in current Advanced Level Politics syllabuses. In the case of Edexcel, which offers a specific political issues option in its A2 specification, all the specified issues have been included. The book deals with the process of constitutional and political change which are issues in themselves. It also includes material on constitutional reform (incorporating the recent development of human rights in Britain), and devolution. The book includes the global recession and other recent political developments and looks at the important issues in British politics since 1945. It examines the key issues of British politics today: economic policy, the Welfare State, law and order, environment policy, Northern Ireland, issues concerning women, European integration and the European Union, and the impact of the European Union on Britain. The book also deals with the European Union and Britain's relationship to it. Finally, it must be emphasised that Britain's relationship to the European Union is in itself a political issue which has fundamentally changed the party system.
This chapter identifies several important features of economic policy in the period since the 1960s. The development of Labour's economic policy in 1996-1997 can be better understood in the light of Britain's experience with economic recession in the early 1990s. The reaction of the Labour party to the economic reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s was to dominate the course of politics in Britain in the final twenty years of the twentieth century. The reforms represented both a pragmatic attitude to economic management, and a compromise with those Thatcherite policies which had proved to be successful. The chapter describes the nature of the post-war economic consensus. It examines the main developments which have occurred since 1997in more detail. The most important decisions were taken at the beginning of Labour's administration and have proved to be the most radical changes which have occurred since the end of the keynesian consensus.
This chapter discusses the origins and principles of the Welfare State, and traces the changing attitude of the parties and their policy makers to it. The term welfare is not a precise one so that a Welfare State may contain a variety of different services. In Britain, where the system is broad based, there are a large number of services included in the term. These are: personal health services, public health provision, social services, subsidised housing, education and social security. The chapter examines three political traditions: Liberalism, Conservatism and Democratic Socialism (i.e. Labour). A future Conservative government, especially under its new leader, Iain Duncan Smith, may well decide to replace state health or education provision with private-sector arrangements. They have a sense that the Welfare State is not appropriate for a modern, pluralist society as there is sufficient prosperity for people to be able to make private arrangements.
This chapter discusses the basic principles of the National Health Service (NHS) and the origins of modern problems in health policy. The NHS came into existence in 1948 after a prolonged period of negotiation between the reforming Labour government of the day and various sections of the medical profession. It was to be funded from taxation and the National Insurance system, which had also been introduced by Atlee's government. The chapter provides a review of Conservative policies on health in the 1980s and 1990s, and review of Labour policies after 1997. It explains the critique of these policies and also provides an analysis of the enduring problems in making health policy. Despite the political consensus which has developed over health, a number of important criticisms have been levied against Labour's policies.
Until World War II the involvement of the state in British education has been variable and, at times, has even seemed reluctant. The experience of the tripartite system has had a lasting impression upon British education. Comprehensive schools would provide a wider range of educational experience than any of the schools in the tripartite system. The idea of providing pre-school education for all children has long been a cherished goal of the Labour party. The chapter provides the background to education after World War II. It describes the principles of the 1944 Education Act and also provides an analysis of Conservative policy in the 1980s. The chapter explains the importance of the 1988 Education Act, and the effects of the National Curriculum (NC), testing and league tables. It focuses on the New Labour policies on education.
This chapter explores the principles of social security in the Welfare State. The Beveridge Report of 1942 which heralded in the post-war Welfare State proposed a comprehensive National Insurance system which would look after people throughout their lives. The chapter reviews how social security developed up to 1979 and provides detailed description and analysis of the reforms and new attitude to social security under the Conservatives after 1979. When the Conservative party won power in 1979 the social security part of their expenditure commitments came under immediate scrutiny. An important part of the Conservatives' economic policy was the creation of amore flexible labour market. There is no doubt that a key element in New Labour's philosophy was to attack poverty in the UK, especially child poverty. The chapter also provides an analysis of New Labour's attitude to social security after 1997.
This chapter examines the political issue of law and order in Britain. It provides detailed descriptions of the various attempts which have been made to reduce crime since 1979 and legislation passed to deal with law and order issues. The Liberals (later Liberal Democrats) shared a social view of crime with the Labour party, but also emphasised the threat to human rights of the Conservatives' increasingly severe policies. As Labour's policies on law and order began to unfold in its early years of office, it became clear that there was a great deal of continuity between the Conservative policies of Michael Howard and those of Jack Straw. The Conservative Howard's 1995 plea to 'take the handcuffs off the police' was being answered by a Labour administration. The chapter also provides an analysis of theories concerning the causes of crime. It discusses special measures taken to combat youth crime since 1979.
This chapter focuses on the issues concerning women in Britain and Europe. It also focuses on the development of the women's movement. Between 1928 and the 1960s, the women's movement retreated into the background of British politics. By 1970 there had developed a crescendo of women's protests against unequal treatment of women in the workplace. There were significant differences in the pay of women compared with men. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 attempted to correct this situation. The new Labour government which came to power in 1974 was determined to complete the radical reforms concerning equal opportunities which had been started in the 1960s. It therefore passed the landmark Sex Discrimination Act 1975 as a priority. Until the 1970s the existence of widespread violence by men against their female partners was scarcely recognised. The chapter provides detailed descriptions of the legislation passed to improve the status of women.
This chapter focuses on the racial problems in the UK. It discusses features and importance of the Stephen Lawrence case and the importance of the Macpherson and Ousley Reports. The chapter explains the work of the Commission for Racial Equality. It also explains the broad issues of racial discrimination, forms of non-legislative race relations initiatives and the issue of multiracialism. The Labour party which came to power in 1965 was committed to improving race relations in Britain. Most of the attempts to outlaw racism and racial discrimination in Britain have involved legislation, either to prohibit discriminatory practices or to require institutions to improve race relations. The chapter also focuses on the attitudes of the main parties in Britain towards race relations and immigration. There is a need to create a new culture of race relations. In a truly multicultural society, cultural differences should be preserved and celebrated.
This chapter provides a review of the ways in which the environment became a more prominent issue. It also provides a detailed description and assessment of New Labour environmental policies after 1997. Having drifted around the margins of British and European politics in the 1960s and 1970s, the environment moved closer to centre stage in the 1980s. Environmental protection became a European Union (EU) concern in 1987. Part of New Labour's 'third way' philosophy was to accept environmentalism as a key political issue. Although Tony Blair's party is committed to supporting business, it argues that this can only be done provided environmental concerns are addressed. In other words, it contains a belief that industrial development and environmental concerns can be compatible, an idea which many campaigners see as impossible. The diversity of New Labour policies reflects the breadth of the issue in itself.