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New Labour

            New Labour's sweeping victory in the 1997 elections rocked the British political landscape. The party's landslide triumph decimated the Conservative party, decisively changing our understanding of Britain's electorate and contemporary political ideology. New Labour's phenomenal success can be largely attributed to its centrist stance, taking up issues that appealed to a broad constituency. Simultaneously exploiting the weaknesses of the Conservatives and pushing a difficult to contest "modernization" agenda, Blair transformed New Labour into a "catch-all party". Blair's "third-way" alternative created widespread cross-class appeal for New Labour, effectively capitalizing on an electorate searching for an alternative to the Conservative's political malaise.
             It is important to first define the characteristics of the catch-all party before attempting to establish New Labour as one. According to Kirchheimer, becoming a catch-all party requires a "drastic reduction of the party's ideological baggage, further strengthening of top leadership groups [who will be judged based on efficiency rather than identification with party goals], de-emphasis on social-class or denominational clientele, and securing access to a variety of interest groups (1966: 58-59)". After New Labour's defeat in 1992, Blair worked incessantly to transform his party's image and broaden its appeal across class lines. In doing so, he molded New Labour to meet the criteria that characterize the catch-all party.
             Blair's leadership of New Labour in the mid-90's marked a sharp break from the party's traditional ideological stance. Blair, in fact, attempts to separate New Labour from ideologies completely, telling the French National Assembly in 1998 that "it is a world in which love of ideals is essential, but addiction to ideology can be fatal". Desperate to escape the party's association with trade unions, Blair (and some of his predecessors) made way for New Labour's "ideology" of pragmatism and flexibility to emerge by clearing out the party's long held socialist and fundamentalist roots (Krieger 2001: 211).

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