April 2, 2007


Rudd's theological underpinnings may already be shaky (Christopher Scanlon, April 3, 2007, The Age)

Blair drew on the Christian communitarian philosopher John Macmurray to lend legitimacy to the Third Way, claiming that it went beyond the traditional political divide between left and right. The left's emphasis on the state and the right's enthusiasm for the market would, Blair claimed, be balanced by community.

Labour supporters were not entirely comfortable with the Third Way. Many were disconcerted by the authoritarian undertones that littered Blair's speeches. The emphasis on ethical principles, such as "mutual obligation", for example, seemed to apply only to welfare recipients, which implied that New Labour saw poverty as a moral failing of the poor, rather than as a failure of the economy. New Labour's 1997 election slogan "Tough on crime and the causes of crime" further reinforced the impression that New Labour was intent on imitating their Tory counterpart's draconian law and order policies.

Blair's supporters rationalised such misgivings, viewing them as tactically necessary to counter the inevitable Tory scare campaigns that portrayed Labour as a soft touch when it came to welfare and crime. Once in power, so the theory went, the socially authoritarian undertones of the Blair Project would be quietly dropped or modified and the radical potential of the Third Way would shine forth.

Things turned out rather differently. Once you looked beyond the constant references to community and ethics, the Third Way bore a striking resemblance to Thatcherite policies that it claimed to have transcended.

The most conspicuous feature of leadership elections in the Anglosphere over the past 15 years is that the most Third Way candidate wins. That's why Jeb Bush is the 800 pound gorilla in the '08 race, but Hillary could certainly run as Bill's third term and John McCain could simply choose Jeb as his running mate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 2, 2007 8:21 PM
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