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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2008): Welfare state - UK

Major, Blair and the Third Way in social policy

B. Lund

Social Policy and Administration, vol. 42, 2008, p. 43-58

Social policy comparisons between the Major and Blair administrations reveal sufficient similarities to justify the claim that a significant policy break occurred when Major became prime minister and that Blair adopted and developed Major's embryo Third Way. Major's flirtation with the 'underclass' idea became incorporated into the broader notion of social exclusion, and both Blair and Major used quasi-markets, where state finance went to a variety of service providers, with consumer choice and performance measurement by central government helping to shape outcomes. From towards the end of his second term in office, Blair started to go beyond the Third Way, and returned to Margaret Thatcher's model of aggressive competition between public and private suppliers under the banner of consumer choice.

The reform of public services under New Labour: narratives of consumerism

C. Needham

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

The New Labour governments have rebuilt public services around the citizen-consumer: a choice-wielding individual disconnected from the political context of the welfare state. In their interactions with central and local government, citizens are recast as customers in search of satisfaction. Drawing on interviews conducted by the author with politicians, bureaucrats and citizens, alongside content analysis of government documents, the book explains how New Labour has consumerized public services and contributed to the anti-politics that it has widely decried. The book concludes with a call to transcend consumerism and encourage approaches that recognise the service user as 'coproducer'.

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