chapter  12
Policy Responses
Pages 15

Since the election of the ‘new’ Labour administration in 1997 a new economic and social strategy has begun to shape the geography of opportunity and economic well-being in the UK. The Labour administration has adopted a radically different economic and social agenda to that of previous Labour administrations, no longer is the Keynesian welfare state the Labour mantra, with full employment or nationalisation, the key elements today are international competitiveness, notions of full employability and a productivist reordering of social policy (Peck 1999). In some respects the economic policy (both monetary and fiscal policy) of the administration of John Major has not only been maintained but extended by Labour. This is illustrated by the fact that in May 1997, shortly after the election, control of interest rates was passed to the Bank of England. The term ‘fiscal conservatism’ certainly applies as much to the Labour government today as it did to the Tories. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, stresses fiscal prudence, signalling that this Labour administration, unlike previous Labour ones, will not spend, spend, spend. This prudence is designed to appeal to ‘Middle England’, those middle-class voters who deserted the Tory party in 1997 to sweep Labour to victory. Labour is very conscious that their future electoral success depends upon these voters as much as on traditional Labour voters.