By John Hudson, Member of the Policy & Politics Editorial Advisory Board and Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, University of York, UK
In the middle of a lengthy discussion of health reforms in his autobiography, A Journey, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair bemoaned the nature of social scientific research, saying ‘I used to pore over the latest offerings from various highly reputable academic or scholarly quarters, and find nothing of any real practical help’. With his former party once again leaderless and in apparent turmoil following a second successive crushing election defeat, those bidding to follow in Blair’s footsteps as the Labour Party’s next leader will find much food for thought should they pore over the current issue of Policy & Politics.
Looking across Europe, but with a particular focus on the Danish Social Democrats, Christoph Arndt and Kees van Kerbergen explore what they describe as the ‘ill-fated political experience’ of the Third Way approach that Blair once championed. As well as documenting the rise and fall of what once seemed a winning political strategy, they also examine the subsequent difficulties Social Democratic parties have faced in finding a post-Third Way strategy. Part of the problem, they argue, is that Third Way strategies often served to disillusion many traditional Social Democrats while also failing to secure long-term support from a new coalition of voters. Yet, despite the electorate turning away from Third Way agendas, their survey suggests Social Democrats have done little by way of learning from the recent past, eschewing the Third Way label while sticking closely to the formula it was based on, despite the often diminishing electoral returns this approach has generated.
Danny Dorling, meanwhile, breaks from the conventions of the traditional academic article in order to offer a searing critique of the UK’s housing system. He begins by underlining just how dramatic housing wealth inequalities have grown in the UK since 2008, highlighting the staggering and seemingly unbelievable fact that in the five years from the pivotal year of economic crisis the equity of homeowners with mortgages had fallen by £169 billion but that of landlords had risen by £245 billion. This, he suggests, is indicative of a housing system geared towards the needs of a minority of landlords rather than the majority of people. Amongst the consequences, he suggests, are not only widening inequalities in wealth and income, but growing inequalities in access to housing, the affordability of housing, the space people have in their homes and, indeed, in terms of health and ultimately life expectancy. Amongst the causes, he posits, we cannot discount the fact that at least 25% of MPs are landlords compared with only 2% of the population as a whole. Pointing to lessons from history, he argues ‘We have again reached a point where the power of landlords needs to be addressed’.
In bemoaning the utility of scholarly articles in A Journey Blair continued: ‘The trouble was that they essentially wanted to discuss the ideology behind the issues of reform. In a bizzare way, they focused on the politics – but that was not what I needed help with. I need to know the practical answer’. As Burnham, Cooper, Corbyn, Creagh and Kendall fight it out to follow in Blair’s shoes as Labour leader, these two articles underline that their party ought to think more deeply about how the political and the practical might be interlinked in their 2020 election campaign.
You can read issue 43.2 in its entirety online at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tpp/pap/2015/00000043/00000002.