New Labour and the commonsense of neoliberalism: trade unionism, collective bargaining and workers' rights


  • Paul Smith was formerly Senior Lecturer at the School of Economic and Management Studies, Keele University.



The assumptions and values of neoliberalism came to dominate the Conservative governments, 1979–97, inspiring a range of policies that included industrial relations and employment law. Inasmuch as New Labour has adopted many of these policies then it can be presumed to have accepted their neoliberal underpinnings. Moreover, New Labour's policies owe much to neoliberalism. Wedderburn's exposition of the relationship between the writings of Hayek and the policy of Conservative governments, 1979–88, is utilised and extended to display the continuity and distinctiveness of New Labour's policy on industrial relations and employment law in relation to its Conservative predecessors. New Labour's neoliberal assumptions and values are evaluated. The conclusion argues for a fundamental rebuttal of New Labour's values as an integral component of a campaign to re-establish trade union rights and liberties, and effective employment protection.