Labour In and Out of Government: Political Ideas, Political Practice and the British Political Tradition



This article is a commentary-style piece on the last Labour administration, reflecting on the relationship between ideas, actors, structures and events in shaping political practice. It is organised around two core but not mutually exclusive themes: the translation of ideas into political practice and the role of the British political tradition in shaping this process. The view offered within is that the British political tradition provides a useful analytical framework to help explain the gap between the devolution-ideational aspirations of New Labour's Third Way and the empirical reality of a centralised public policy programme pursued between 1997 and 2010. It concludes by considering the relationship between the British political tradition and the Big Society programme currently being rolled out by the coalition government.