This major new work from the well-known team of Heath, Jowell and Curtice explores the emergence of New Labour from the ruins of old Labour's four successive defeats at the hands of the Conservatives. Based on the authoritative British Election Surveys the book explores some of the key questions about contemporary British elections and the social and political factors that decide their outcomes. The book begins with the electoral legacy of Margaret Thatcher. How far had Margaret Thatcher converted the electorate to her vision of a free-market, low tax society? Did her electoral success prove the popularity of her policies? Does any scope remain in Britain for left-wing policies? The Rise of New Labour explores the reasons for the failure of previous attempts by Labour under Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock to win the electorate's backing for left-wing policies and dissects the electoral benefits of Tony Blair's abandonment of socialism. The research shows that policies play a much smaller role in electoral change than is usually supposed, and that the parties may be less constrained than they imagine.
The book explores the key assumptions underlying New Labour's diagnosis of the problems the party faced during the eighteen years of Conservative rule. It shows that many of these assumptions were at best half-truths and that much of the conventional wisdom (shared by politicians and commentators) about how voters decide is seriously flawed. The book concludes by putting forward a new model of electoral behaviour which is better able to account for the wide array of research findings.