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Why did Frank Field fail? New Labour and welfare reform, 1997-8.

Connell, Andrew 2007. Why did Frank Field fail? New Labour and welfare reform, 1997-8. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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This thesis considers the development of welfare reform policy by the British Labour government in the period 1997-8, with a particular emphasis on the role and ideas of Frank Field, Minister of State for welfare reform from May 1997 to July 1998. It examines the significance of welfare reform to the New Labour project and the competing positions associated with Field and with (Chancellor of the Exchequer) Gordon Brown in the 1990s, with an in-depth discussion of Field's broader political philosophy and of his ministerial career, and of Brown's political philosophy with particular reference to welfare policy. We broadly adopt a model of structure and agency to explain the direction which welfare reform took under the first Blair government, and conclude that there are two reasons why Field's ideas did not prove to be the model for the government's welfare reform programme. The first, and lesser, reason relates to Field's performance as an actor in core executive politics. Field, we argue, misunderstood the contingent and negotiated nature of power in the core executive, and the structures which constrain capacity to act within it. The second, and ultimately more significant reason, is that Field's philosophy- in particular, his beliefs about the role of the state- was fundamentally incompatible with the discourse of New Labour, which emphasised an active state as an engine of national economic and social well-being. Brown's views, by contrast, were well-integrated with this discourse. The need for consistency with this discourse thus constrained New Labour's freedom of action in respect of welfare reform.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
ISBN: 9781303183317
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2018 00:07

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