The notion of financial support for parents has undergone notable changes over the period of the last twenty five years. The era of Conservative hegemony, which started in February of 1975 with the election of Margaret Thatcher as leader of the Tory party, gave rise to the implementation of a political philosophy that strongly believed in “authoritarian populism” (Giddens, 2004).
The thirteen years that followed under Margaret Thatcher, as well as the tenure under John Major, contributed very little in the way of providing financial support for parents. As author Joe Sim explains, “the capacity of the state for coercive, militarized, and authoritarian intervention into the lives of those constructed as ideologically and socially problematic — a central component of its institutional armoury since the early 19th century — was intensified during those two decades” (Sim, 2000). Consequently, Thatcher’s reign saw the British Parliament passing seventeen major legislations that “consistently strengthened the surveillance-and-control institutions of the state, introducing along the way a vast amount of legislation restricting civil liberties and social welfare”. (Sim, 2000)
The pensions and medical provisions for elderly parents were inadequate by European standards when the Conservative party was in power. This can be attributed to the party’s strategy to “mobilize the community (and within the community, the nuclear family) as a bulwark against crime and disorder” (Giddens, 2004). This idea of community was politically exploited by the Tories to stress on citizens their responsibility toward society, while at the same time imposing the Tory ideological framework on the electorate. It wasn’t until the electing of Tony Blair as British Prime Minister that a significant change to the direction of government policies came about. To its credit, the New Labour government of the last decade has consistently adhered to its commitment toward human rights through the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights resolutions intoU.K.law. This expanded legislative framework has decidedly put an end to the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and her administration’s “narrow, legalistic conception of human rights and the consequent obfuscation and marginalization of the material social processes that are central to the delivery of democratic accountability and social justice in Britain” (Sim, 2000).
So, a study of the last 25 years of social policies inBritain reveals how the notion of financial support for parents received little support under the conservative and authoritarian political agenda of the Tory Party. Only with the election of New Labour and its leadership under Tony Blair did the prospects improve for more substantial financial support for those in need. Before the New Labour ascended to power in 1997, the U.K., under heavy right-wing control, “sought to limit public responsibility by promoting private ownership and responsibility, privatizing or restricting state provisions of all sorts wherever possible” (Pirie, 1999). With the rise to prominence of the refreshing change offered by Tony Blair’s New Labour, a different, more practical approach towards governance has been promulgated, which are already showing positive results.
Bevir, M., & O’Brien, D. (2003). New Labour and the Public Sector in Britain. Public Administration Review, 61(5), 535.
Fine, M. (2004). Partnerships, New Labour and the Governance of Welfare. Journal of Sociology, 40(2), 194+.
Giddens, A. (2004, September 27). ‘We Can and Should Take Action If the Earnings of the Rich Set Them Apart from Society’: Anthony Giddens Argues That New Labour Needs to Embrace a New Egalitarianism If It Is to Take Further Its Commitment to Social Justice. Unlike the Old Notion of Equality, It Would Reject Totemic Gestures Such as Raising Income Tax Rates. New Statesman, 133, 50+.
Pirie, M. (1999, May). New Labour Seems to Be a Subtle Mix of Thatcherism, Compassion and Concealed Taxes. World and I, 14, 36.
Sim, J. (2000). “One Thousand Days of Degradation”: New Labour and Old Compromises at the Turn of the Century . Social Justice, 27(2), 168.