How the election of 1997  affected policy-making

Having gained a landslide victory in the 1997 election, Labour was able to use its huge majority ( Party Discipline and Elective Dictatorship )to deliver the vast bulk of its policies, including constitutional changes, the minimum wage and increased spending on public services without major tax rises. It set the scene for subsequent election victories, albeit on a smaller scale, in 2001 and 2005. A strong personal mandate Case Study Tony Blair can lead to prime ministers feeling invincible and invulnerable.

This proved as with Thatcher to be a source of weakness. Blair would later go on to alienate many in his own party with policies such as the introduction of university tuition fees (1997) and the invasion of Iraq (2003).

The subsequent official inquiry into the Iraq War concluded Blair hadn’t been ‘straight with the nation’ over the evidence for the presence of weapons of mass destruction, evidence that led to him joining the USA in its ‘war on terror’ and invading Iraq.

For the Conservatives, the 1997 election marked the start of their prolonged spell in the political wilderness and the accompanying soul-searching. As with Labour in 1983 and 2019, a policy of modernisation and image-updating took place, albeit not immediately. The party worked hard to lose its ‘nasty party’ image. By 2010 the party had taken more of a One-Nation’ approach under David Cameron, with his slogan of the ‘Big Society’. Opposition to policies such as devolution and the minimum wage were quietly dropped and the party adopted more liberal stances in areas such as the environment and gay rights. While Thatcher remained an iconic figure for many Tories, she was metaphorically led away from the political stage and placed in revered storage.

Cameron, like Blair before him, could by 2010 offer himself as the proverbial ‘change candidate’, being Eurosceptic without being obsessive, Thatcherite without being a zealot, and a gifted communicator to boot. Like Blair, he too was educated at public school and Oxford.