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'This is what democracy looks like': New Labour's blind spot and peripheral vision

Judge, David (2006) 'This is what democracy looks like': New Labour's blind spot and peripheral vision. British Politics, 1 (3). pp. 367-396. ISSN 1746-918X

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New Labour in government since 1997 has been roundly criticized for not possessing a clear, coherent and consistent democratic vision. The absence of such a grand vision has resulted, from this critical perspective, in an absence of 'joined-up' thinking about democracy in an evolving multi-level state. Tensions have been all too apparent between the government's desire to exert central direction - manifested in its most pathological form as 'control freakery' - and its democratising initiatives derived from 'third-way' obsessions with 'decentralising', 'empowering' and 'enabling'. The purpose of this article is to examine why New Labour displayed such apparently impaired democratic vision and why it appeared incapable of conceiving of democratic reform 'in the round'. This article seeks to explain these apparent paradoxes, however, through utilising the notion of 'macular degeneration'. In this analysis, the perceived democratic blind spot of New Labour at Westminster is connected to a democratic peripheral vision, which has envisaged innovative participatory and decentred initiatives in governance beyond Westminster.