The term adopted by New Labour to represent its distinctiveness from the ‘old left’ as well as from the new right was the ‘Third Way’. There has been much
debate about what exactly this comprises (Powell, 1999, p. 13). The 1998 green paper A New Contract for Welfare: New Ambitions for Our Country (DSS,1998a) made clear that the ‘Third Way’ in welfare would be neither the neoliberal option of privatisation with a residual welfare state, nor the status quo with more generous benefits. Instead it would ‘rebuild the welfare state
around work’ (DSS, 1998a, p. 23). It would also involve a new ‘partnership’ between the public and private sectors. The idea of competitiveness within an increasingly ‘globalised’ world market is at the heart of New Labour’s ideology, a stance set out early on by the Commission for Social Justice, which argued for an ‘Investor’s Britain’ that would ‘combine the ethics of community with the dynamics of a market economy’ (CSJ, 1994, p. 95). This approach was counterposed to that of New Right ‘Deregulators’, whose commitment to the free market would destroy the fabric of society, and to that of Old Left ‘Levellers’, who ‘are concerned with the distribution of wealth to the neglect of its production’ and who ‘develop policies of social justice independent of the economy’. In contrast, an Investor’s Britain would ‘transform the welfare state from a safety net in times of trouble to a springboard for economic opportunity’ (CSJ, 1994, p. 1). The concern with competitiveness can be found in a multiplicity of government documents and ministerial speeches. One of the two ‘overarching goals’ of the former Department for Education and Employment was the achievement of ‘a globally competitive economy, with successful firms and a fair and efficient labour market’ (DfEE, 2001). Speaking outside Downing Street after the 2001 election victory, Blair outlined the need to start building the economy of the future based on skills and talents and education and the application of technology.