The media and intra-party democracy: 'new' Labour and the clause four debate

2006-03-16T17:48:10Z (GMT) by Dominic Wring
This article considers the role and increasing influence of the media in internal Labour Party affairs. Consideration is given to the activities of three ‘auxiliary’ institutions that became central actors within party debates during the leadership of Neil Kinnock. These are the external agenda-setting print media popular amongst party members; the opinion research based on questioning of the electorate or, more specifically, those seen as potential Labour supporters; and, managing both the media and research, the burgeoning cadre of specialist advisers and aides working for the leader. The latter part of the paper looks at the defining moment of Tony Blair’s three year period as Labour leader in opposition, that is his successful attempt to re-write the party’s statements of aims and values including the revered Clause Four. It will be shown how Blair used the reformed party structures bequeathed him by predecessor Kinnock to manage discussion and deliver a victory not certain at the outset of the debate. In winning the argument, the leadership demonstrated how its powerful position derives not just from its place in the party hierarchy but also from its ability to use the media to structure and control debate.