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Where Now for the Third Way? - Felix Bunting

At a Road to Conference meeting in September 2016, hosted by Progress, the mood in the room was not positive. Though Milliband was soft-left and it had been a while since a Third Way politician had led Labour, Corbyn and the new members were making the possibility of Labour reclaiming this form of politics unlikely. The possibility of Clinton winning was offered as one possible positive, and given that they are unlikely to consider the Trump administration a successful outcome, what is the future of Third Way? In this article, I hope to define the term ‘Third Way’, and discuss examples of its influence within countries and its possible future.

The Anthony Giddens described the Third Way as the “renewal of social democracy”. It broadly is considered to represent the pursuit of social democracy without the need for old-school Market Socialism, and instead calls for social justice by harnessing market forces. It can be understood most clearly by considering Blairism as an example. Here, Third Way politics could be considered as resulting in record public spending on investment & welfare and pro-growth & pro-aspiration business regulation, combined with legislation focused on promoting social justice. More fundamentally, however, the Third Way was to be the ideological foundation to what some considered the ‘watering down’ of traditional left politics to appeal to the growing middle classes.

After the election of Trump, the US would not normally be considered an example of healthy centre-left politics: the Democrats were defeated by a right-wing Republican and the establishment Democrat was almost defeated in the primaries by a more left-wing candidate. However, I feel this criticism is unfair: Clinton won the popular vote, polled extremely highly with ethnic minority voters, and aside from Obama in 2008 received the most votes of any presidential candidate – not bad for a candidate suffering from poor popularity running as the sitting party candidate after 8 years of Democratic presidency. There are clearly problems though – a Trump victory and near Sanders win in the primary suggests that the American public feel like they and their problems have been forgotten by globalisation. For the Third Way to win again, against such strong feelings, it needs to utilise the parts of American identity which are so loved by its citizens. Though Trump is losing popularity, it seems like the “establishment” Democrats have failed to alter their strategy sufficiently to attract those who feel disenfranchised. The electoral success and personal popularity of Bill Clinton and Obama show that Third Way politics can be written into the narrative of the American Dream. 

The election of Macron shows the Third Way can still win the support necessary to pursue progressive policies. Having previously worked as an investment banker and as a Socialist Party politician, he has clear links to progressive policies and economic pragmatism, and with his own party being called En Marche! (which translates literally to “forward”), he is a clear successor to the emotion and rhetoric of the Third Way, as well as its policies. The rhetoric of En Marche! is particularly evident in articulating policy positions, whether talking about EU policy (“not a Europhile, not a Eurosceptic”) or Nuclear Power (“A French choice and choice for the future”), it speaks of liberal, moderate policies in a way which presents them as reasoned, exciting and patriotic. Furthermore, when it comes to electability, Macron clearly had an edge. Because the French presidential elections have an initial vote and then a run-off between two candidates (one of whom was Le Pen), their electoral system is geared towards politicians who can win second preference votes. Since taking office, there is a perception that Macron has failed to live up to his bold vision, but as this is often a feature of how Third Way politicians are viewed in office, the real test will be in future elections.

Third Way Politics had been a poor position for a while in the UK. Ed Miliband’s election was won on the back of supporting predistributionist politics as opposed to the redistributionist politics of Blair – unlike Mandelson, Miliband was not “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” whether “they pay their taxes” or not. With the loss of the 2015 GE, and the lack of a sufficiently popular centrist candidate, Corbyn was elected leader. With the influx of new members, it initially appeared that it would be a while before Labour returned to more centrist policies. However, the clear majority of the PLP is to the right of Corbyn, and a significant number have strong links to Third Way politics – many are Progress members, many served in the Blair/Brown governments and most are united in internationalist, pro-business policies which put them at odds with leadership. The surprise election (and surprise result) is may suggest that voters are happier with Corbyn’s leadership than many expected, though we wait to see how he would have done if the electorate believed he could have won. The frequent calls for “a new centrist pro-Europe party” suggest that there remain people who buy into Third Way ideals, but whether this is a sizable demographic, or simply an influential demographic in terms of media representation remains to be seen.

When looking at the future for the broad range of political and philosophical goals which are described by the term ‘Third Way’, I think it is helpful to look at what underlined their creation in the first place. I feel it can be summed as having three broad causes: general improvements in living standards mean people appreciate the advantages of capitalism and are averse to radical politics; a reduction in the power of unions and other traditional tools of Labour politics; and a feeling that broad public support was needed for a change from the neoliberal status quo. Whilst the criteria remain true, I feel that they alone may not provide enough of a push to see a revival of Third Way politics. The Brexit vote and the support for Sanders, Trump and Corbyn, indicates that traditionally left-leaning voters appear unconvinced that moderate progressive change is manageable or even desirable. The number of Labour voters who voted against EU membership, an emblem of Third Way politics in the way it promotes managed economic growth, pragmatic policy making and an internationalist outlook, suggests that the thought of improving circumstance wasn’t enough for many people. Furthermore, Third Way politics is very much tied to the metropolitan liberal elite/coastal elite by whom people feel let down. In conclusion, I feel that a return to Third Way business as normal is unlikely – feelings of isolation and having “enough of experts” means this is unlikely to happen. But the economic impacts of fighting globalisation are bound to hurt, and a Third Way which recognises and supports progressive concepts of community and identity alongside social and economic justice may the natural conclusion to the current political situation. 

Ethnicity and education in England: how Lammy has distracted us - Shailen Popat

In October, former Education Minister, David Lammy MP shared that nearly one in three Oxford colleges failed to admit an ethnically Black British A-level student in 2015.  The data shows that 10 out of 32 Oxford colleges did not award a place to a black British pupil with A-levels in 2015.  Similar data released by Cambridge revealed that six colleges failed to admit any black British A-level students in the same year.  The figures showed that just 1.5% of all offers from the two universities to UK A-level students went to black British candidates.  Lammy called into question the universities’ claims to national standing and said, ‘This is social apartheid and it is utterly unrepresentative of life in modern Britain’.

On the surface, the data does seem to support Lammy’s claim as a Black student applying to Oxford is half as likely to get in as a white student. Not only are not enough black students applying, but those who do are far less likely to get in.   However, this is neither due to social apartheid nor is it unrepresentative of modern Britain.  Apartheid is a conscious policy of separation whereas the concerted attempts by Oxbridge at both a college and university level to improve access and opportunities for all ethnic and social groups reflect the national consensus on the promotion of equality of opportunity.  And modern Britain is a highly unequal and uneven society and differences in educational attainment remain highly correlated with social class differences.  The more important question that Lammy is distracting us from is why only 4.7% of ethnic Black pupils attain 3 A*-A grades at A Level compared with 10.8 of ethnic White pupils.  Other minority groups such as Irish (15.1%) and Indian (13.7%) and Chinese (23.9%) perform considerably better.

A Level Results by Ethnic Group 2015/16


 Percentage of students achieving 3 A*-A grades or better at A level

 Percentage of students achieving grades AAB or better at A level




   white British






   traveller of Irish heritage



   Gypsy / Roma



   any other white background









   white and black Caribbean



   white and black African



   white and Asian



   any other mixed background
















   any other Asian background















   black Caribbean



   black African



   any other black background






any other ethnic group






All pupils



Empirical evidence at the national level has also shown that ethnic Black students lag far behind the average achievement of the majority of their peers and the DfE School Census suggested that the gap in performance is widening and many Black African children in England’s schools are not sharing the higher educational standards achieved by other ethnic groups over the last decade with less than 50% of black pupils achieving 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C including English and Maths.  Within the education literature eight main factors have emerged which have been identified as perpetuating low attainment and disengagement from learning by ethnic black pupils: stereotyping; teachers’ low expectations; exclusions; headteachers poor leadership on equality issues; a lack of adequate support from schools to Black parents; institutional racism; the failure of the national curriculum to reflect the needs of a diverse; and the lack of knowledge and awareness of teachers and decision makers about the culturally diverse nature of the ethnic minorities communities.

Many of these were confirmed in a 2013 report by Lambeth Council in which they had looked at the problem in terms of why some pupils in their borough from African backgrounds were achieving higher attainment than other Black groups.  The study identified a number of good practices that contribute to their success, including the high educational aspiration of African parents and pupils; inspirational leadership in school and teachers with high expectations for all students; diversity in the school workforce which includes teachers from African backgrounds; strong parental support; and a diverse curriculum that reflects the community in which the school is situated.  What all of this data tells us is that the issue that Lammy is attempting to address is far more complex and complicated than simply looking at Oxbridge College admissions.  By placing the problem at the door of Oxbridge colleges, Lammy is diverting our attention from the causal factors for low numbers of ethnic Black pupils at elite universities which begin much earlier in a student’s life.

Much of the high attainment among ethnic Indians and Chinese is linked with high parental expectations which are inherited from the high expectations in the native country.  These ethnic groups place a great deal of parental pressure on pupils to become doctors, engineers and lawyers, and these parents are often heavily involved in supporting schools.  This in-turn raises expectations within teachers who teach ethnic Asian pupils, whereas, Black pupils, particularly ethnic Caribbean boys, are assumed to be less academic and often associated with disruptive behaviour.   Black students are nearly four times as likely to be suspended as white students, nearly twice as likely to be expelled and even black pre-schoolers are 3.6 times more likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions.  

In the US, the Yale Child Study Center looked at implicit biases which take the form of subtle, sometimes subconscious stereotypes held by teachers which had been shown to result in lower expectations and rates of gifted program referrals for ethnic Black students. Yale’s study revealed these biases are directed at much younger children than previously thought, and are present in both black and white teachers.  
Researchers showed 135 educators videos of children in a classroom setting. Each video had a black boy and girl, and a white boy and girl and teachers were asked to detect challenging behaviour.  No such behaviour existed in any of the videos yet 42% of the teachers identified the black boy as displaying it.  This closely mirrored the independent results of an eye-tracking technology used by the research team, which noted that preschool teachers show a tendency to more closely observe black students, and especially boys, when challenging behaviours are expected.  Such subconscious factors require many years of unravelling.  Rather than look at Oxbridge, let’s have a national conversation on our perceptions and expectations of ethnic Black students because without it we will continue to disadvantage black students.

Something about how we consume culture - Ellen Peirson-Hagger

It’s a cliche that this is the era of information over-saturation. Within just a few seconds of a friend mentioning the name of a band to me, suggesting I listen to something new, I could find a detailed biography, extensive discography, reels of interviews, photographs, all laid out before me. This all before I’ve listened to any music.

I’m a fiend for this kind of journalistic consumption. It’s just so easy. I like knowing tiny details that artists allude to in lyrics, or the stories behind the conception of a song.

I smile when I remember tiny anecdotes I have read about bands. And I wonder whether other people who like these bands too know these things, and whether they hold them at the forefront of their minds while listening to the music, like I often do. I wonder too what I would think of a song if I didn’t have that backstory.


I have read that the British folk-ish musician Laura Marling has had the words of the title of her latest album, Semper Femina (‘always woman’, from Virgil’s Aeneid), tattooed on her thigh since she was 21. She is now 27. Marling has passed through three album cycles since then, all with the idea of femininity on her mind, and has written, recorded, released and toured other songs of other themes. Yet the sentiment of Semper Femina—that of female friendship, of loving while worming your way out from under the male gaze—has been alive in her mind all this time, lying dormant under her other works.

I find that intriguing. A friend of mine brushes off her poignancy on Marling with characteristic matter-of-factness. “So it's like been on her mind?” she sends in a text to me, “Her ideas and everything?” I wonder how long I could keep a thought like that lingering in the back of my mind. I think it would seep out two albums early.


And from the newspaper. I’ll flick and I’ll glimpse and I’ll grab hold of. My eyes will cherish each word, and then the scissors will come and I’ll cut out the review and I’ll paste it into my book of writing on musicians I like—interviews, reviews, sometimes thought pieces, sometimes even the adverts for their tours or records, neatly aligned and tacked into the ring-bound thing. And I’ll keep them all there. Because I like to pour over the information I’m given and hold it close as I listen.


It will happen too in a gallery. Is that different? I will know the exhibition will feature artists from the years x to y. And I will know there will be works by one particularly well-known artist (or at least that particular piece the advertising campaign is running off) and I’ll be looking out for those.

But for the others, whose origins I am ignorant to: I crane my neck to see the small descriptive signs to the side of each hanging piece, trying, as I go, not to completely block the view of the calmer gallery visitor behind me, who is unnerved by my brash leaning. As I wander, I catch sight of the next sign and remember that I’ll want to read about whatever it is I’m about to look at. With that, I learn as I walk. But I’m misguided in my approach, relying only on the words the gallery curators give me. I hold their interpretations, their piecing together of the biographical and the art, at the front of my mind as I try to make my own thoughts about what I see. But I can’t stay away from the vocabulary they have given me. It’s those words that I use to describe what is hanging, even though those words are not my own. Would I use different words if I had not read anything about a piece of art? Would I use words at all? That’s a narrow-minded education, if you ask me.


I’ve often wondered whether I’d consume art differently if I wasn’t such an obsessive.
Rarely, I’ll listen to things in a daze. I’ll hear a name and type it in and let my ears go wherever the sounds take me. Even rarer, and I’ll pick up a record in a shop without it having sat on my list for weeks—I’ll know it got ***** in the Guardian or something and it will be reasonably cheap and I’ll think “Well why on Earth not? *****! Of course I’ll like this”—and I will take it home with me, slot it in and suddenly I’ll be listening to a sound of origins to which I am a stranger. And I’ll listen and I’ll do my reading afterwards. But to me that always feels like a shot in the dark. It’s uncomfortable.


Earlier this year I read Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City, a book in which, stemming from her experiences living alone in New York, she grapples with the idea of being inexplicably lonely in a city of bodies. More so, the book is a look at the lives of some of New York’s most intriguing and loneliest inhabitants and artists, filled with Laing’s acute critical considerations of the way in which loneliness impacted their lives and works.

So Laing’s book introduced me to David Wojnarowicz, the artist whose work, as she describes, “turns on issues of connection and aloneness, focusing in particular on how an individual can survive within an antagonistic society, a society that might plausibly want them dead than tolerate their existence.” It’s a startling descriptor to have under one’s name. And a descriptor that makes you want to see the work in action. Before I read the book, I hadn’t.

It’s all very well to read about his life in NY in the seventies and eighties, the life he spent, Laing writes, “trying to escape solitary confinement of one kind or another, to figure a way out of the prison of the self.” But to treat him as an artist without having seen his artistic output feels odd. It seems backwards. To watch his video recordings, or gaze at his stark photography only after learning the ins and outs of his personal life is like guarding yourself up with facts that, when you’re really looking at the art alone, don’t matter all that much, no matter how pleasing it is, to feel like you know. And this feels backwards too.

All this is in stark comparison to Laing’s extensive discussion of Andy Warhol. For when she writes about Warhol I read with my pre-existing knowledge. I read, in fact, having already seen some of the described works hanging from walls. I read about his encounters with conversations and tape recordings having already heard some of these voices, having already watched some snippets of his experimental films. What Laing writes about him is more like shining a light onto, illuminating, things I already know. And that’s a kind of backwards education too.


I only really fell for Lorde’s comeback single ‘Green Light’ after I read Anna Leszkiewicz’s New Statesman article on the song and video. (What a middle-class culture-sap thing to admit. But that’s the power of a pop critic, for you.) In her piece, Leszkiewicz references Edward Hopper’s paintings. There is no mistaking the aesthetics of Lorde’s video as at least a nudge to the realist painter’s works of isolation, and of particular coloured light. She writes: “Like a Hopper painting that highlights the contradictions inherent in urban isolation, Lorde finds the beauty in the complexities and inconsistencies of feeling that come at that see-saw moment when the pain of a break-up begins to tilt towards newfound autonomy - when new sounds suddenly and euphorically enter one’s landscape.”

It’s a wonderful thing to suddenly feel as though you understand something that is inherently personal to someone else, slippy from your grasp, as the lyrics to a first-person pop song may be. The matching-up of this written explanation with the song did that to me. Of course, if you asked Lorde, Leszkiewicz’s interpretation may be wrong—for that’s all this is, interpretation—but it’s given the song a new lease of life for me. It’s made Lorde’s far-fetched sunny popstar lifestyle resound with my own emotional frankness, giving the relentless piano drive a strange relatability.

A friend told me he didn’t really like the song, that its heavy pop beat wasn’t driving him anywhere, that he didn’t see why its lyrics were any different from any other pop song. But I can bet you he hadn’t read the article on it. And you can bet I then sent him the link.

A Trip to Bosnia - Alec Fullerton

The plane's tyres struck down on the asphalt at just before midnight local time. We had landed in Tuzla, a city in the Northeast of Bosnia, around 120km from the capital, Sarajevo. Despite being declared one of six UN safe zones during the Bosnian War, a heavily criticised initiative, not least for the horrifying butchery that took place at Srebrenica, Tuzla was not spared. The industrial city witnessed several massacres during the conflict that lasted from 1992 to 1995.
This is the thing about Bosnia. You can't talk about it without making people think about the war. It was only in late November this year that the odious Ratko Mladic, more appropriately known as The Butcher of Bosnia, was handed a life sentence for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. You might not believe it, but the man who is responsible for murdering at least 8,000 Muslim boys and men at Srebrenica in 1995, and who waged siege against Sarajevo for three years, killing thousands of civilians with constant shelling, is still celebrated as a hero by Serbian nationalists.
The recent memory of this conflict is why, upon telling family and friends that I was heading to Bosnia, they were somewhat taken aback; still imagining it to be a wild and unknown warzone, certainly not the first choice for an undergraduate jaunt. And to some extent, it was an exciting prospect; it felt like more of an adventure than other trips to more routine destinations. After all, how many people do you know who've been to Bosnia on holiday? It's certainly no Costa del Sol.
Spotting extortionately cheap tickets and having our curiosities peaked for the country, we set off with open minds and a fairly limited knowledge of the conflict that came to an end literally days before I was born. It ended up being one of the best holidays of my life, and certainly one of the most culturally, historically, and even gastronomically, fascinating. Although it's not a normal holiday choice by any stretch, I couldn't recommend Bosnia any more.
Walking across the runway and into the 'airport' in Tuzla was quite the experience. Queuing in the darkness, we slowly filed into a room occupied by two stern-faced, chain-smoking guards. The Soviet era vibe meant it felt like stepping onto the set of Armando Ianucci's recent film, The Death of Stalin. Border control navigated, we piled into a cramped minivan for the two and half hour drive to Sarajevo.
One of the first things you'll notice when you go to Bosnia are the constant and stark reminders of the war. We witnessed our first on the way to Sarajevo. Going round a bend, I spotted a red rectangular sign brightly illuminated in the van's headlights. It bore the words "Pazi - Mine", accompanied by a skull and crossbones. I'd been warned before coming about not going off the beaten track in the Bosnian countryside. And this was why: there were land mines everywhere. It was estimated in 1996 that two million mines had been planted in total, and even in 2013, after considerable demining efforts, they believed more were still scattered in 28,699 locations.
We finally pulled into the empty car park of Sarajevo's train station and set off on a 45-minute long walk through the pouring rain to our hostel. The next day we set out to explore the city.
Evidence of the city's siege, the longest in modern military history, is visible on every street corner. Far from your eye being drawn to them, the shell-blasted walls and bullet-peppered tower blocks instead seek out your gaze; freeze-framed monuments to the war and its dead. As we walked about the place, every five minutes we'd come across a house more damaged by gunfire and shelling than the previous one.
 With the most badly damaged buildings it is striking both how heavily pockmarked they are, but also how often they have been left in this state yet are still inhabited. Talk a walk down the notorious 'Sniper Alley', where during the war civilians would have to risk their lives in the dash across, and you'll see the full extent of the devastation. Make no mistake; this is no alley, but the main commercial boulevard, a good 100 yards across. On both sides are blocks of flats still bearing the scars of this bloody siege over twenty years on.
You might ask yourself how people can still live day-to-day with these relentless reminders of the war and of the family or friends they may have lost in it. Even after a day, we began to realise why- after seeing your twentieth house ravaged by artillery fire and bullet holes, you start to become numb to it; it becomes normalised. Bosnia is a country struggling to move on. And with ongoing social tension and the superficially imperceptible, at least for a foreign visitor, but deeply entrenched division still present in Bosnian society, it's got a long way to go.
 Please accept my apologies for the tourist brochure cliché, but Bosnia truly is a place where East meets West. After travelling south from Sarajevo to Mostar, we spent a day exploring the countryside in a battered old VW camper with two banks of seats. No seatbelts, of course. Second stop was the hillside village of Počitelj, where the winding cobbled streets are towered over by two opposing obelisks: a medieval Catholic bell tower and the minaret of the Hajji Alija mosque.
 Looking out from the guard tower on the Northern side of the village fortress, these structures frame your gaze down the valley. This pairing is oft found throughout the country and whilst it celebrates the diverse culture and history of the land, it tragically highlights one of the root causes, or at least scapegoated excuses, of so much bloodshed during the mid-nineties.
The two roughly five-hour bus trips we took, first from Sarajevo to Mostar and then down to Dubrovnik in Croatia, could well have been low points of the trip. In fact, they were almost entirely spent gawping out of the windows: Bosnia is a stunningly beautiful country. The views from those buses as we trundled along perilous mountain roads and wound our way through river gorges were among some of the most breathtaking I've ever seen.
The architecture too is reason enough to book plane tickets today. Take the Stari-Most bridge in Mostar's old town, it doesn't get more postcard-perfect than that. Especially when admired from the top of the Koskin-Mehmed Pasha Mosque's minaret. Of course as chance would have it we also arrived just in time for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series’ stop in the City, where predictably narcissistic divers went full narcissus and dived from a platform on the bridge.
Even here, however, we can't escape the memories of the war. The 16th-century Ottoman bridge that had stood for 427 years in Mostar is not the bridge they were diving off. The original was destroyed in 1993 on the orders of former Croatian army chief Slobodan Praljak in his siege of the Muslim Bosniak old town.
 Bizarrely enough, just as I was sitting down to pen this article there was a breaking news flash involving Praljak. On Wednesday 29 November 2017, after having his conviction appeal rejected at The Hague, he stood up and shouted "I am not a war criminal, I oppose this conviction", before drinking a small vial, allegedly containing poison. He died in hospital later that day.
Although the tragic events of the Bosnian War have inevitably dominated this article, it should not put you off. We met some exceptionally welcoming and friendly people in Bosnia, enthusiastic to speak about their experiences and share their culture and history with us.
The horrors that devastated this beautiful country just before most of us were born is something that, I believe, everyone should witness first hand. Through the act of exploring, discovering and interacting with other cultures and people we are learning the greatest lesson the Bosnian War has to offer: the overwhelming importance of tolerance.

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